Music Seminars.
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Worship Overview

Theme: We are going to explore how we can develop such an eagerness to meet with Jesus that it lifts the roof off our established ways of doing church. Worship that is so relevant that it causes the lame to move freely and enables us to move in the supernatural. We will be looking at how we can make room for His Spirit to flow by instigating a major shift towards Participatory church.

But first, have you noticed what a sense of humour the Lord has? Well, after all, where do we get ours from? He speaks of camels passing through the eye of a needle – and here we have the gift of demolishing roofs in the Spirit! Much of the church is striving too hard to be entertaining – but God gives it spontaneously.

God also gives us music because Heaven is full of music.

Music is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. (Luther)

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described music as the universal language of mankind. Luther held it to be the art of the prophets, and the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul.

If we agree with Luther when he said, ‘After theology I give to music the highest place,’ then we should honour afford plenty of time in our meetings for prayer and worship. Instead of rigidly compartmentalising our services, with different people responsible for different parts, it can be revolutionary when we find ways to connect the worship, prayer and preaching.

All this calls for greater participation. Our theme today is die Teilnehmend-Kirche ist am besten.

Zwingli had a much lower opinion of music than Luther. He said, ‘Nothing in our sinful world could truly communicate the beauty of God’s spiritual world and he rejected music and musical instruments, especially organs!’ (Paul Basdon) Calvin preferred to use psalms because he believed they were divinely authored. I am very certain that the Spirit can inspire us to write psalms that are highly relevant to our own times. Many of you will have experienced this.

We are looking to find songs that express the whole counsel of God to cover the whole spectrum of life. There are still many aspects of the Lord’s workings and the human condition and its responses that have hardly been touched on. It stands to reason that every leader ought to be concerned to find ways to fill the gaps.

No matter if these songs do not become well known. There is a fairly tight formula and framework for the type of songs that are chosen. Do not be concerned with commercial interests but continue to seek the leading of the Lord.

The Lord wants us to bring together the anointing of different styles of music to reflect his heartbeat for countries that we intercede; e.g. playing violins in a Chinese idiom! This involves being sensitive to the conditions that people are in. I think of a friend wailing as if a Muslim woman on a minaret tower as we were praying for Islamic women. Or the wall of sound that we made as we cried out to the Lord for children who had been abused. The Lord has so much more to share with us. We need to think outside the box.

Music is so precious ‘because it catalyzes emotions as nothing else. It is part of the ‘sighs that are too deep for words’, (Romans 8:26). (Paul Zahl). I would like to add that it is also important sometimes to experiment with worship without music. We could say that the music must decrease so that the Lord may increase as His Spirit moves. (RW)

In Matt Redman’s church, they stopped all music for quite a long time. ‘They discovered that they had made something of an idol out of the worship, and became much more creative when it was taken away. When they restored it, it was just as it should be: important but not the centre of attraction.

God can give us music and songs and dance and pieces of drama to illustrate what we – and others- are going through. May the Lord help and inspire many of you to write psalms describing what you were going through, what God did, and how good He was to you in the outcome.

I love the story of the lame man who was healed after his friends lowered him through the roof. It is as much about the faith and determination of the men who brought their paralysed friend to Jesus as of God's miraculous healing power. Without their concern and compassion we would have heard nothing about Jesus’ return to Capernaum (He had moved away because the people had not responded with faith to the healing miracles that they had seen.) It must have been the deepest disappointment to Jesus that they had not responded more fully, and the outlook for the city was severe: ‘Woe to you, Capernaum’.

My prayer is that whatever kind of fellowship we attend, we are alert to discover all that God has for us – and to embrace the unexpected.

Let’s pretend, Jesus was telling a parable about the kingdom when there is a commotion and Isaac drops through the roof. Are you flexible enough to leave your prepared material and improvise? A good leader must be able to pick up threads and themes that occur and to adapt accordingly. Turn sight into insight, perceive its significance and take it up. Never become so theme oriented that you miss where the Lord is leading at that particular moment.
Lord, help us not to let any word from You fall into the ground.

Go the whole way
Imagine if the men had got to the roof and made the hole, but not lowered the man with ropes. They would have looked silly and it would have done no good.
We cannot afford to stop short of what God intends for us.

Notice where Jesus starts:-- not with the miraculous, which might have got people’s attention Focussing in the wrong direction, but on the man’s underlying need: His need to have his sins forgiven. It has been said that half of all psychiatric beds in hospitals would empty if people could be assured of forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin cures the roots of our soul-disease.
For many of us, sins in the past combine with anxieties in the present limit both our joy and our effectiveness in serving the Lord.
When people became angry at what God was saying, He immediately faced the challenge head on and confronted people’s thoughts and assumptions. What is on the inside is as plain to God as what is on the outside! Opposition is inevitable when we alter course, as the Spirit leads. In terms of worship we will hear people saying, ‘This should not be allowed to happen in my church’ Whose church? Don’t resist the leading of the Holy Spirit! If it is of God it will be theologically sound and emotionally wholesome.

It was Jesus’ aim to train and empower His disciples in the ways of God.

If music is one very obvious manifestation of the prophetic ministry, many others are being called to devote themselves to the arts, in order to restore a prophetic edge to what was once very largely the Church's own domain.

That must be our aim too. Of course some will go more one way than another – one person’s emphasis will be on social justice, another on evangelism, another primarily administrative and so on. What we can’t afford to limit ourselves to RITUAL on the one hand, or EXPERIENCE on the other – ‘the doctrine of lowering men through roofs’.
Jesus dealt first with what was happening on the inside, in people’s thought lives; then He proceeded to deal with the physical problems. It is as though He were saying, OK, you are saying that this is something that only God can do: watch and see what happens in the physical realm and then you’ll be better placed to believe and trust the reality of all that He is able to offer in the spiritual realm. Then you’ll see that you were right all along, only God can forgive sins. It was as though Jesus was offering people the chance here to evaluate Him and to see the foolishness of their own thinking.

Are we prepared to do that when it comes to embracing new forms of worship? We need to give much thought to how we can help people to be fully engaged in worship. Sally Morgenthaler, “We are not producing worshippers in this country. Rather, we are producing a generation of spectators, religious onlookers lacking, in many cases, any memory of a true encounter with God.”
Megashift is more than a series of testimonies; it is a call to participation.

“From AD 500 to 1500 clergy became active, laity became audience, and priests performed the worship.” (Paul Basdon). In other words, Christ’s death was only interpretable by the priest’s intervention and the Spirit’s power was no longer available to everybody.

Medieval worship was a show to be watched. Every movement of the Priest, the altar boys and the choir was choreographed. It was the reformer’s aim to return worship to the people and that is the aim of our generation now.” (Webber)

All of us have to guard against the temptation to perform. That is a trap to avoid.
“Rather than passive observers, worshippers become more active participants.”

My motto is to get real people doing real things like praying for each other, sharing testimonies that are not just about what the Lord did in the past but what He is doing now, even while the work is still incomplete.

‘Let there be time to respond to sermons and to participate, as well as to make room for music and the arts.’ (Robert Webber)
But if we introduce too many activities there is a danger that the clarity of the word may get lost. Keep us focused, Lord.

