Messiah, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) Words compiled from the Holy Scriptures by Charles Jennens (1700-1773)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Friedrich Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible (1611), and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.
In Part I the text begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven.
When King George II attended a royal performance of Messiah he stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus in honour of the King of kings. When the king stood everyone in his presence had to stand. So it became the tradition for the audience to stand up when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, as millions of us have done in honour of the King of kings.
Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of lords
and He shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!
1. Sinfonia (Overture)
2. Tenor Recitative. — Isaiah 40:1-3
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
3. Tenor Air — Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
4. Chorus — Isaiah 40:5
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
5. Bass Recitative — Haggai 2:6,7; Malachi 3:1
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
6. Bass Air — Malachi 3:2
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
7. Chorus — Malachi 3:3
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
8. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
9. Alto Air and Chorus — Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 60:1
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
10. Bass Recitative — Isaiah 60:2,3
For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
11. Bass Air — Isaiah 9:2
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
12. Chorus — Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
14. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:8,9
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
15. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:10,11
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
16. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:13
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
17. Chorus — Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
18. Soprano Air — Zechariah 9:9,10
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior. And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
19. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 35:5,6
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
20. Alto Air — Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 11:28, 29
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, that are heavy laden, and He shall give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him; for he is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
21. Chorus — Matthew 11:30
His yoke is easy, and His burthen is light.
22. Chorus — John 1:29
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.
23. Alto Air — Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 50:6
He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
24. Chorus — Isaiah 53:4,5
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
25. Chorus — Isaiah 53:5
And with His stripes we are healed.
26. Chorus — Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
27. Tenor Recitative — Psalm 22:7
All they that see Him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying:
28. Chorus — Psalm 22:8
He trusted in God that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, if he delight in Him.
29. Soprano Recitative — Psalm 69:20
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him but there was no man; neither found He any to comfort Him.
30. Soprano Air — Lamentations 1:12
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow!
31. Tenor Recitative — Isaiah 53:8
He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.
32. Tenor Air — Psalm 16:10
But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
33. Chorus — Psalm 24:7-10
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
34. Tenor Recitative — Hebrews 1:5
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten hee?
35. Chorus — Hebrews 1:6
Let all the angels of God worship Him.
36. Bass Air — Psalm 68:18
Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
37. Chorus — Psalm 68:11
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.
38. Duetto for 2 Alto Solos and Chorus — Romans 10:15
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
[39. Chorus — Romans 10:18
Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world. Not sung in the original performance.]
40. Bass Air — Psalm 2:1,2
Why do the nations so furiously rage together: why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsels together against the Lord and His anointed.
41. Chorus — Psalm 2:3
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
42. Tenor Recitative — Psalm 2:4
He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
43. Tenor Air — Psalm 2:9
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 44. Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, Lord of lords.
45. Soprano Air — Job 19:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:20
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.
46. Chorus — 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22
Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
47. Bass Recitative — 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
48. Bass Air — 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
49. Alto Air — 1 Corinthians 15:54b
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
50. Duetto for Alto and Tenor — 1 Corinthians 15:55, 56
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
51. Chorus — 1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
52. Alto Air — Romans 8:31, 33, 34
If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
53. Chorus — Revelation 5:12, 13
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power to be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.
