Pure Praise Week #5

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5b-7)

The theme for week five’s study of Pure Praise was “Five essentials of Effective Worship Services.”

1. PRAYER, PRAYER, PRAYER

Dwayne quoted Carol Cymbala (Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir) who said, “[God] can only bless people who are in tune…with him and with one another.  That is why we begin every choir practice with a season of prayer…The choir’s ability to minister can never be better than their spiritual tone.” (p.75)

I definitely think we can do a better job of spending more time in concentrated prayer when we get together to rehearse our music.  Let’s remind each other to put our instruments down and spend some time on our knees (literally) before God in order to properly humble ourselves under His mighty hand.

2. PLANNED SPONTANEITY

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

It is our responsibility to plan and prepare – to be mentally “in the game” for the sake of giving our absolute BEST to God. There is a temptation for us to shirk our part in the process of leading worship and put it all on God.  God wants us to be sensitive to His direction, to be sure, but he also expects us to lead well.

Here’s a great way to think of it! Dwayne Moore says, “We plan OUT distractions and plan IN both flow and freedom to OBEY whatever God tells us to do.” (p.80)

It would be rather distracting if we were out of tune and all playing different rhythms and chords, everybody doing their own thing.  There must be an order to things – take a look at CREATION for an example of this.  But I believe we are grieving the Holy Spirit when we refuse to abandon our plans, to hear His voice, to follow His leading.

Jerry McGuire comes to mind: Remember when he pleads with his star wide-receiver: “help me…help me help you…help me…help you.”  That’s what I think the Spirit of God is asking us to do – to help Him help us!

Great example of this from yesterday’s worship, especially during third service:

Those team members who played yesterday (March 27th) will recall that we rehearsed the set on Thursday night and then on Sunday morning I came in to rehearsal and told you we had a change of plans.  I suspected we had too much music and wouldn’t have enough “space” for God to move the way He wanted to.  So we made a change to the schedule – cancelling “Majestic” and moving “God of Wonders” down to the end of the service.  I also told the team we would make room for “planned spontaneity” at the end of “Indescribable.”  They were instructed to follow me closely as I try to follow God’s leading.  As it turns out, God directed me to do something totally different than what I thought!  Carolyn was playing a song on the piano during communion and I thought it was “I Exalt Thee.”  The first half of the song tracked with “I Exalt Thee” totally perfectly.  Then the second half did something different.  (I still don’t know what song it was.) Anyway, I was singing along and then I heard God tell me “I want you to sing that song!”

“But God, we don’t have the words on the screen!”

“Ask the people how many know the song already…just be up front with them and tell them what you’re going to do.”

“Okay, but I’m pretty sure Carolyn isn’t actually playing “I Exalt Thee.”  What will she do when I ask her to try to play it from memory?”

“That’s not your problem, Adam.  Carolyn is my child and she will be sensitive enough to know when to play and when not to play.”

“This doesn’t seem very seeker-friendly.”

“It’s not for them at this moment…do you trust me?”

“I think so.”

“You better know so….here’s your big moment.”

…and the result was a beautiful moment of simple and pure worship

3. PLIABLENESS

Thanks, Carolyn, for sticking with me yesterday!  You stopped playing at just the right time.  It was so amazing to hear the voices of our people harmonizing the words “I exalt thee…I exalt thee…I exalt thee, oh Lord.”  I believe God was pleased with our corporate heart of worship in that moment!

4. POWER OF THE SPIRIT

Jim Cymbala said it perfectly: “Our attempt at ministry will be an absolute exercise in futility if we are not expecting and experiencing divine help through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is not enough to teach and preach about the Spirit. We must experience Him personally in new depths, or we will accomplish little.  Without the Holy Spirit there is no quickening of the Scripture.  Worship is hollow.  Preaching is mechanical, never piercing the heart.” (quoted in Pure Praise, p.84-85)

Don’t take Jim’s word for it.  Luke 3 and 4 tells of Jesus’ ministry beginning with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness and powerfully led him out to begin his ministry in POWER.  “If Jesus needed the power of God’s Spirit to be effective in ministry, how much more must [we] have the Holy Spirit anointing [our] life.” (p.85)

I love what Dwayne said here: “To be filled with the Holy Spirit is really more about getting UNFILLED with ourselves.” That’s something to think about.  See the verse at the top of this post and meditate on it for a few minutes.

5. PASTORAL DIRECTION

In my opinion, Dwayne is being gentle in this section.  He says, “Most of us at some point have had issues with authority. And some of us have never quite grown out of our rebellion, especially in the church…Where is the servant’s heart.” (p.87)  That’s an understatement!  Moody musicians are GUILTY AS CHARGED.  We want we we want.  We think we know best.  We think our preference is the right one.  We think our opinion of how a song should be played is the right opinion.  Of course…it’s our opinion!  I’ve been in situations where it wasn’t a healthy environment at all.  Grumbling against the Senior Pastor’s direction was more common than not.  I didn’t stop it either.  I repent of the ways I was a poor “follower” of the leaders above me.  I repent of the many times I was not submissive to the authority of my Senior Pastor.  May the remainder of my days in ministry be marked by my desire to serve my Senior Pastor (the “under-shepherd” of the church).  Period.