The trouble is that our services are often too tightly prescribed to allow room for people who have important ideas to share, and burdens to pray for.

So how can we be more inclusive? In smaller groups (cell and cluster size), and especially if we have musicians available, this ought to be comparatively easy. The size of the group, combined with the strength of the relationships, mean that there is space for a contributions from anyone who feels the Spirit’s promoting. (In that sense it is quite like the early Quakers)

This encourages the shy – which is particularly important if the central role models are predominately ‘experienced’ alpha males, who are only too happy to dominate proceedings. The devil works hard to develop sophisticated control mechanisms in many institutions. If he can make 50% of the congregation feel that they are the wrong gender, and a further 30% think that they are either too old or too young, this leaves a few strong young men – who are only too happy to be the ones in charge. They never realize what gems their own voices are drowning out. (There is no easier way to say that!) When someone begins to challenge these proceedings, there is every risk they will be accused of being a rebel, and having heavy cannons turned on them. Others, fearing confrontation, pull back altogether in order to avoid this confrontation.

Father, forgive those of us who are leaders for shutting out and oppressing so many; grant people resilience to continue speaking out and bringing their contribution.

We need to stand alongside those who are simply shy and inexperienced and provide a safe platform for them to learn, without crushing or rejecting them. Otherwise they will not develop their musical and prophetic gift, and everyone is the poorer as a result. No wonder that the more spiritually attuned become reluctant to devote large amounts of time to something that is lacking in the possibility of any meaningful participation.

That is not to say that we do not need clear leadership. In order to allow people space to contribute there must be effective but gentle leadership, which stops people who go on too long, or who change the course of the meeting (and not for the better) or who are themselves in danger of misleading people or are manipulative.

Many of us suffer from meetings being dominated by strong and insensitive leaders. But nothing but mediocrity or worse awaits us if, for example in a prayer meeting, the leader refuses to intervene to bring a meeting back into the flow of the Spirit. There are times when steering touches are necessary to bring a meeting back on course. When someone prays, ‘Lord make Erik do something’ it is very close to magic.
Good leaders make frameworks that help people to feel safe and to be free to do real things.

When the Lord’s presence is particularly close it may be right on a Sunday to forego the extensive teaching that we have grown accustomed to; it may rather be a time to experience God’s presence - or to go out and share it.
The biggest challenge is always making the leap from genuine insight to specific practice. How do you enact it?
Testimonies are good that bring people in to share the pilgrimage while it is still developing.

We must learn to delegate wisely, and bring more people into the action.
The principle remains valid that we seek to shield from embarrassment, but sometimes we have to step out and do something radical. I remember Francis reaching out to someone who had been the only one not to get a picture while he had played some improvised music and who said that he was musically like a plank of wood… Francis literally grabbed him by the trouser leg and dragged him into the centre of the circle and then gave him a wonderful word of prophecy that he would play and sing for Jesus. He has now made a lovely CD!

Don’t be afraid: you may be getting far more right than wrong.
Post-mortems are often too negative.
Let’s be honest: Not every fellowship by any means will make the transition to a more Teilnehmend process. Chapels in North Wales preferred to ‘die in their faithfulness’ than to embrace change (in their case, a service in English rather than in Welsh). Our task is to come alongside people who are of a teachable disposition and to lead them into the new things that God is doing.

I was in a church the other day where the pastor says he hardly ever receives calls for people to pray for him – because there are so many others in the church who are skilled in that area. He is more than happy for people to develop their ministries. This is all part of equipping the saints for the work of ministry.


The determination of the men lowering their friend through the roof is very important to notice. Now, there are obvious differences between people who had just one single objective in mind and our need to feed people’s spirits week by week, but the principle remains the same: the Lord honours passion and commitment. (Richard Foster has excellent things to say in his book on Prayer on why we need to persevere.)

Long-term thinking and planning

Almost every thing in England to day is centred around the short term. We neither build nor plan for the future. It is almost inevitable that some portion of that philosophy will have invaded the Church. So a question to ask is, ‘are the things that we are doing now going to help form character that will stay true to Christ life long?
God wants both the profoundly spontaneous and the carefully rehearsed and thought through. To take an example of something that is not prophetic: when a pastor looks at a congregation, sees that someone is there who does not know Jesus and directs the whole message to that person. Preach rather what God is giving you, and God will touch the other person by the power of His Spirit.

Play skilfully and study diligently. What are the schools of worship that God is blessing – and what are the potential drawbacks? Where is the focus? Have people even noticed that in one survey of 200 widely used charismatic songs, only 13 were even vaguely centred around Jesus? Is that because His Spirit is leading us to put the emphasis elsewhere? Or because we have gone seriously off track?

We are a point and shoot (with the computer mouse) generation. People learn history in brief snippets rather than seeing how trends and generations overlap and interact. We still need to study the whole counsel of God. Paul said, ‘For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. ‘ (Acts 20:27) We need to understand all of the Lord’s heart.


Going back to the idea that change inevitably brings opposition, I find it amazing how the Lord Jesus managed to move in the Spirit and function in faith in full view of the Scribes and Pharisees who were scrutinizing his every action. What could be more faith-deadening? Some of us have to operate in such environments. Sometimes loving explanation is enough to help people see where we are coming from. At other times, the stand that we are called to take brings us into confrontation with hostile vested interests. This is always costly. Count the cost first. Is this a battle the Lord wants us to fight? There is nothing to be said for going into battle just because Goliath is shouting! But we often find ourselves caught up in battles whether we like it or not. There are far too many ‘worship wars.’ Perhaps this is because Lucifer was worship leader in Heaven, and reserves his particular spite and envy for anyone who approaches what he still regards as his role. (In case you hadn’t noticed, he’s got a split personality!) When church leaderships split and struggle it often starts with the worship group. The real battle is between God and Satan; we just have differences of opinion –often trivial ones - and we need to keep those in perspective and give no ground to the enemy who attacks us through spirits of division.


We can only imagine the joy there must have been when the man was healed. Exuberant praise, to be sure, but also much awe. Nobody could deny that Jesus had performed a truly astonishing miracle (well apart from the diehard Pharisees, of course, who were dead from the feet upward. So far as they were concerned, Jesus had done the wrong thing to the wrong person in the wrong way in the wrong place).

How can religious leaders be so blind and indifferent to what God is doing? Jesus came up against this problem time and time again in His ministry. Many of us experience the same problems.

The Lord is looking for a people He can take into His confidence (Psalm 25:14 Pvbs. 3:32) Because so many matters can only be spiritually discerned, He wants to draw us into an understanding of what He is doing, and incorporate us into it. May the Lord give us a heart for the things that are on his heart – and material that will be relevant to our culture. We do not want to hold back and compromise on where the Lord is leading us.

The message of the video ‘Transformations’ is that God moved in power in surprising places because people got desperate enough to seek God urgently. Our extremity remains His opportunity.

At the same time, never mistake genuine anointing for the decibel level. Remember rather Smith Wigglesworth’s maxim: ‘An ounce of faith is worth a ton of asking.’ Sometimes we can meet with our problems rather than with the Lord and end up vocalizing our unbelief rather than release the power of God in prayer. It may be good to pray with people who are not directly caught up in our struggles. They can have objective faith whereas we have subjective struggles.