Part I 0:00:06 Sinfony. Grave; Allegro moderato 0:02:58 Comfort ye (Accompagnato, Tenoro). Larghetto e piano 0:05:43 Ev`ry valley shall be exalted (Aria, Tenoro). Andante 0:08:49 And the glory of the Lord (Chorus). Allegro; Adagio 0:11:10 Thus saith the Lord (Accompagnato, Basso). Recitativo 0:12:18 But who may abide (Aria, Alto). Larghetto; Prestissimo; Adagio 0:16:03 And He shall purify (Chorus). Allegro 0:18:12 Behold, a virgin shall conceive (Recitativo, Alto). 0:18:36 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Aria, Alto). Andante 0:21:51 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Chorus). 0:23:31 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth (Accompagnato, Basso). Andante larghetto 0:25:39 The people that walked in darkness (Aria, Basso). Larghetto 0:29:25 For unto us a child is born (Chorus). Andante allegro 0:33:26 Pifa. Larghetto e mezzo piano 0:35:36 There where shepherds (Recitativo, Accompagnato; Soprano). Andante; Allegro 0:36:58 Glory to god in the highest (Chorus). Allegro 0:39:00 Rejoice greatly (Aria, Soprano). Allegro 0:43:00 Then shall the eyes of the blind (Recitativo, Alto). [latter version] 0:43:24 He shall feed his flock (Aria, Alto). Larghetto e piano [latter version] 0:47:26 His yoke is easy (Chorus). Allegro
Part II 0:49:35 Behold the Lamb of God (Chorus). Largo 0:52:04 He was despised (Aria, Alto). Largo 1:00:40 Surely (Chorus). Largo e staccato 1:02:18 And with his stripes we are healed (Chorus). Alla breve, Moderato 1:03:48 All we like sheep have gone astray (Chorus). Allegro moderato; Adagio 1:07:37 All they that see Him (Accompagnato, Tenore). Larghetto 1:08:17 He trusted in God (Chorus). Allegro; Adagio 1:10:25 Thy rebuke hath broken His Heart (Accompagnato, Tenore). Largo 1:12:15 Behold, and see (Arioso, Tenore). Largo e piano 1:13:26 He was cut off (Accompagnato, Tenore). Recitativo 1:13:44 But Thou didst not leave His soul in Hell (Aria, Tenore). Andante larghetto 1:15:47 Lift up your heads (Chorus). A tempo ordinario 1:19:10 Unto which of the angels (Recitativo, Tenore). 1:19:28 Let all the angels of God worship Him (Chorus). Allegro 1:20:48 Thou art gone up high (Aria, Alto). Allegro larghetto 1:23:45 The Lord gave the word (Chorus). Andante allegro 1:24:50 How beautiful are the feet of them (Aria, Soprano). Larghetto :__:_ Their sound is gone out (Chorus). A tempo ordinario [missing] 1:29:20 Why do the nations rage (Aria, Basso). Allegro 1:31:57 Let us break their bonds (Chorus). Allegro e staccato 1:33:34 He that dwelleth in heaven (Recitativo, Tenore). 1:33:46 Thou shall break them (Aria, Tenore). Andante 1:35:57 Hallelujah (Chorus). Allegro
Part III 1:39:46 I know that my redeemer liveth (Aria, Soprano). Larghetto 1:45:10 Since by man came death (Chorus). Grave; Allegro 1:47:13 Behold, I tell you (Accompagnato, Basso). 1:47:12 The trumpet shall sound (Aria, Basso). Pomposo, ma non allegro; Adagio 1:55:30 Then shall be brought to pass (Recitativo, Alto). 1:44:45 O death, where is thy sting (Duetto; Alto, Tenore). Andante 1:57:17 But thanks be to God (Chorus). Andante; Adagio 1:59:13 If God is for us (Aria, Soprano). Larghetto; Adagio 2:03:25 Worthy is the Lamb (Chorus). Largo; Andante 2:04:43 Blessing and honour (Chorus). Larghetto; Adagio 2:06:38 Amen (Chorus). Allegro moderato; Adagio
In January 1989 I began as minister of a thirty-five year old church at Beaumont in Adelaide that had suffered numerical decline. It had followed the typical pattern of an inner suburban church with its complex of buildings, a Sunday School of 350 children, and two packed morning services in its heyday of the boom years of Methodism in the fifties and sixties.
In those years the church was a buzz of activity. Its youth group grew as children entered their teens. Membership figures increased as the teenagers took confirmation classes. Church growth was natural and expected. It required no specific strategies. People looked for a neighbourhood church which provided worship, a Sunday School, youth program, and the accepted activities associated with church life at the time.
Gradually the neighbourhood became prime real estate. When the young people married they had to move out to newer suburban areas where land was cheaper. Predicably the congregation declined and grew older. By 1989 an average of 85 people attended the one service on Sunday and a handful of children attended the Sunday School. Many were concerned about the future of this single congregation parish, and the parish leaders had begun discussions with nearby congregations regarding amalgamation.
Regreening in the Spirit’s power
This became for me an experiment in turning a church around. Was it possible to arrest the decline and begin to build again? Would the church have a significant and effective future as well as a dynamic ministry in the name of Jesus Christ?
Early in my first year at this church I found I was also involved emotionally and could not separate my personal feelings from what I discovered and what I believed God had in store for us. Could I lead this church to new life and growth? I personally was most aware of my own need of God’s help and of my need to grow spiritually as the leader of this church.