Finally, I strongly encourage you to take a look at all five of these “essentials” and personalize them.  Forget about worship ministry (playing, singing, etc.) and ask yourself how you are doing at demonstrating these traits in your own life.  How’s your prayer life?  Are you sensitive to the Spirit?  Are you flexible and trusting enough (pliable) to follow God’s direction?  What about your submission to the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you sense His leading and anointing on you?  When’s the last time you heard Him speak to you, convict you, comfort you?  Don’t grieve the Spirit…please!  This is absolutely critical in the process of your spiritual formation (becoming conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others).  Finally, do you have a problem with authority?  Do you grumble? Like the Israelites wandering through the wilderness?  Repent of your rebellion and get in place under the guidance of your “under-shepherd.”

I’ll be right there with you!


6 thoughts on “Pure Praise Week #5

  1. Wow!!! Reading this was very inspiring. Thank you for your words, Adam. I will be honest with all of you, I am behind with my daily devotionals in Pure Praise. Spring break with family has had me very distracted. After reading this post I want to dive into a devotional marathon in order to get caught up!

    “To be filled with the Holy Spirit is really more about getting UNFILLED with ourselves.”
    This truly is something to think about, meditate on, or even write it on your bathroom mirror. This statement really challenged me to reflect on the times that I really can hear God speak to me. The times I am able to remain in prayer and feel warmth from the blessings in my life… the times I am able to worship with my life….

    Then it opens the door for the really hard questions…
    Why don’t I always hear God speak to me?
    What am I doing differently when my prayer life wavers?
    When I don’t see how blessed I am, when I am not worshiping with my very breath that is a gift from my creator….
    The times that I need to be “UNFILLED!” Usually, these are all directly contributed to my lack of desire to be “filled” by our father. The times when I become consumed by MY agenda and not His. When “I” am enough. Urg, it is embarrassing to even see written in print but it is so true. I hope I am not the only one of you who on occasion struggles with “ME SYNDROME”

    I have been praying for conviction lately….and He has been unveiling!

    I love all of your questions Adam. Everyone of them is crazy challenging in a good way. “Don’t grieve the Spirit” you wrote….all I can picture in my mind is my grandmother saying, “Don’t pray for patience! Then your just asking for it.” LOL
    We laugh and it is funny, but sad at the same time…how many times have we made similar comments? ……Thank you Jesus for your patience with us!

  2. Well this is a good blog post! I think I will keep it simple and super honest. First of all, I loved hearing the congregation sing “I Exalt Thee”, it was a very worshipful moment and probably the loudest I heard them sing all morning, so thanks for following what God asked you to do, Adam. These traits are a little intense because I am not exhibiting them like I should be in my daily life. I set out a quiet time everyday, sure, but I don’t find myself in constant prayer like I should. And if I write down a prayer in my journal it is not often that I continue to pray even after I write it out. Planned spontaneity is my favorite thing ever. Seriously. Pliable-ness I think goes right along with it. It is evident when the worship band is a cohesive unit because if something needs to change in the middle of a service and the pastor says change everyone is right on board and knows what song it is and possibly even has it memorized already. I love when the leader just starts a song and it’s clear (to me at least) that the band was not prepared for this moment so they either worship along with the congregation or find something to add in to make it sound good. Now the last two traits are the ones I struggle with the most. If you don’t know this already I hate being told what to do by most people. Now there are few I will let through but I am EXTREMELY guilty of not being respectful of and submitting myself to certain people that I won’t mention. I have made a conscious effort to change that and it has been working but when all I had was bitter feelings towards a person on staff it made it really hard to be in meetings with him or heed his advice. Anyway, this wasn’t too too much of a contribution but it definitely shows me I have A LOT of work to do on my heart but I’m trying to chisel away one thing at a time.
    Hope you are all having a good week.

    1. “I loved hearing the congregation sing “I Exalt Thee”, it was a very worshipful moment and probably the loudest I heard them sing all morning, so thanks for following what God asked you to do, Adam.”

      i agree and good job to Carolyn for following well.

  3. Finally found my pure praise book……and I am caught up, and I’m glad I didnt fall too behind and miss this week.

    …The choir’s ability to minister can never be better than their spiritual tone.” (p.75)
    and to steal another quote from Del Tackett ” what if we really believed that what we believe was really real?”
    In other words if I truly believed that I as a worship leader could bring more people into the presence of God, by simply praying for our congregation and our worship service, why would I leave my knees? We are all looking for purpose in life right? A way to make a difference? I’m thinking of Bill Engvall “there’s you sign” hehe
    If you dont get that then you are too young or somthing.
    So, there is my sign……..DO IT!

    1. Hey – I don’t get the Bill Engvall reference. Am I too young…or too old? You said “If I truly believed that I as a worship leader could bring more people into the presence of God…” I would add to the discussion by changing that phrase around just a bit – “If I truly believed that I AM a worship leader…”

      The blog I wrote yesterday really hammered that point home for me. We are Ministers through Music…that’s a pretty big deal! Talk about “purpose”!

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