We cannot make any formulas, but we can notice that many of the best prayers in the New Testament take the form of commands. Thus Jesus says, ‘Get up, take up your mat and go home.’ In other words ‘Be Healed.’ I will be returning to this issue of having authority in prayer on Sunday morning.

One hint. The angle of our prayer is very important. It is almost impossible to doubt and to praise at the same time.
It is so important to celebrate what God does for us and for others. Music is the perfect tool for helping people to celebrate – just as it is for expressing every emotion.

To end this first seminar, I want to conclude with the story of an elderly man who I heard speaking recently. His name was Robin Talbot, and he was describing the extraordinary works of God that he had witnessed (humanly speaking, that he had precipitated!) in the jungles of North Thailand and in the Himalayan Mountains.

He had received a dramatic call from God at the age of sixteen; first at a powerful missionary meeting and then so clearly through a word from Scripture that he was slain in the Spirit, long before this became widespread. When he was accepted for the mission school, and had completed arduous years of language learning, he was mortified to be told by the very few Christians who existed in the region he was working in, ‘You teach well, but you have no power!’ Back in England he vowed not to return to the mission field unless and until he was ‘clothed in power from on high’.

By God’s grace, He was filled so full of the Spirit that his mission forbade him to preach – he was too charismatic! God sent missionaries to him from all over Asia to be filled with the Spirit but the little church in the Thai jungle remained empty. God told him to pray for one thing only – and to ask his prayer supporters back home to pray for the same thing. Not for physical health or safety, nor for financial provision but for people to be hungry for God. That is a message for ourselves and for those who we are ministering to.

They laboured hard in prayer – and he continued to preach week by week in an empty chapel! What came next can only be described as open heaven revival – a tremendous outpouring of the Spirit that swept many into the Kingdom and that was accompanied by the most wonderful signs and miracles – including a number of people being raised from the dead.

Such faith attracts persecution. On numerous occasions when the Viet Cong invaded Thailand, armed groups attempted to seize him. On each occasion, the Lord’s angelic presence protected him. Later, working in a mountain region, fanatical Hindus told him they were going to burn both him and his church. Not surprisingly, there was fear and heaviness in the hearts of the worshippers – until they remembered the spirit of thanksgiving. One of the young boys saw a mighty angel, and the spirit of confession came upon them. When the angry Hindus burst in, they were so convicted by the sight of these young people confessing their sins that they caused no trouble whatsoever.

On another occasion in a remote pioneering village, Robin and his wife were witnessing to a group of yak-herdsmen. They were using a Flannelgraph to illustrate their talk, when suddenly the Lord told him and his wife simultaneously to remove the fuzzy blanket from the wall and to hide it under the table. They obeyed instantly. Just then, the police rushed in. They were trying (and failing!) to find any evidence of evangelistic activity! Several of the yaksmen gave their lives to the Lord there and then as a result of this.

Being led by the Spirit means having the faith to act on God’s word. These Thai people had many superstitions concerning serpents – not least that it was a bad omen if one came into your house. On one occasion, a deadly serpent came into Robin’s house, and dug its fangs into his bare foot. He felt the poison shooting up his leg and into his groin. He realised instantly that he would die unless he and his wife stood on the promise of Luke 10:19: ‘I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy; you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.’

As they prayed and laid on hands, they felt the poison going back down his legs and out through the fang-holes. This miracle of faith made a profound impression on the local people. Despite the many pressures of our age, we live in the most exciting generation of all, when the power of God is being poured out as never before in history.


Isaiah 43:18-19 is a key verse. See, I am doing a new thing, even now it comes to light - can you not perceive it? ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.’
There is a difference between seeing and perceiving. We can see with our natural naked eye that numbers are exploding in the Church in many countries, and that miracles are being reported, but we still don’t really perceive what the Spirit of God is doing.
Or we say, oh dear, numbers are declining, but we do not go any further and grieve in the Spirit. As we shall be seeing tomorrow, God does not despair over the state of the world, but He does grieve over it – and there can be real power in lament and mourning. Music and intercession are meant to be closely linked - like fish and chips. The worship launches the prayer, and the prayer fuels further intercession. Prayer is all about us sharing our hearts with God: but intercession is about God sharing His heart with us and calling us to reflect it back to Him in such a way that it releases His power.

Turning everyday matters into prayer

In Isaiah 43:22-24 the Lord laments, ‘You have not invoked me. You have not troubled yourself, Israel, on My behalf...nor honoured me with sacrifices.’

Every time we meet together with other Christians we hear things that are important. Someone is sick, someone is looking for a job, someone is something. May we have the sensitivity, courage and determination to turn the information we hear into prayer – and in the process share something of God’s love with them

Worship helps us to do this. Worship is an encounter between God and man, and if there was a one size fits all definition of worship in the Bible we would use it legalistically to limit the way we like to worship. We need to give real thought to how we want to worship, in both spirit and truth.

Jack Hayford wrote that, “Worship is God’s gift to man. It is intended to satisfy one’s hunger and thirst for God.”
I am happy with Paul Basdon’s overview of worship in Exploring the Worship Spectrum, Zondervan, 2004.)
1. To quicken the conscience by the Holiness of God
2. To feed the mind with the Truth of God.
3. To shape (purge) the imagination by the beauty of God.
4. To open our heart to the Love of God.
5. To devote the will to the Purpose of God.

In what framework will express these things?

1) Worship has the power to bring issues to our consciousness faster than we can put up our warp shield to keep them out.
2) Before we act we think; therefore may God renew our minds.
3) In spirit, our hearts have been opened and we can therefore ‘imagine’ in God – we can create, paint, write, improvise, compose – and become truly creative, just as God Himself is creative.
4) To open the heart. Statistically, more are touched in services through the worship than the Word.

Worship prepares the way – Psalm 50:23 He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."

“In all things we become like what we worship. And therefore if we worship the idols of our age we become like them. If we worship the living God, we become more like Him.”

The will used to be called ‘Queen of the Virtues’. What God show us will require every ounce of our energy. As we set our will, we are no longer at the mercy of our whims and emotions. It is not more will power we need: it is the power to say no to the flesh and the world, and to say yes to God! Lord, make our wills stronger!

We can surely benefit from the best of all these traditions. “God is not threatened by the reality of multi-form worship. God is Spirit and we must worship Him in Spirit and truth.” –We should celebrate every honest attempt to express love and devotion to God.” (Basdon)
Joe Horness of Willow Creek defines the goal of worship as:
• To be more and more attentive to His voice, more yielded to His Spirit and to fall more and more in love with Him.
• To be obedient to His call and committed to His service, whose hearts are deeper and quieter and dedicated to prayer.
• To be sold out to share in the saving love of Christ who loves his people.
• To be committed to unity and community, not only to sing songs but to live lives that are expressions of worship to Him.”
(Joe Horness)

Robert Webber identifies seven major strands in traditional Protestant worship in the first half of the 20th century:
1. Tradition - An emphasis on form and beauty
2. Reformed tradition – emphasis on the centrality of the Word
3. Anabaptist tradition – a concern for the community and discipleship
4. Revivalist tradition concerned to call sinners to repentance
5. Quaker tradition – call to silence and waiting for God to speak.
6. Holiness tradition – emphasis on the need to break free and ---- sanctification
7. African and American tradition – emphasis on soulful worship.

