As a gifted songwriter and psalmist, Tonya Baker has traveled the world as a worship leader, recording artist and workshop instructor. Not only does she sing of God’s goodness, and loves Him with her whole heart, she has a passion for people to experience the refreshing presence of God. In a recent conversation with The Gospel Source, Baker talked about her new book, and shared her personal thoughts about what worship means to her.
Captivating audiences with her breathtakingly beautiful voice, Baker humbly ministers the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the country. She sees worship as her divine assignment and believes, “Worship is essential for the believer and the church.” In her new book, WORSHIP BEYOND THE SONG, Baker takes her readers on a discovery of the origins of worship from a psalmist’s perspective. The book also takes a closer look at what God requires for true worship, hindrances to pure worship, and provides key tools to help worship leaders become leaders that are more effective.
In recent years, Baker’s ministry has catapulted to new heights. She has appeared on the Bobby Jones Gospel show, local broadcasts of TBN; numerous gospel music showcases such as The Stellar Awards Music Showcase. Overall, her music ministry is reaching the nations – as a result of her ministering on a 15 city European tour.
Baker is excited about this next season in her ministry. Signed as an artist with Kingdom Records, she also ministers the Word of God in workshop sessions on topics such as worship and integrity in music ministry.
WORSHIP BEYOND THE SONG is a ‘call to action’ book, which takes a candid look at examples of leadership structure in the corporate worship environment in scripture, to show that worship was not simply random activity.
As Baker travels from place to place, people pose a familiar question to her. Hundreds have asked her, “What is worship to you?” For her, it is a question with a simple answer. Baker defines worship as, “Love… communicating with love. It’s God’s love communicated to us, and our response to it.”
“Worship is essential for the believer and the church.”
The Musicians Role in Worship
Historically, God ordained music for His own glory, which means there is far more to it than what we can sometimes naturally understand. In Old Testament music ministry, David set up teams to minster musically – twenty-four hours a day. Though much has changed from then until now, musicians are still called upon to enhance the worship life of the congregation through music.
Musicians function as a main link to the channel of worship… and help make it possible for the Lord to access His beloved people. Moreover, when music and worship are fitly brought together in spiritual harmony… it allows people to openly express their love for God, and this expression may well be described as the “heartbeat” of the church.
Worship does not just relate to music or a song, “Romans 12 admonishes us to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, and that this is our reasonable service,” Baker says. “Reasonable service means that’s the least we can do. Our worship begins with presenting ourselves to God, and living our lives in a way that brings Him honor.” It means making ourselves available for God’s use – a point which Baker eloquently describes in her book.
The Worship Leader’s Role
“The worship leader’s role is a critical one,” Baker candidly proclaims. “You cannot communicate the love of God to a congregation if you have not first received it, and then having embraced it yourself,” show it in all your actions as well. Worship leaders are like the public service announcers that come on television during programming to let people know what is happening. Therefore, it is the worship leader’s job to get people’s minds focused on God – beyond the words of the song being offered up to God, or the music being played. The worship rituals are not enough – the attitude is what is most important.
“1 Chronicles provides what we may now use as a blueprint for temple worship in the Old Testament,” Baker’s book states. “Many churches structure their worship in this manner relative to specific positions and roles today.”
1 Chronicles 15:1 says, “After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it.” In modern culture, we are the building… and since every person is considered by God to be a temple, people should spend time in consecration, dedicating themselves to the presence of God.
Has Worship Become Just a “Hot Topic” In Christian Circles?
“Without much effort, you can find a worship conference, seminar or class with the central focus of developing the best music department in town,” Baker admits. In many places, it appears that the concept of worship has evolved into a talent search… instead of the search for the heart and presence of God.
Mostly, when many people think of worship – and imagine it in the most intimate setting, – they envision dim lights, slow melodic music playing… while singing, with closed eyes and lifted hands. However, worship is a far more powerful tool than that. It has a greater influence than anything that has been known to mankind. It is the helpmate of Christianity, and is often a means of discipline, inspiration and refreshment to the soul.
When combined with music, true worship has the ability to wash away the dust of everyday life from the soul, and also acts as a channel for God to access the hearts of His beloved people. Even as music evokes the presence and power of God through its beauty, the active ministry of worship helps the congregation to share in the mission of Christ… to serve and to witness.
“In a corporate worship environment… we gather to help one another in our walk and be a comfort to one another in times of weakness and despair, Baker declares. “We come to celebrate our God and what He’s done in our lives.” Therefore, “Worship isn’t reserved for the select few that take the stage, and it’s not about the camera and action.” Worship is about the heart, and God receiving His just due from His people.
The underlying point, which Baker strives to get across in WORSHIP BEYOND THE SONG is the fact that worship is not limited, or summed up by a simple definition. She writes, “Worship flows outside the lines of church buildings and church services. It reaches out and surpasses our limited time together to impact not only our personal lives, but to leave an imprint on each life we encounter.” Therefore, “In order to be effective in our lives and our roles, we must live a ‘worshipful’ life” as we keep the mindset that all we do is for the glory of God.