How To Change A Worship Culture

How To Change A Worship Culture

Perhaps you are now thoroughly frustrated with worship as I have been! Perhaps many of the things I have shared in these first few chapters have rung true in your own heart. Perhaps, like many of those who attend my seminars, you would like to say “I’ve thought that for years. It’s nice to hear someone say it!”.

Now comes the hardest part: Once a word from God has touched our hearts we are responsible for it. Faith without action is dead. The wise man was not the one who heard the word of God, but the one who acted on it.

So now, like me, you may be longing to lift your congregation to a higher place in worship. You may want to teach and train your people, re-designing your worship culture so God’s glory may dwell among you. You may think it is time that, like John the Baptist, you prepared a way for the Lord to come in glory. It’s time to level the mountains and raise the valleys.

If you do, then you will need some tools to help carry your people through this time of change. Levelling mountains for his coming takes skill and hard work. Surprisingly, we cannot simply turn to our people and say, “Let’s stop what we’re doing and follow the Spirit”. We have become so used to our culture of song singing and listening to sermons, that taking our churches to a new place will require new skills on their part. I personally do not want to leave anyone behind when moving forward in God. I want to use every tool possible to gather people together and move us forward as a single unit in God.

As we led our church from concert style worship, to a Spirit led model of corporate worship and prayer in the early nineties, we learned that the following points helped to create an atmosphere of expectancy and journeying forward into a new level:

Teach, Teach, Teach

I was once at a media conference in London where we learned about communication. This came in very handy when trying to take my congregation to a new level in worship. I learned that communication can be illustrated by an aeroplane. The plane taking off is an illustration of our speaking a certain truth. Once the plane has taken off and we have said what we want to say, we believe we have communicated.

However, communication is about more than just a plane taking off. It is also about when the plane lands. You have only communicated effectively when the plane lands in the minds and hearts of those you wish to communicate with. Sometimes the plane of your communication has to take off a dozen times before it will land in a person’s heart.

I experienced this clearly over our period of re-designing worship as a church. During our most painful three months I had to teach and teach, with numerous “planes” taking off again and again. Slowly but surely different people caught the vision of going higher and following the Spirit in worship. At first many didn’t understand why we should change our worship culture at all, or why we should expect more than singing a few songs and listening to sermons. But week by week I saw the plane land in more lives. It was deeply satisfying as different ones would come up and say “Ah! I understand what you’re getting at now!”.

In order to take your church higher you must teach and teach in a huge variety of ways. Some understand verbal communication, others prefer visual, others learn by experiencing, touching and feeling a truth. Many leaders teach one sermon on worship and expect their church worshippers to change overnight. We must teach and teach, over and over again, until people deeply catch where we want to go. It is the only way to change a whole culture and design in the minds of the people we are called to lead.

Develop Momentum

One of the greatest tools for developing your congregation is momentum. Momentum creates increased expectancy and causes you to rise to a new level, as you go from lesson to lesson.

To continue our previous point, teaching once a year on worship will not radically affect the culture of worship in your church. You need to hit the area of worship for a consistent amount of time, rising higher and higher. Devote a whole series of teaching to worship, have several conferences over a few months and get your home groups learning the subject. Use every conceivable communication tool to lift your people to a new level. Invite individuals gifted in worship to minister, invest time and training in your worship team and make worship resources available to your congregation. Don’t be afraid to use workshop style teaching on a Sunday morning or to teach on worship or prayer during the worship time.

Re-design Your Leadership Structure

In some churches, leadership structures do not lend themselves to the moving of the Spirit in meetings. People are given slots to fill: Worship leaders fill their slots with singing and teachers fill their slots with words. If you really want God to move in your church, you need to re-design your leadership structure to be supple enough for God to speak, for you to hear, and for the church to follow.

Can God stop the worship? If so, how? If the planned singing item is not going to happen, how is this communicated? Can the worship be interrupted with a ministry time? What happens if God wants to do something different in your church? How are prophecies brought from the body of believers to the church in a meeting?

My personal preference is that meetings are led by experienced ministers, people of the Spirit who will do their utmost to follow God when he wants us to pray, sing, dance, receive, listen, minister, intercede or praise. The musicians should be on hand to support and be called on when music is needed, which may be a lot in a meeting, or may be just a little. In some cases a musician may be mature and gifted enough to lead in more than just singing, in which case they may be able to lead a whole service themselves. Often times though, many musicians are restricted in that they are only mature enough or gifted to lead songs, which will leave a myriad of Spirit instructions ignored and unheard during a service.

We must put in place a leadership design that allows for the unpredictable leading of the wind of the Spirit, if we desire his manifest presence among us. In whatever way possible, use your musicians, leaders and worship leaders, taking into account all their various giftings, functions and limitations, to put in place a meeting leadership team who can follow the Holy Spirit wherever he leads you.

Re-focus Your Songs

One of the most powerful things I’ve noticed as a worship leader is that when we find truly worshipful songs, the atmosphere of a meeting can change. Now while many musicians may love a song for its groove or nice melody, I want worship to cause us to connect with God, not just with the music itself. There are certain songs that send the electricity of God crackling through a congregation. Many times have I been on the threshold of such glory when a worship leader starts to sing an inappropriate song, chasing away the manifesting presence of God! Song choice is a great skill and requires spiritual discernment.

My personal preference in songs is to see God worshipped in my services. There are many great teaching songs, many good prophetic songs, and many great intercession songs, but it is in the God focused worship songs that his presence is most tangible.

Worship, in my experience, is the most powerful place of God’s glory. Now that may be in part because of my particular type of anointing in worship, but I would encourage you to look at the words of the songs you are singing, and what effect the words and musical style of a song has on your people. Does the song increase the sense of personal connection with God, or does it leave you simply singing “about” God? Does it make people engage with God, or stand “in the courts”?

It is amazing to see worship groups make the simple mistake of trying to get people worshipping to intercession songs, or be intimate with God with teaching songs. Realise there is a difference and use the right songs for the right occasion. Don’t be tempted to be too trendy in song choice. Just use that which connects people with the presence of God and that which causes the manifestation of his glory to fill your auditorium.

Better Musicianship

Finally, and without wishing to sound contradictory to anything I have said previously, improving your musicianship can sometimes have a good effect on your worship. In order to really follow the Holy Spirit in musical worship (remember not all worship is musical!), you often need to reach a certain level or skill. If you, for instance, want to be able to play without having to be glued to a list of songs or sheet music, then you need to reach a certain skill level. Also, although skill may not necessarily be connected to anointing, it is hard to facilitate the presence of God with a constant stream of badly played notes and out of tune singing!

Alternatively you can be so skilful that God struggles to move through your music. Many classically trained musicians are so restricted by their training that there is little room for spontaneous musicianship. Worship, expressed through music, must be an expression of the heart, rather than a rendition of learned notes, if it is to be infused with the presence of God.

Climbing the Mountain

In conclusion, there are many, many skills that can drastically ease our journey to a higher place in God. If you and your leaders are choosing to step up to a new place of worship and glory, then do so with careful thought, with great patience and with every skill and tool you can use in place.

I wish you every blessing in your journey as you seek to re-design your corporate worship for the glory and presence of God. May he fill, invade and utterly overwhelm your church, so that thousands would stream into the Kingdom because of the light of his glory among you.

“For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory” Psalm 102:16

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