Each tradition had its own hymnbooks and forms of service. There is a similarity about these styles, so that you would be at home wherever you visit them. They were worship isolationists in as much as they seldom worshipped outside their own traditions. People would look in the Yellow Pages for a church of their own denomination.

Since then, many churches have made it their aim to become more relevant to seekers (the contemporary church) and others to experience more of the direct workings of the Holy Spirit (the charismatic church).

Worship that reaches people where they are

We can either communicate the love of God through music and worship in a style and language that our unchurched friends can relate to and understand, or we can ask them first to enter into a church culture that has become woefully out of touch with them before we even begin to tell them of Christ and telling newcomers, ‘Learn my language and then I’ll describe God to you’ This is simply unthinkable to me, and I believe that it breaks the heart of God. When Jesus taught He communicated in stories and idioms that His culture would relate to. The old hymns were written, just like many of the contemporary hymns today, as powerful, educational and culturally relevant expressions of what God was doing in the lives of the people of that generation.” (Joe Horness)

Joe Horness then continues with this subject: “But the psalmist implores us to sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 149:1). . . . There was a time when hymns reflected the outside culture rather than an ecclesiastical world or our own. But now they have become more and more remote. It reinforces the generation gap, blind to the post modern culture that the Church must reach or die. Contemporary and charismatic music came to the Church from the outside through the Jesus movement, starting the worship revolution. Most mainline churches rejected them as being too experiential, too weird and they even played guitars!”
“We come to worship not just to sing about God, but to interact with Him and to be changed by His Spirit. We fully expect Him to move – not just to comfort, encourage, to convict and to lead us to Jesus . . . The challenge is not to neglect the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services out of an over-reaction of fear regarding the outward expressions of His gifts.” (Joe Horness)

It would be a trap, however, to seek experiences for their own sake, because these can, to some extent, be induced.
I’m going to count to three and then everyone will fall over!
What a contrast with the real presence of God.

“There is a great sameness about services around the world today God must be so bored with some worship – it can be repetitive and manipulative. Where the music is too loud, I fear many are all but manipulated into making ‘responses’ they have not thought through and cannot honour. God must find this really boring! With Jesus you never knew what was going to happen next. One minute he was ministering to prostitutes, the next to Pharisees, or a Roman centurion, or a tax collectors; or an old lady with health problems. No wonder we are seeing God’s greatest acts these days on rubbish tips in Mozambique. He loves to break out in the unexpected places.

Sally Morgenthaler, another writer on this topic says: ‘This is not ‘experience for experience sake’. It is the power of God breaking out to help people in need. Our task is to make frameworks for this to happen ‘in the contexts of individual and post-modern communities on the other.’
So many of God’s people are hungry to meet with God rather than to meet with another meeting! Anything we can do to enable such encounters is to be welcomed.
Even so, not everybody will experience the same amount of God’s presence at the same time? Probably not.

Just occasionally, God may insist on it. At one small conference I was leading, the Lord warned me before one meeting that He wanted to be in control of the proceedings. The presence of the Lord came so deeply, right from the start, so much so that we sat in awe and silence. For the first twenty minutes or so it appeared to me that everyone was being touched. But as time went by it became apparent that quite a number of people had emerged from that state, and were ‘ready to move on’ – reisefertig. As the leader of the meeting I wanted to say something to make everyone feel safe again, but the Lord did not want me to break that special sense of His presence. For his sake, and for the benefit of those who were still being deeply touched, I had to resist the temptation to take the reins of the meeting back into my hands. One experienced leader described it to me afterwards as being the nearest thing he had ever known to a genuine revival.

I must confess that I approached the following evening with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried. The Lord reassured me that we would, as it were, ‘share’ the leadership of the evening – but that he had needed to work in a sovereign way the evening before.

It is also so easy to revert to using worship just as a way of making people feel good when they come into the room. This risks sending out the subliminal message that we do not really need to engage our hearts in the presence of God.

Thick ears and inner blindness
R.T Kendall writes with great candour in ‘Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’ on how we can slip from true awareness of the Holy Spirit’s leading and substitute instead human substitutes that owe far too much to controlling and manipulating ways.

Sadly, most of us do not notice this process beginning to happen. Because certain ‘gifts’ have been entrusted to us, we can continue to operate in seemingly spiritual ways long after our hearts’ orientation has ceased to be truly focused on the Lord. If gentler means do not alert us, the Lord often has to send a stronger messenger to show us how far we have strayed from His special presence, and the peril of our true spiritual position.


“There is a need for new kinds of classical music . . . Composition is really improvisation slowed down and codified. Improvisation is composition sped up and on the spur of the moment, but in principle without countless painful and disciplined hours of practice and study that include both the gathering of information and the twin continuations of composing and improvising.” (Harold Best)

Improvisation is like a preacher who decides to speak without notes. To be able to give a meaningful and profound coverage of a subject, apparently artlessly, requires much study and experience. Let improvisation and composition, spontaneity and study flow together under the Holy Spirit’s leadership. There is so much emphasis on worship planning. Make sure there is God-seeking as well as planning in our preparation. Our principle need is to pray for meetings to be transformed into encounters. That does not mean that we do not need to study. An important principle in all forms of leadership, ‘art conceals art’ – we can only lead, preach, play and prophesy with confidence because we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, we have absorbed the Word of God, we have a basis of understanding on which the Lord can build and we have people who mentor us and who we are accountable to.

We are blessed if we have received mentoring and fathering into our ministries.
The fact is, however, that a majority of Spirit-filled Christians have probably not had the benefit of such hands-on mentoring. There is a right longing to share their purity, anointing and wisdom without in any way straying into covetousness!
Don’t be in a hurry to believe the devil’s lie that nobody would understand because you are uniquely different. That may be pride disguised as some complex fear of entering into heart-challenging relationships.

The way we present things

Say things one way and it makes no impression; share basically the same message another way and it causes people to light up. The angle of our presentation can be all-important.
Far too many truths and even prophecies are ‘dumped’ on groups of Christians in ways that make them passive recipients, rather than inviting them to become participators in some understanding the Lord is seeking to impart. Recognising that God wants us to unpack truth rather than to dump prophecies on each other would revolutionise a certain type of church leadership that might best be described as ‘one-man bands’ – even if a whole group of people are speaking for the ‘one-man’ at the centre.

Sharing in such ways reminds me of valuable exercises we conduct in marriage seminars. We invite people to choose from a lost of ten qualities, and to select the three or four we feel we need most, in order of their importance to us. We then try to gauge our partner’s primary needs. It never ceases to astonish how far off target even mature and experienced couples can prove to be at this point.

To take an absurd example: suppose my chief need is for financial security. I transfer this to my wife and assume it must be her top need too. So I save hard and buy her a Roll Royce every six months. I assume she will be grateful to me forever. Trouble was – she would have been far more grateful in the long run for some help around the house with household chores, and more praise and appreciation for the work she does, than rather for any numbers of brand new cars cluttering up the drive!

