“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
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!