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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
• To be committed to unity and community, not only to sing songs but
to live lives that are expressions of worship to Him.”
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
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 ----
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
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
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
We are blessed if we have received mentoring and fathering into our
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
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
“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.’
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
There is no shortage of creativity in Heaven; may we be in Your
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.”
“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
“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
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
‘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
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
“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
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.”
[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