In the same way, much teaching and even prophecy can miss the hearts of the people for whose edification it was theoretically intended.
To plan only for the miraculous and the spontaneous would be as wrong as to plan only for the predictable. We would quickly become either stale or ‘circular’ – focussing only on certain beliefs and aspects, and excluding or missing out on other, important ones.

Many times we have a goal in mind, but on the way something extra happens. Jesus set out to heal Jairus’ daughter and ends up healing a woman with a haemorrhage along the way. When events occur like this we must ask the question, ‘is this a distraction?’ or is it God’s highest intention? cf Ludlow student preacher.

Don’t leave it all to others: Wait for the Lord to point His conductor’s baton at you and to call you in
When a tongue is given we may instinctively decide to leave it in the safe hands of the ‘dear brother or sister’ who always interprets these sort of things (and who normally starts off too quickly for us to get a word in edgeways even if we felt we should!) It is not necessarily best when all preaching or prophesying comes from the same source. Suppose the Lord wants to do something completely different and build a patchwork mosaic rather than delivering a fully formed word?
In that case, the full picture would be incomplete without your seemingly small contribution. It is often the collection of small pieces (which, in isolation, baffles you) that proves the key to understanding the wider picture.

It may not even be a ‘word’ in the technical sense at all. It may be just a feeling, or picture, or an experience or situation which comes to mind and which you sense may have some relevance. We learn by trying these things out, and then checking how useful (or otherwise) they prove to be. The time may come when we become quietly confident that the Lord really does use us in such ways and to be much quicker at moving in the flow He is leading us in.

Father, where we have built boxes and learned to feel safe and comfortable in them, or, alternatively, where we have grown to loathe them for being too limiting, help us to be willing to explore new ways of sharing things. May we be willing to make room for Your Spirit to move in new ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Having the courage to embrace change

Joe Horness says:
"I have often said that one of the greatest gifts we can give God is our availability. There is something wrong if our approach is the same week after week. One week we celebrate. Another week we are led to be broken and repentant before Him. But our experience of him, like our experience of any relationship, is ever changing…… Finding new ways to engage our hearts with Him, to express our relationship with Him, and to help us respond from week to week to what He is doing in lives is a labour of love. It’s never a burden. The act of creating is in fact an act of worship! The weekly exercise of that offering allows us to respond to events taking place in our lives and in our world. We would rather remain in the mystery and unpredictability of relationship than opt for the stability of set form, as comforting as that may be . . .For worship to flourish, people must carry in their hearts a great picture of God. They have to learn to love Him a lot! The problem is that true worship cannot be sustained on emotion alone.” (Joe Horness)

“A time of worship crafted by godly, surrendered, united and creative people . . . may be an option that is at least equal to, if not better than quoting by rote something that was crafted several centuries ago. For the contemporary worship leader, leading worship is only part of the battle. Moving people to a place of heart-felt response to the God they adore is the other.”

“The abuse of spontaneity does not mean we need to do away with spontaneity. Neither does the absence of spontaneity mean that [we have to make the worship experience] more sacred to be acceptable to God. One has only to read 2 Samuel 6, the story of David’s wife Michal, to find out what God thinks of our notion of what is dignified in worship. It takes courage to take the old and put it in new wineskins. Quite honestly, it also takes persistence and a great deal of sweat. To wrestle with the issue of Christ and Culture is one of the most challenging tasks we are given as ministry leaders. We can view worship crafting as a burden, or we can see it as an opportunity to re-imagine faithful living God encounters for a new world.”

“Being open to the Spirit should never be an excuse for shallow thinking or irreverence. Worship leaders need to be more than just good musicians. They must be eager students of the Word and willing to learn from other styles and traditions. None of us involved in the leading or direction of worship can afford to simply pick our style and rest in it. God still chooses to build his Kingdom through surrendered, Spirit-filled people, not through the most time tested forms or the most modern methodology. It is imperative that our walk with God remains real, that our dialogue with the Spirit be moment to moment, that our communication is truthfully accurate, engaging and authentic. Choose a tool that best helps your church to offer authentic expressions of worship to God. Learn and glean all you can from others. And walk with God in such a way that you can use them well.” (Joe Horness)

But Jesus took part in real life events like weddings. He wants us likewise to invite Him to our events. Long ago (C.S.Lewis) said, “Europe will be reached by the performing arts.” [We need to turn this thought into reality]

Philosophically, and psychologically, the western world is ready to receive the gospel through the creative arts. The arts are poised to play a decisive role in our attempt to re-evangelise Europe in the twenty first century. If we take as our starting point that the Church must be ‘less churchy’ if a new generation is to be introduced to the knowledge of the Lord, it is surely but a small step from there to praying that the performing arts should be right at the fore in this move of God. Pray for a posse of prophetic performers, poets and playwrights to make Christ known.

‘It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of the imagination, to keep on proposing alternative futures to the single one the king (or ‘the state’ in our terminology) wants to urge as the only thinkable one.’
Walter Brueggemann

Father, I cry to You that we can play skilfully, with words and lyrics that come directly from Your heart. Let them be theologically adequate and prophetically challenging. Keep us from hype and inspire authenticity.

There is no shortage of creativity in Heaven; may we be in Your flow.
Where we draw on particular sources, let us choose the right ones – just as Charles Wesley took the popular songs of his day and put Christian lyrics to them.

So where does the Bible say that then?
Almost by definition, prophets and the prophetic ministry are always pushing the frontiers out: inspiring many to attempt new things and profoundly challenging those who prefer a more settled existence! Since so much of the application will be of a personal, local or specific nature, it will not always be possible to find clear-cut biblical precedents or parallels. Time and again we will be called to exercise discernment. In other words, we are to be concerned with the underlying hearts of the people involved and the focus as well as the ethos of their practice.

Unfortunately, many adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude towards prophecy. They are rather like Jonah sitting under his broom tree, hoping that God would forget all talk of being merciful and just destroy Nineveh. (Zap) Armchair critics who sit on the sidelines awarding prophecies so many marks out of ten is that many visions are never fulfilled.

Shortly after being led to move nearly a thousand miles north, we heard of a prophetic word that had been given in 1997 on the Finnish island of Aaland calling for Scandinavian intercessors to join British ones in praying for Europe. The prophecy specified that this conference was to take place on Shetland. It was immediately apparent that nobody was doing anything about this word, even though intercessory leaders on the mainland were keeping it alive in their hearts. To cut a long story short, the Lord put a powerful team of leaders together, and caused people from twenty seven nations to come together in Shetland in the summer of 2005. Nothing would have happened unless we had picked up the mantle and made the conference a reality.
Now we are being called to put a conference together for Europe from the extreme southern point of the United Kingdom: Jersey. I have the brochures here.
Lord, help us to be so tuned into You that we can recognise the ‘accents’ of your love, to sense the stamp of authenticity when an idea, word or movement really does come from You. May we neither leap to attain something that is not of You, nor hold back from supporting that which You endorse. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Call of God
It is best to look on matters of guidance as a corporate rather than just an individual issue.
And wait for triangulation rather than just following one strand of guidance.

