Worship leader and songwriter, Reuben Morgan, on the importance of holding in mind our own limits as well as God’s potential.
It was never really about the numbers. Even though there were 24,000 hands lifted high throughout the 97 minutes of 136 decibel worship, nothing could compare to the planet-shaking power of the three little words that were burned in our hearts that night: God Is Able.
This was the recording session for God Is Able, our latest live album recording. The venue was full of people working to the best of their abilities, but like every one of the live Hillsong album recordings that had gone before, this one had its own unique balance that left its own unique impression upon us. As 12,000 hearts were carried back out into the night, we knew that the evening had taught us a valuable set of lessons.
Like this one: God’s presence is robust. He’s not nervous or timid, and He is always present, never failing, never out of time or out of action. So when the first chord sounds and the hands go up we’re not doing it to try and get His attention in the hope that He might stop by if His schedule allows. We can sing will heads thrown back and hands held wide in the knowledge that God is already among us. It’s not a matter of asking did God show up to our meeting. The question to wrestle with is this: did we show up to meet with God?
Here’s another truth that landed on us as a team as the album was created: generous hands will never be empty. The song God Is Able was written to encourage our church family in their giving, reminding them that our Lord is able to do great things with even the humblest of offerings. Then the cyclones and the floods hit our homeland, and we watched as innocent lives were devastated overnight. And in one of those beautiful ironies that God seems to delight in, the song which started out life as a call to give ended up becoming a source of real inspiration and encouragement to many in our church. There’s nothing quite like hearing the roof lifted by the words ‘God is able’ to turn back fear and calm the tears.
Maybe I’m so taken with this whole idea that God Is Able because like so many worship leaders, writers and musicians these three words represent one vital, essential truth to which we must continually return. It’s entirely natural for any creative to look back at our work and exhale the words ‘it is good’. But there can be a temptation to go a little further, to add some more words, to praise ourselves and celebrate our own abilities. And while that doesn’t look so out of place when the actors take a bow, that kind of ego-polishing has no place at all within the church.
So people like you and me need to remind ourselves of the wider context in which our abilities sit. Yes, it is important to work hard to be great at your craft. And, yes, it is important to do everything we can to create sounds and sights and songs and sensations that help people connect with the one true God. But we must never forget the fundamental truth in all of this: that the very best that we can create can never come close to matching the impact and power of God Himself. You, me and these humble shadows which flow from our hands, they can never change lives – not in the way that God can.
And isn’t that what we’re about? I mean, strip it all away – the lights, the albums, the internet sales and buttons we click to show what we like – aren’t we all just hoping to take whatever small part God allows us to play in the transformation of those He loves and calls by name? As worship leaders we might use music as a tool, but music is only ever just that – a tool with which to encourage lives to be renewed and awakened to God. And if all that is true, how can we be anything other than utterly dependent on God to bring the change we long for?
This album reminded me of one final, simple truth – that the life transformation within a worship experience happens because of God. Not because of the songs or the singers, but because of God. Nothing more. And if you want me to be really honest, I kind of suspect that all this good stuff happens in spite of me.
Isn’t that the most encouraging, beautiful truth of all – that in spite of our failings, our mess-ups and our mixed up motives, God is able. Isn’t that worth singing about?
Written by Reuben Morgan, Worship Pastor, Hillsong Church