I have discovered the greatest hindrance to a move of God can be quite simply right between my ears! My arrogant senses of right and wrong, godly and secular, acceptable and unthinkable. My religious education. My British culture. They can all hinder the divine, eternal culture of heaven from piercing through the dull temporal culture of church and ministry today.
In my own faltering worship journey, I have discovered fallacy after fallacy in my thinking, many of which I have had to reject in order to see God’s power at work. Here is my own list of eight great myths of church worship that must be re-programmed in order to see the power of God at work in our meetings:
Myth No. 1 – God’s Order is Like Our Order
I have discovered that Church can either be a mortuary or a nursery. While a mortuary may be clean, disinfected, tidy and orderly, it is a place of death. But life is messy – you can’t avoid that. A nursery is full of life: Noise, mess up the walls, brown stuff in corners, funny smells and big mistakes. But it is life; wonderful life! People learning, growing, feeding, sharing and laughing.
The Church should be a place of learning and growth, like a nursery. Some would say “God is not a God of disorder”, but you must understand that God’s order is not ‘western’ or subject to your culture. God’s idea of order may be the day of Pentecost, with people looking drunk and babbling in tongues. His order may be like the temple, so filled with glory, that people are unable to do their work. You’ve only got to read a few pages of scripture to realise God overwhelms earthly situations with heavenly “order” at times. We must allow the mess of life and learning to exist in our churches if we desire his power.
Myth No. 2 – God is Polite and Politically Correct
We are living in the era of the Politically Correct. The problem is that God is not always very P.C.! Offence is a part of his Gospel. Remove its offence and you remove something of its power. The early Church brought fear to cities, looked a little drunk at times, yet saw thousands saved! Just read Jesus’ sermons and you discover his communication techniques included some extremely straight talking, dodgey mud packs and a fair amount of spitting! Jesus’ language was pretty rich, his disciples pretty raw, and his Holy Spirit’s outpouring pretty riotous!
We must stop trying to impress the world with our songs and well ordered services. We must start to experience God’s powerful presence among us. We must move in signs and wonders and see, as great revivalists like the Wesleys did, God move among us and shake the congregations and contents of our meetings. This will not be accomplished through polished music, polite messages and politically correct ministry.
Myth No. 3 – The Local Church should be Like a Conference
One of the great, yet subtle pressures on church leaders today comes from our Church culture of camps and conferences. Once a year, many in our churches exodus to wonderful camps where thousands congregate. The greatest preachers preach and the worship (especially the music) is often outstanding.
While I love conferences, the subtle error that such conferences may teach us is that we need to re-create all aspects of the conference culture at home – with amazing music and concert style worship in our local church meetings. While that may be a great blueprint for one-off events, special celebrations and camps, it should not be the “bread and butter” design of week to week church life. It breeds weak, entertainment centred Christians, who are quite happy to sing their way to heaven, yet rarely engage themselves in corporate prayer, body ministry, deep intercessions and other such necessary local church activities.
Myth No. 4 – If in Doubt, do what you did Last Week!
Many of us have a pattern of worship service. If God doesn’t speak clearly to us, we normally slip straight back into that pattern. But I tend to think, if God doesn’t tell me to do something, I can do whatever I want. I can use my imagination and make a meeting interesting and exciting. I don’t have to fall back on what we already know. I can keep the congregation supple and expectant by being creative and interesting. God has made us in his image, and that means being imaginative and creative. We are alive, which means we should develop, change and grow. This should be expressed in our worship, as we use our entire God given faculties to lead the people of God to his throne.
Myth No. 5 – Better Music will mean Better Worship
I am regularly asked to speak to worship groups. The request usually comes from a church leader who sincerely wants to see an improvement in the area of worship in their church. On meeting most worship groups I often reach the opinion that the issue of improving worship lies not with the music, but with the congregation.
In many cases our worship may not improve by getting better at music or by increasing the spirituality of our worship teams. Better music will give us a better looking meeting, but may not actually improve the worship or the manifestation of God’s presence. We quickly reach a ceiling of what we can accomplish in church by becoming more musically skilful. There comes a point when we have to face the congregation and let them know they need to grow. That will only come by teaching, training and leading the congregation to a new place in God.
Myth No. 6 – Our Worship Culture is the Right One
It is countries like the USA and Europe that spearhead the worlds most high profile trends in worship music today. It is these countries that have developed million pound businesses in worship music and have created pop-star worship leaders for us to admire. Though many of these ministries deserve our gratitude and time, their profile does not mean that everything these nations are propagating is God’s perfect blueprint for corporate worship today.
In a visit to Kenya I ministered at a conference on worship where I taught many of the principles outlined in this article. As I taught, the congregation went bananas! Jumping up and down and shouting – “High Fives” and loud “Amens” were a-plenty!
After the conference I asked my host why this sort of message might be so important to Africans. I presumed that they would be far more into power, prayer and the more costly side of worship than my own country, and that my message might be less relevant.
The Kenyan minister told me that there was great pressure by worship ministries from America and England, to develop the “concert style” worship in their churches. I reassured them that although America and England had good musicians and a high profile, it was African nations, South America and parts of Asia that were experiencing revival, and they would be far better off using them as a model! The very nations that propagate the current western worship scene are the very nations that are not in revival. I pray that we would become more like our neighbours in revival, not they like us, with our skilful, yet presenceless programmes.
Myth No. 7 – We Have to Fill the Allotted Time
One of the greatest hindrances to worship is that we feel we have to fill an allocated time slot. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that God has done all he wants to do in worship within fifteen minutes, but then we churn out a further 45 minutes of song because “it’s the worship time”, and someone, somewhere has said it needs to last at least 50 minutes! The problem with long, dutiful worship times, when God is obviously not present in a manifest way, is that many in the congregation become bored. This leads to a lack of expectancy and excitement, which in turn leads to worsening worship times as the weeks go on.
Myth No. 8 – Imitation is as Good as Revelation
Imitation floods the ranks of the Church. Sadly, there are very few originals. There are very few who will seek God and find his blueprint for a life, church, meeting or ministry time. We kick into “auto pilot” week after week, churning out what we’ve seen in other churches, camps and conferences. We must learn that the most powerful place to be in God is an original. Yet ministries imitate styles, even down to dress sense, running orders and album covers. While imitation is flattering to the imitated, it can also show a remarkable lack of authenticity, a value close to God’s heart. He demands that we worship in truth, meaning “reality” or “authenticity” (John 4:23). You don’t impress God or woo him to your temple by saying “This is what we saw so-and-so do and you turned up”! No, he wants to give you his blueprint, for your temple! A one-off, intimate expression, written in God’s handwriting on your heart.
Let’s pray together: Lord take a hold of my mind and shake the religious, small mindedness from my thinking. Show me the eternal culture of heaven and allow me to host your divine presence on earth. I’m tired of meetings and singing songs – I want a divine encounter with the You and with Your people. Take me, shake me, mould me, until I have built a temple for your presence!
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