When you sense that God may be leading you in a particular direction, showing you something or even giving you a specific call to something, it is helpful to remember that God will always confirm His word in different ways to you. No matter how strong a particular leading may seem, if it only comes by one route, we ought perhaps to wait for further confirmation. We can make a lot of mistakes when we act on the basis of one strand of guidance only.

Where God points, He will also lead. But it may not be in the way we expect. I am reminded of Jill Pole in CS Lewis’s book ‘The Silver Chair’. Aslan gave her signs to follow, but warned her that they would look very different ‘at ground level’ compared with how she learnt them on a cliff top.

We have said that prophets are the ‘eyes’ of the Body of Christ. What part of the body can be more sensitive? Prophets need those who will partner with them in their burden-bearing, help them to readjust burdens that are weighing them down too much to avoid becoming to sensitive. Our prophesying is likely to pollute and contaminate if we are doing it from a basis of anger, anxiety or resentment.
I love the expression Jesus uses in John 6:12 concerning the bits of food thatr remained after the feeding of the 5,000. He said, ‘Let nothing be wasted.’
Is God training you in hidden places at the moment? Don’t be in a rush. God will call you again, and turn the call into a commission. Hand back to the Lord experiences that feel as though they have been a waste of time. The Lord can redeem them and somehow contrive to wok them out for His glory.

The timescale can be confusing: A New Zealand couple announced to one and all as they finished at Bible school that they were going to be missionaries. But the door did not open and they took a variety of temporary jobs, including road-laying, chicken farming and fence repairing: all of which ultimately came in invaluable when the call became a commission. God will often use the raw materials of our skills as the foundation of our ministry: though some skills will have to be laid to one side and others be developed. There must have been much loss of face, though, and much temptation to doubts and disillusionment in the meantime. But God achieved His purpose for them, and He will for you!

What a gift instruments are – we will be exploring their range and potential much more fully in this conference.
“There is a very great danger of congregations no longer hearing themselves sing and ending up accompanying the worship band when the reverse should be true. This means that musicians must be highly aware of how they are coming across – and what it feels like to be in the congregation. Instruments need to be sensitively. The skilful orchestrator understands that all the instruments at his disposal do not need to play all the time – no not even the drum set. “It is wonderful when you have drummers who understand how delicate and understated their music must be.” (Harold Best) Some organists seem to make it their aim to make a thunderstorm seem like a quiet and peaceful affair.
We forget the power of Scripture and the power of prayer. We can easily gear our worship times around what we think is hip or cool. Worship leaders are often more concerned about the sound of their guitar than about whether the congregation is deeply engaged in worship. “In countless churches, musicians love the sound of their own performance. Only in the very best churches does humility put a brake on music for the good of the whole.” (Paul Zahl)

Our first priority is not to perform but to lead God’s people to meet God. If the congregation is disengaged, we’re simply back to where we started with a different cast of characters. If worship groups are fully engaged, congregations can over time worship with a sense of expectation that God will be there. They learn to come prepared, not just to receive, but to bring an offering of worship to their Lord. They come knowing that being part of this time could change them. It is important to give God the best that we can give Him. There is real commitment and servanthood required by our worship leaders to give Him our best. God gave us the best and gave us His Son. It is important for us to do the same.” (Joe Horness)

Pastors, hear the call of a flock just waiting to rise up, not in mutiny but in fervent God-seeking. Flocks, see the loneliness and grief of so many pastors, so few of whom enjoy the benefit of peer groups praying and speaking deeply into their lives to enable them to lead from a place of intimacy as opposed to borrowed authority. We are all in equal, though outwardly different, need of the waters of deep refreshment that flow not through prayerful serving brothers and sisters.

Relationship is all important
“People these days are more into networking and working together; more concerned with the concept of being on a spiritual journey than ever before – which means we need to rethink our aims and objectives and even our identities.” (Sally Morgenthaler)

“People often think of the Old Testament purely in terms of God’s requirement of obedience from us. Read it more carefully and you will see that He longs for relationship with us.’ (Joe Horness)

“‘I will dwell among the Sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them.’ (Exodus 29:4-46). He longs to be loved for Who He is and for what He has done among them. [You can feel the pathos in verses such as] ‘How long will these people spurn me? And how long will they not believe in me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst’ (Numbers 14:11 and early Jeremiah).” (Joe Horness)
Jesus felt the same pathos when people rejected His loving advances – and great joy when people responded.

John Piper says: “In Isaiah 29:13 He expresses the longing of His heart as He informs His people why His judgement is about to take place: ‘These people draw near with their words and honour me with their lips, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence is simply tradition that has become rote’. God is not condemning huge things or child sacrifices or even debauchery here – something else is breaking the heart of God [and that is when people just] go through the motions. In essence God replies, ‘I hate beautiful worship. If your heart is not moved by who I am, better that you don’t go through the motions at all.’

Confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus quotes this same passage from Isaiah and follows it with a powerful statement: ‘In vain did they worship me.’ (Matthew 15:8-9)

Whilst there are many in our communities, particularly men, who have no interest whatsoever in desiring a spiritual life, there are many others who, deep down are longing to experience the genuine presence of God.

“For some charismatics, the goal of worship seems to be to experience the miraculous – to see healings, to receive words of knowledge, and to feel the Spirit of God move in tangible ways. Our main goal needs to be relationship. Worship is more than one-way communication from us to God. It is a two-way communication between God and His people. We exalt God. He reveals His presence and changes His heart. We pour out our hearts and remember His greatness. Refusing to be outdone, He meets our needs for intimacy and grace.” (Sally Morgenthaler or Joe Horness)

Seeker services at Willow Creek were designed for those who did not know Christ. Wednesday night was for core believers, a time of singing and teaching and completely different. We had to learn what it meant to be worshippers in our private lives so that what we did on stage came from authentic hearts. And we had to learn how to lead worship times that would help people fully engage in meeting and participating with God. Most of us have spent a lifetime singing songs without engaging our hearts and souls in what we were doing.

“There was inevitable criticism of devoting services to evangelism and outreach, but we never watered down the Gospel but used contemporary forms of art to reach people with the love of Christ. There is no competition with worship styles. One is not better than the other. We simply used what would serve our people best and help them encounter God most readily . . . “The transformation taking place in our churches is one that God Himself has initiated and has longed for.” (Joe Horness)

All people are created to go deep with God. “Let’s keep a balance check”, says Robert Webber. “Too much is made about what I ought to do and too little about what God has done. There is a danger with a certain type of worship leader who leads us to believe that they accomplish this kind of love, passion and praise and the rest of us either have to fake it, or worry that maybe we’re not spiritual enough. Thanks to Jesus Christ, we are free, and in that attitude we offer our stumbling worship in His name with thanksgiving.” (Webber)

As worship becomes more ‘successful,’ the danger of making it a formula, and keeping within safe boundaries, becomes greater. I used to attend a mega church in America; the worship was lovely – but they were not open to anything that might rock the boat. The fact that the worship leader was full time meant he dare not introduce anything that might offend the pastor.