I was fortunate to be nearing the end of doctoral studies in church growth and renewal. I had also been a consultant in the related area of evangelism for eight years. Hence I came with some knowledge and experience that I believed would help my leadership of this church. However, my experience of working at length with a declining congregation was minimal. I knew that I and they would be very dependent upon the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the interview before my appointment the nominating committee indicated they were seeking someone of my age and experience. They also emphasized their desire to be more effective evangelistically and to reach the neighbourhood for Christ. I intimated my bias for evangelism and sought to know whether they would be open to change and to embrace new directions I might initiate. They agreed, not knowing exactly what would occur in the years to follow.
New goals and direction
I began by getting to know the people and by learning their corporate history. Some had been in the church since its inception. Most had been there for ten or twenty years or more. Very few, if any, were new to the church in recent years. They considered themselves a friendly church but did not have in place ways of welcoming and assimilating new people.
Obviously pastoral work was important. I was led by the Spirit to visit people in their homes. In the first year I listened considerably. I also realized that the people were ready for change and much could happen in the first year. Indeed, some significant developments needed to occur as symbols of hope and as signs of God doing a new thing.
We were to engage in a stewardship program in June of my first year. Planning for this two year stewardship cycle had to begin early. So I talked with my parish council and elders about their aspirations and yearnings for the church. It was obvious there were no common goals, no specific direction, no vision to fire the imagination and to prompt people to give freely. Therefore in the April of 1989 we gathered forty people, key leaders and interested people for a seven hour session of reflection, evaluation, waiting on the Lord and goal setting.
We met on a Sunday afternoon and evening with a shared tea. At the end of the time we had established ten specific goals that we could work towards in 1989-1990. These became strategic in the life of the church and did much to harmonize people around a common direction. It gave purpose to the stewardship program which was successful and assured the church of financial resources for the ensuing years.
In the weeks preceding the goal setting I preached on the nature of the church using New Testament imagery such as the Body of Christ, the vine and the branches, and the picture of living stones given in 1 Peter 2:410. This supported the truth that theology is the basis of renewal.
Although there are simple practical strategies that are easily overlooked, true growth is biblically and theologically founded. It occurs through the Spirit of God renewing both people’s lives and the structures that enable us to live in community.
Theology of renewal
Theology became for us the very essence of renewal. How we understood and experienced God and the covenant determined our attitudes, expectations and actions. The term ‘the body of Christ’ became important as a description of who we were. It affirmed three main truths about the church:
1. There is to be corporate growth in unity and maturity.
2. Growth occurs as the variety of gifts of the people, given by the Spirit, are used in complementary fashion.
3. The church is a living organism with Jesus Christ in authority as the supreme head of the body.
Emphasizing a gift theology, inherent in the Uniting Church Basis of Union, we held a gift workshop in the spring of my first year. This examined the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians
4. It had practical application and included a process by which the participants could begin to identify their special gifts for ministry.
In Ephesians, Paul describes a church in which all the members are to be equipped for the work of ministry. He does not envisage a church where only a few are engaged in ministry or where most are consumers rather than participants. Ministry is done by the whole church, by Christians working in concert. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Harmonious cooperation and the complementary use of gifts far surpasses the results of individual Christians working alone and independently. One of the priority tasks of church leaders is to help the members discover their gifts for ministry, to develop such gifts, and to channel them into effective areas of service.
Equipping people for ministry
To enhance the pastoral ministry of the congregation a Caring Committee was appointed by the elders council. This group believed that the ministry should be according to one’s spiritual gifts and not by virtue of the office one might hold.
We identified over thirty people gifted in pastoral ministry and called them together to discuss the ministry model we had in mind and to provide instruction on how to make effective pastoral visits. An eight week care workers course followed in the next year. The result is that we now have a team of people who visit members and others associated with the church. This provides a network of care in which no one need be overlooked. The visitors meet about three times a year to discuss their ministry and to review their list of people.
Another person, gifted in administration and with deep compassion, coordinates a special caring program whereby practical help is given to those with special needs.
In our church we no longer allocate each elder to a group of members. Some elders are not gifted pastorally but have other excellent gifts. Any elder is available to anyone according to need and relationships that are established. We work on the principle that the elders are responsible to see that visiting occurs and are there to release the gifts of those who can do it well.
