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Leading Worship with Purpose – The Temple Model

Ever find yourself at a Christian Concert, XLT, or praise and worship event where you have had an incredible moment of prayer? Imagine that you’ve reached the end of a powerful song, all instruments cut out, and the voice of the Church slowly sings out the last chorus. The presence of God thick in the room, your heart at peace… and then… suddenly…the drums start POUNDING, and the worship leader starts yelling out his praises to Jesus, and your moment of peace and serenity with the Lord has just been snatched away. Crushed. Like an adorable baby rabbit abruptly hit by an Escalade. Gone.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why is it that the natural reaction to this scenario is frustration? Let’s take a few steps back and look at the role of a worship leader.

What is the purpose of a worship leader?

Sometimes worship leading can feel a bit overwhelming. And if you don’t have a goal or destination, it’s hard to decide where to “land the plane”, so to speak. So I’m going to introduce you to my favorite model for worship, The Temple Model. Now, this is not the only model out there, but it has been the most helpful to me as a worship leader.

In this model, the goal of the worship leader is to shepherd the assembly (or flock) together into a state of contemplative prayer – where Heart speaks to heart.

“Prayer is internalized to the extent that we become aware of him ‘to whom we speak.’ Thus, vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.” CCC 2704 “Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.” CCC 2724

Authentic vocal prayer (especially song) will inevitably lead to contemplation! Now, does this mean all songs need to be slow, simple, and quiet? BY NO MEANS! Hear me out, and I promise you that this model for worship will transform your prayer and take your worship leading skills to the next level.

The Temple Model

The Temple Model follows the structure of the Jerusalem Temple. The temple can be broken down into four main parts: The outer courts, inner courts, holy place, and holy of holies. Worship will typically move from high praise (or fast music) into deep worship (or slow music).

Outer Courts

Scripture tells us to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise!” (Psalm 100:4) Therefore, the first step in this model begins with a time of high praises and faster music. This is an expression of our excitement about coming into the presence of the Lord! Have fun with it! But our prayer doesn’t end here – we’re just getting started! After a series of high praise songs, you then transition into what we call the inner courts.

Inner Courts

The inner court is where we begin quieting ourselves and preparing ourselves for a deeper encounter with God. The music moves into a more moderate tempo, neither fast nor slow. In the inner courts, we begin to transition and quiet our hearts as we move towards the destination of the holy of holies (the place of contemplative prayer). But first, we enter the holy place.

Holy Place

The holy place is where worship of God becomes authentic adoration of God. The music is much slower, the lyrics are simpler, the volume becomes softer, and the content of the songs speak more to the pure adoration of God. Here you might repeat a chorus like “How Great is our God”, “I Exalt Thee”, or simply “Holy” – music that speaks directly to God in a way that is deep, profound, and loving. And now, you are ready to “land the plane” – we enter the holy of holies.

Holy of Holies

In the holy of holies, the music itself begins to cease. Our hearts have quieted. In the days of the Old Testament, the high priest spoke little when he entered this sacred place. Instead, he would remain silent and in awe of the presence of the Lord. This was the place where God’s very presence resided. Here we give God the opportunity to speak in the quiet of our hearts as we soak in His presence.

In this model of worship, we see a reflection of the three stages of the spiritual life: the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. The outer courts deal more with the flesh, as does the purgative state – ordering the flesh towards the service of God. The inner courts act similarly to the illuminative state, enlightening the mind with the knowledge of God and transitioning us into the unitive state. The holy place begins the unitive state of prayer, moving us to the holy of holies where words virtually cease. We find ourselves in a profound union with our Lord and Savior, who infuses His very word into our hearts.

About the Author

Mary Castner

Mary originally hails from the town of Bangor, Pennsylvania, but is now an official Arizonian and worship leader. She is currently a full time youth minister in Phoenix and loves to travel and lead the Church in worship through music ministry. Her achilles heel is dark chocolate and she has an irrational fear of zombies. She enjoys painting, sketching, and running at an embarrassingly slow but steady pace. Follow her on twitter @marycastner and check out her music at www.marycastnermusic.com!