It is easy to allow worship to be for something other than the sake of relationship. Worship is always in danger of changing its focus according to the context. “In the camp missions in America, worship was no longer so much directed at God, as at the lost sinner who needed to be saved. The shadow of revivalism remains in much of our current worship practices. It is an absolute miracle that black slaves who were treated so badly could accept the religion of their masters and make it so much more real. Their music is more emotionally powerful and encourages lively audience participation, heartfelt prayer and other worldly hope (a world in which justice and goodness will prevail)”. (Basdon)

A huge generalisation: The best of the hymns sang about 'He is', the worst of the modern ones about 'I am', and the best of the new about 'You are'. (Robert)

“Wimber was the first to see music not as being for evangelism and warming up the crowd but as an end in itself, with both high praise and songs of intimacy mostly to be directed to God Himself rather than being sung about Him.
These songs from the Vineyard have now been sung to a great extent in black protestant churches in the States.” (Don Williams) “His Kingdom theology held that worship draws the heart of God to His people. In the midst of this worship, people were often convicted, converted, healed and delivered from evil spirits. The power of God is often manifest in this worship. Wimber’s formula for church services is worship, the Word and then work through Jesus through prayer and the laying on of hands (ministry time) which included evangelists and healing through prayer teams. Wimber taught that the whole congregation is the choir, singing to God and before God, with Himself as the ‘audience of one’. [Wanting to be ‘naturally supernatural’, Wimber tended to downplay the culture of Pentecostal worship and practices and some of the more overt manifestations of the healing evangelists.”]

“Wimber himself very clearly saw the difference between songs about Jesus and songs to Jesus.

Matt Redman has a spiritual depth and contemporary relevance. His songs are scriptural, revealing the tensions of the Biblical revelation of God – transcendent and immanent, holy and loving, inviting us into the power of friendship and fear. Worship is centred, not on our needs, but on God Himself. ‘Worship is meant to be an encounter,’ Redman proclaims. Scripture must not strangle life, and God often wants worship leaders to do the unexpected. “If we do what the Father is doing and everyone is doing it, God will break into our souls in powerful and surprising ways. Spirit led worship can at times become holy mayhem, burning through our pride.”

“Worship is a spiritual event long before it is ever a music event. When worshippers go public they must check their hearts ruthlessly. Praise is a contradiction of pride. Pride says, ‘Look at me’, but praise longs for people to see Jesus.” Dependence on the Spirit comes from a life ‘undone’ before God. He restricts us, makes us ‘distinctly uncomfortable’ because He insists on a Holy People. It comes from a heart broken before God. There is time for abundant joy as well as a time for silence. The heart of worship says,
“When the music fades all is stripped away
And I simply come,
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth,
That will bless Your heart.
I bring You more than a song.
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear.
You’re looking into my heart.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
All about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it.
And it’s all about You,
All about You, Jesus.” (Matt Redman)

It is easy to have a charismatic meeting, but how do we act in-between? There may be an emphasis on God talk, but is there a split world view in our hearts which blocks out thinking through a Christian world view and what the Lord would have us do in specific situations? (In other words, does the Holy Spirit make us different mid-week?) This idea best challenges Wimber’s idea that worship is an essential prerequisite for achieving intimacy. The thought that we may not be worshiping properly can dog any believer in any setting, but perhaps particularly in a Wimber-type model, the thought that we may be missing out in some way.

I think Martin Luther tells of the time that he has focussed intently on the person and work of Christ. The Holy Spirit was there essentially in the form of a dove, gently alight on his shoulder, but when Luther turned his attention to the Spirit and away from Christ, the dove flew away. The story may go too far, but it contains a balance and a check for many.

“Nevertheless, there is a full and proper flow of the Holy Spirit and the Saviour together, which means there is no competition.” (between the two – how can there be between members of the Godhead?) (Remember how when the dove came to visit a missionary couple in Israel, flew in through the house, but whenever they had an argument, it flew out again).

Traditionally, charismatic renewal has been slow to evangelise, to be concerned with social justice or world missions – where there are exceptions, and there most certainly are – they are intentional: hard forced and hard won. Are churches known for their servant evangelism, renovating houses, running soup kitchens and free car repairs? Or those which major on being a refuge for the emotionally scarred? Churches that worship as a lifestyle out into their streets and homes will take a movement from Acts 2, Pentecost to Acts 17.” (Sally Morgenthaler)

“The heart of true praise (Vineyard) balances personal morality and spiritual growth with social responsibility. A passion for holiness balances a passion for justice. Songs have been written along those lines by Brenton Brown, Worship Leader of Vineyard UK and by Matt Redman (Justice and Mercy). Martin Smith (Delirious?) is uncompromising when confronting a new generation with the Gospel in its own idiom.” (Don Williams)

“As in John’s visions in the Book of Revelation, worship purges our imagination with the idols of our age and replaces them with the sights and sounds of Heaven itself. Praise before the throne of God and the Lamb is unceasing and vital, including shouting in songs of victory. As John undermines the pretension of Rome and the satanic powers that enthrals her with the truth and glory of God, so our worship today must be just as subversive. The Blood of the Lamb and the testimony of the Saints will bring down the powers of this age as we glorify God in Spirit led and Spirit empowered worship.” (Don Williams)

“The emphasis on worship as interactive and deeply responsive was a major shift away from passive, leader focussed services to full and, for the most part, unscripted participation of God’s people. Worship is our response to revelation; who God is and what God has done. Wimber took interaction (unscriptured response to God and ministry time) to unprecedented levels.” (Morgenthaler)

All this stems from the ability to sense His quiet leadings, moment by moment and day by day.

“When we come before God in humility, undone, broken before Him, not Focussing on ourselves but on the offering we come to bring to God, then His Spirit will be free to move, inwardly or outwardly, in quietness or in overwhelming power.” (Joe Horness)

All true prophets will also, to some extent, be intercessors. Those who would ‘bring the word of the Lord’ without travailing in prayer miss out on a vital part of the process, and risk wanting to be able to use the gift without bearing any responsibility for it. The true word of God carries obligation > tied-in-ness.

Nathan used a parable to confront David because it was the only way to reach the King’s heart. Others will use picture language. It is no coincidence that prophets are still occasionally referred to as seers (Jer1).

Dramatic symbols and actions blend with the visual and the auditory. Ezekiel had to act out what the Lord gave him (ch12).
I am an enormous believer in the power of prophetic music to release the power of God, whether in intercession, or for comfort, healing and deliverance. Dresden. Shostakovich.
Levitical singers. 1 Chron 25 – particular anointing come on them. God used their singing and proclamation. 2 Chron 29:25. Nothing accidental about the way these Levites were deployed.

How does God manifest His prophetic Spirit through you? Recognizing the ways He works can be key for developing the gifting.

