Worship: Beat the Myths, Find the Glory

there-are-very-few-who-will-seek-god-and-find-his-blueprint-for-a-life-church-meeting-or-ministry-timeI 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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Comments

10 comments on “Worship: Beat the Myths, Find the Glory”
  1. R says:

    I’m a church organist, have been for a few years now, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the more traditional side of worship. I remember leading some awesome worship services on the organ and coming away with a real buzz afterwards knowing that I have just led a group of passionate worshippers who wanted to sing their praises to God with as much heart and energy as they can. I have felt God’s Spirit driving me to put as much as I can into it and I don’t even feel like I’m even leading. I feel like I’m there in the middle of the group worshipping exactly the same. There is no feeling like being part of a group of people who are really up for singing to God as hard as they can with words that so many generations have used. And yet the organ is falling out of fashion. You talk about conferences, have you ever seen the worship led by an organist instead of a full band? I absolutely love it but people are going on about how you have to have a music group singing contemporary songs or else it’s not proper worship.

    Sorry I don’t even know where half of that came from!

  2. David Lee says:

    coldavo333: Just read your comment. First of all: keep the faith! Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, he said “take up your cross and follow me”. And, when he was on his own cross, he cried out in anguish at the God who had abandoned him: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And in accusing God of abandoning him, Jesus was being biblical: he was quoting, in context, from Psalm 22. Doubt is an integral part of faith. Just flick through the psalms and see struggles, perhaps such as yours, time and time again. A vast number of the psalms, which should be the biblical model for our worship, are based on doubt, sadness, lament and even anger. (And here you encounter a sad failing of the modern western church: we have skewed our worship away from this balance of doubt and faith that had been modeled for us in the Psalms. Blame the church, not God, for this failing!)

    Second: Your exploration of scripture will often reveal tensions between parts which seem to say one thing and other parts which appear to say another. (Example: try to compile a coherent narrative based on the accounts of the resurrection in the gospels; it doesn’t really work. But don’t worry. Indeed, note that Mark’s gospel, it its earliest versions, appears hardly to mention it at all.) Keep the faith! Realise what the various parts of scripture are. The gospels are intended as something like eye-witness narrative accounts to particular audiences: so don’t be afraid to read them as something like a story or a biography-with-a-viewpoint. (They are much more than that, but they include that sort of writing.)

    Third: Pursuing that different parts of scripture have different styles (e.g. the gospels have elements of biographical story-telling; the psalms model the range of our emotional states that we can openly lay before God), let’s turn to the particulars of St. Paul. It has been very fashionable during the last 100 years or so for a few academic theologians in some universities to go out on particular limbs with strange theories. And in the last 20 years or so, part of this has turned to exploring other writings from the same era, such as the Gnostic gospels. This is always a tension: if (like me) you have spent most of your life in such a university, then one gains a respect for the necessity of making such explorations; at the same time, one’s personal faith, and one’s faith worked out corporately in one’s church, comes back to “at the end of the day, how do we live and serve in this world in faithfulness to Christ as revealed in church’s accepted canon of scripture?”

    The bottom line, for the purposes of one’s faith, is that ALL the major church denominations (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, etc.), accept the scriptures more or less as we have them. (There’s a bit of discussion about some books called the Apocrypha as a sort of Old Testament add-on, which the Catholic church accepts, but which the Protestant church tends to place outside of formal scripture, but don’t worry about that.) Not a single one of the major denominations accepts any of the “gnosticism” stuff that you heard on the radio: not a single one.

    Return to the scriptures that (thank God!) you know and love. Read them faithfully and openly. Let them speak to you. Let the narratives of the gospels (even as sheer story-telling) speak to you.

    Now return to St Paul. Try the tiny book of Philemon. This is a plain, simple, short letter (he didn’t have email, but imagine that he did!) from a man to his friend: a covering letter as he returns the recipient’s run-away servant. (Perhaps you can visualise yourself into the surroundings of it.) Read portions of some of his other letters (say, a chapter or two that happen to resonate with you as you flick through those letters). Don’t get bogged down in the theology (that can come later): rather, just imagine Paul, as a human being, writing compassionate (and sometimes passionate) letters to friends he cares about and want to help.

    Hope that helps.

    1. coldavo333 says:

      Hello Dave, just to acknowledge your kind and common sense keep the faith reply. Does indeed comfort me to see such writing and with option of investigating the work of st Paul. Thanks very much and will endeavour to read your reply again to clasp your full meaning and continue to study with what really matters. I believe i was given a answer after prayer the next day (well i cried out in heart because some coincidence feel like signs) i emptied my mind, very shortly i hear a voice in my own conscience simply saying ‘i love you, relax with what you know’. That was my answer and i believe is is evident of the councillor within. So will always keep an eye on whats happening but to relax with it, im on the right path and a burden lifted. God is good. His work is consistent today as it was then and it gives me peace knowing. /Col

  3. coldavo333 says:

    Some very valid points and a good constructive read. Just completed wk 6 alpha course on how god guides us and it felt a bit flat tonight and few left un inspired. Other weeks have been brilliant. So i drove home and put the local radio on only to hear some guy going on about gnostisism (featured) on the basis of a new book out. . Couldnt help but feel ‘why’? Why does that come on now? Is it coincidence like we are missing something? Once had a chat with a fellow Christian in church about this and he said its heretical and we know enough. I agreed, we do know enough but tonight thrown me into doubt again that the jigsaw maybe a couple of pieces short of the big picture. I dont want to study gnosticism and im Happy with where i am within my Christian faith. This fella was going on about Paul being a gnostic and the gospel s were added like a mix or spin of other faiths around at the time. He also used numbers and stars to make points valid. Whats burned my head out tonight is a feeling we need God to be closer spiritually and to draw nearer to him, yet the gnostic seem to have had that in some way but their story doesnt make sense. Wondering if you had a wrestle of who these people were and did they have anything right? Sorry to off load. I believe in Jesus our saviour, our father and holy spirit. Love the old and new testaments but this fella thrown me a slight curve ball tonight and i feel a tad confused.

  4. Alison says:

    Great Article and spot on! I resonate too 🙂 although I wouldn’t say in 15 mins God has done all he wants to do, as it’s about what we do for God as in worshipping Him, and if the manifest presence of God doesn’t come in that time, then push in until it does, my thoughts, the worship leader should explain to congregation and encourage them in how to get their spirits to rise up and focus on high praises, if the worship leader doesn’t know how to do that… in that time of worship then the pastor should look for someone in the congregation who does, if the pastor has discernment and can see gift of high praises or breaker anointing on someone then they should release them forward… but maybe that would be too risky for some, but yes I believe that is how God is wanting to mobilise the body and break down the religous performance platform.

  5. Louise Allen says:

    Totally resonates with my heart 😉
    Thanks

  6. Whoops – Make that NLCM in Sleaford – sorry

  7. It’s always a privilege to read another’s blog and to be impressed as well. I love worship – it is the foundation stone of any good meeting/service (call it what you will). To be allowed to usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit is an honour but also a heavy responsibility. I suppose we have been spoiled here at NCLM Sleaford and seeing a little of Lincoln and now yourselves in Hull, I believe the New Life churches in this area have a tremendous opportunity to reach thousands upon thousands in the East Midlands area. There is an anointing, in all three places, that I have rarely seen before and a further breakthrough is already well on its way. I have seen it coming to Sleaford for months now and I am certain you will receive it too. The Glory is on it’s way – oh Hallelujah \o/ Thank you for a great blog post. God Bless you

  8. Brielle says:

    You seems to be an expert in this field, Great post and keep up the good work, my buddy recommended me this.

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