The Prophets of Frustration!
A recent survey revealed that “A majority of people leave church without feeling that they experienced God’s presence” and that “In a typical weekend, less that one-third of adults who attend services feel as if they truly interacted with God.”
As I travel ministering, my personal feeling is that thousands of sincere, God fearing individuals are longing for so much more in worship. As I speak messages like those outlined in this book, many worship leaders, musicians and worshippers witness with the truth they are longing to go beyond the shallowness of our current corporate gatherings. They have a deep gut feeling that we are missing God with our current culture and design for corporate worship.
Despite the current hype in the Christian music scene, the rise in worship albums, famous worship leaders and concert type events, there are three initial signs in the world of local church worship that are causing a whisper of frustration in those who desire God’s Spirit and glory to move among us:
The First Sign – Predictability
The first sign is that I can tell you almost exactly what is going to happen at your church next Sunday. You’ll start with three fast songs, move into four slow songs, followed by communion, then the “word” and, if you’re a really spiritual church, end with a ministry time! Okay, that may not be exactly the pattern for some, but whatever your particular stream or style, most will admit predictability pervades our programmes!
John 3:6 states that “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
You cannot tell where a person of the Spirit is going. He or she is as unpredictable as the wind. But amazingly we know exactly where most leaders will go next during a service. Most congregation members can pre-empt their leaders moves. They sit down “ready” for communion. They fidget when it’s “time” for the message to end!
If John 3:6 is truth then we have to ask the honest question: Are we calling things “spiritual” that are not of God? Is it God telling us to meet for one and a half hours each week, and churn out this liturgical offering to him? Is it true to say that God, whose imagination designed both the flea and the elephant, the buttercup and the Oak, can only think up this ritualistic, predictable singing of songs, week after week, around the globe? Or have we perhaps, become victims of our own westernised, Christian culture? Are we perhaps simply doing what was done before us? Are we truly a temple for his glory, or have we become a well planned song and sermon machine?
The Second Sign – Prayerlessness
I regularly ask congregations where I minister, “How many of you struggle with your prayer lives?”. In most churches, in the dozen or more countries I have visited, 95% of the members slip up their hands and admit “I struggle to pray”.
This presents us with a problem. If Brother Cho and every other revivalist is correct, and prayer really is the key to revival, then there is an issue that needs addressing: What are we doing, or not doing, that is making prayer so difficult? We have endless books and conferences on prayer, but is there something more foundational that we have overlooked? This prayerlessness is the second sign of our need for a new blueprint.
The Third Sign – Worship Leader Dependency
On my travels, many pastors tell me that the worship at their church is great. Being slightly mischievous I’m tempted to ask “Take away your music group and ask your people to worship. That’s how good your worship really is”. I usually give in to the temptation!
Many churches lose a few talented musicians and suddenly realise how worshipless their congregation is. Behind the façade of “holy” faces, most were actually just singing along to the music rather than interacting with God.
Pastors are under so much pressure to have a great band of musicians in their church, that if the devil’s brother in law walked in the door and was able to play guitar, they’d stick him behind a microphone and have him leading their corporate celebrations! A slight exaggeration perhaps, but closer to the truth than is comfortable to admit.
Have we become so dependent on music rather than mature Christianity and Spirit filled leadership, that we have bred a weak, entertainment orientated version of Christianity?
Frustration Comes from Heaven
These signs, along with further observations I shall make in the next few chapters, filled my own early years of worship leading through the 80’s and early 90’s. All sorts of questions, brought enough frustration to my life to cause me to step out on a journey seeking more.
Could there possibly be more to worship than the “few fast songs, few slow songs” worship time? Is there some way we can go beyond this current culture of worship, a design that seems little changed since the seventies (except for some new songs!)? Is it possible for the Church of God to become a place of prayer and power? Can we really be overwhelmed by the power and glory of God week after week? Can we get back to the expectancy that anything can (and indeed will!) happen when we meet together? Surely we cannot expect such fervour and devotion in a western culture? Or can we….
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