So much action happens in the Church because we know how to make it happen, but it owes so little to God’s direct leading and command. Everything becomes exciting when His presence is actively leading us. It is following His leading that enable specific events and initiatives to happen that facilitate this greatest of all longings.
God comes to demolish as well as to plant. (Jer 1). He knows how to lead those who have failed and fallen – provided that they give Him the chance to work. But there has to be a willingness to overcome the shame, lethargy or sense of overwhelmed-ness, and to pray, ‘Lord, we will not rest, and not allow You any rest, until You move in power!’
‘The testimony of Jesus is still the spirit of prophecy’ , but it takes time and refining for us to discern what God is saying and doing in a given situation.
It is good for the soul to enjoy the good things He sends our way. The Lord once said to me, ‘When I created children with an instinct to play, I was putting something of Myself in them. You are off balance if you do not play.’ Too much of the play mentality, however, first induces and then justifies vices that we do not hear much about these days. How uncool is such sloth and laziness when set against the fervour of Christians in so many other parts of the world? Let’s pray with Paul for the Lord to sharpen our spirit to the point where we can ‘make [literally ‘to purchase completely’] the most of every opportunity.’ (Col. 4:5)

The wonderful truth is that God loves to prophesy! He who created the heavens and the earth by a word from His mouth does not speak lightly but always with a deliberate objective in mind.
The Church in Antioch fulfilled a crucial ministry, both to the town itself and to the region beyond it. When you look at the composition of the leadership team, you find not just teachers – but prophets too. ( ) We need balanced complimentary teams. It may grate, but it is essential.

Using Liturgy
Don Williams says, “Liturgical thinking is mainly European. Where does this leave the third world, where Christianity is exploding? Then there’s the issue of a whole generation in the West that no longer identifies with classical culture? Consequently, liturgical churches are ageing and shrinking.” It’s not enough to put our trust in the minister being welcoming and kind: this just perpetuates the idea that ‘It’s what’s up front that counts.’ This is the way inherited church has always been. It may connect with the modern world, but what of the post modern? To be culturally current is to leave the liturgy of Elizabethan England, and to welcome multi-ethnic and multi-cultural diversity. To be open to the freshness of the Spirit and the full gifting and participation of the Body of Christ is to leave pulpit centred, altar centred controlled worship. Our unity is not our uniformity. Paul calls us not to create unity in a body by adopting one culture or approach to worship, but to maintain the unity of the Spirit already given (Eph 4:3). All things must be subject to the authority of God’s Word and the light of the Spirit. (Don Williams)

All the same, don’t dismiss all idea of liturgy. Many forms of ‘emerging church’ incorporate elements of it, acknowledging perhaps that our human shortcomings easily turn even free worship into something predictable.
“One person said that given the choice between purely liturgical and purely free worship, he would pick the liturgical because at least somebody has thought it through.” (Joe Horness) I suppose that depends to some extent not only on what sort of a temperament a person has but also how they are feeling at the moment.

The word 'liturgy' describes the patterns, forms and words through which public worship is conducted. Paul Zahl says, “The Spirit can bless and attend both the free and the liturgical and the Spirit can absent Himself from both. We can never afford not to pray, ‘Lord, take not Thy Holy Spirit from us’.” (Zahl)

Zahl adds, “Whatever we do, we need to do it well and give God our best: not something that is under-rehearsed, shoddy or self-indulgently presented, or superficial in text”

In praise of the hymn book

“The worshipper has the opportunity to take to heart, mind and ear an amazing variety of musical styles. What other cultural source – sacred or secular – offers so many functional musical options in so little space? Two thousand years of musical evolution are offered: chants, psalmody, carols, folk tunes, ethnic tunes, … Welsh ballads and hearty English melodies, Germanic stout masses, French clarity, early American forthrightness, gospel tunes, 19th Century sweetness and sentimentality, 20th Century and 21st Century fresh and innocent asymmetric.” (Harold Best)

“One of the most difficult things for any composer is to imagine and craft good, simple and singable tunes.” Chester adds, “Hymn texts must be strong, theologically, poetically and aesthetically and the tunes must be within the range of all.” (Harold Best)

Just as contemporary worship races onto shaky ground when we mindlessly clap and settle for trivial lyrics offset by rhythmic guitars. My desire is to renew and retain the best of what is standard hymn-based worship for the contemporary church. Carefully chosen hymns can be a part of helping us to move people’s hearts. If we believe that the Church was created by God to be the messenger of love to the lost; not simply for the gratification of believers but to be the hope of the world; if we believe that the arts can communicate the love of Christ effectively to those who desperately need to know Him; we have a choice to make. (Don Williams)


The old hymns are deeply anchored in the individual and cultural unconscious of the average American in a way that is no longer true in the UK. “Our traditional hymns are cathartic.” (Zahl) (When we forget this we miss out on opportunities to hook into something precious).

You can either see the hymnal as a valuable devotional aid or, as Joe Horness puts it, “The hymnal is embraced by those who tend to look inwards to the likes and dislikes of the already convinced rather than looking outward to a world in need.”

“All too often members of a congregation are disengaged and disinterested when they sing hymns, lulled by familiarity and repetition with going through the motions, while our churches foster and maintain a culture that keeps us distant from a dying world.

“To rewrite Jesus’ saying, ‘Therefore every worship leader who has been instructed about the Kingdom of Heaven and like the owner of a house who brings out of his storehouse new treasures as well as old.’ (Matt 13:52).” (Don Williams)

“Hymns speak of the printed page, whereas modern culture has moved to an Image and Sound world, and is fast moving to an image plus sound and print. Most of us today no longer inhabit the world of print. Rather than considering music to be transient, we might now say that it is books which are transient.” [as a writer I find this hard to express!]- my own feeling is that there will always be a place for books].
“There is a crucial need for a profound recognition (of the enormous personal and societal brokenness we meet). The world has run out of people to trust, people are in a mess. Americans no longer believe in their ability to construct a better tomorrow. [A small pool of guitar-driven] feel-good choruses hardly fit well with images of jet liners flying into buildings. There is a feeling of being out of control. Numbers swelled in churches after 9/11 but they are now lower than they were before. The church was handed an unforeseen opportunity but failed to give people compelling, lasting experiences of God.’ (Sally Morgenthaler)

May we incorporate what the Lord wills into our services and be prepared to think wider.

Let’s use everything within our grasp. Let there be silence and drama and poetry. This should not imply a wholesale dismantling of previous worship forms in order to create something new out of the pieces. Use whatever best exalts God and meets people’s real needs. I am as happy celebrating as I am lamenting, encouraging people to participate or to hold silence –

“If the Spirit is not blazing out in places, it will be down to our lack of ceaseless, pestiferous intercessory prayer for the lost.” (Harold Best)

[There has been a great over-identification of the average American with the Christian ideal. There were elements of that which were profoundly middle-class, [right-wing], upwardly mobile, and needed to be broken. But that doesn’t mean we can make up entirely new structures week by week. That would lead to exhaustion.]

A huge percentage of children are growing up in single-parent households [with the father being notable only for their absence]. This has huge consequences for ministry issues concerning a sense of belonging, for good role models, the need for authority, our place in the community, child abuse issues, addictions and gang violence. [Beware experimenting for the sake of experimenting]. “Shallow theology will not produce anything lasting. [Don Williams warns]. Arts will tend towards the bizarre, and experimental worship services normally die a slow death. We still need honest preaching, the presence of God manifest in prophetic wording, healing prayers, breaking of fears, prophesy which fills emptiness and brings into a transparent community.”


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