Other gifts have emerged under this theology. We appointed an honorary administrator who retired from the business world but who obviously brought a wonderful gift in administration. His work of about ten hours a week has involved two mornings a week at the church office. I arranged to be at the office on those mornings as that increased efficiency and communication. Opening the church office on these two days improved the church’s profile and made its leaders more accessible.
Many music gifts lay dormant in our worship. We had a very good choir and a couple of proficient organists. The piano in the sanctuary, however, was rarely used. To cater for increasing numbers at worship we added an additional morning service in August 1989. This provided more options. The 9 am service became family oriented and only on occasions is the pipe organ used at this service. Instead, an orchestra sometimes numbering seven or eight has provided the music.
Introducing new songs and installing a screen for use with overheads enlivened the worship and provided greater variety. Our work with musicians includes workshops for worship leaders. We have many unused gifts in this area that we wish to employ. The commencement of a regular 7 pm service has created other opportunities for lay leadership, especially by youth. By 1992 the aggregate number at worship had grown to about 200 and the average age is much less than it was in 1989.
We had demographic data available to us on that first planning day and we discovered that the surrounding community contained more younger people than was reflected in the church. Fifty per cent of the population in the parish area is under forty years of age. With this in mind, and trusting in God, we set about embracing the future with confidence. Now our Sunday School is growing, we operate a creche, and we have a growing youth movement.
Believing prayer is central to the renewal that is occurring. A prayer chain has operated in the church for many years. Its members, all ladies, meet over lunch once a month. Here prayer needs are shared. Another early morning prayer group has begun as a spin off from 7 am services on Wednesdays during Lent. A number decided to meet every Wednesday at that time and so a group of ten, including men, have gathered faithfully to pray for people and for the church. A focus of our prayer is the renewal of the church and for effective evangelistic ministry. Our church also offers prayer for healing, primarily during ministry time following services of worship.
Group life has also received attention. New home groups and Bible study groups have commenced to provide opportunities for people to engage in study, to offer and receive ministry, and to enhance fellowship. These meet according to needs and availability. They very from weekly to monthly gatherings.
At the heart of what is occurring in our church is our belief that God is continuing the renew us and, while giving ministry in the present, is preparing us to embrace God’s unfolding future. We understand that renewal is the ongoing renewing by God of the church. It is dynamic, never static. It is not an achieved state. It is not the end but the way. To be in renewal is to be journeying with God in the presence of believers.
The primary theological ground for renewal is the kingdom of God. Renewal is not the result of human effort although we are able to respond to God’s renewing activity in ways which appropriate such activity. Renewal is the work of God that points to the coming reign of God in the lives of persons and community.
The kingdom of God is neither entirely present nor entirely future. It is here now, is coming, and will come. This gives perspective to renewal. It enables the church to be a community of hope. This orientation points to what is to be as a reality greater than what has been. As such it is a very powerful motivator for Christian living and ministry. It creates vision which fosters hope and incentive.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have been led to preach that the church is a community premised on the promise of what is to be. We are not simply to adjust to present reality, nor only to patch up here and there or even seek to recover what was. Renewal points to transformation, embracing the new. Hence we pray ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10).
We believe that the ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God and to be an agent of God in establishing the unity and wholeness of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:910). The church is a servant of the kingdom of God.
In witnessing to the wholeness of God’s kingdom we seek to demonstrate unity, forgiveness, reconciliation and new relationships. One of the most important factors in our witness is the quality of our corporate life in Christ lest our words be empty and our theology barren. We endeavour to be spiritually renewed, our motivation enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We seek a genuine growth in holiness that releases the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our church is on the way. In some quarters we struggle with conservatism but we endeavour to listen to one another, recognizing the Spirit of Christ in us all. We also use appropriate practical strategies that can be learned from church analysis and church growth. We are down-to-earth and pragmatic. But we endeavour to place God at the centre knowing that unless the Lord builds the house we labour in vain. Renewed in the power of the Spirit we wish to be living stones, built into a spiritual house of God (1 Peter 2:5).
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 35-42.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
The phone rang as I sat to type this page. A man from Norfolk Island who had attended a ‘Catch the Fire’ renewal service held at Tingalpa Uniting Church in Brisbane phoned me to say how he was delighted with the meeting. He said “The worship at that meeting rode the wind like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).
I had the privilege of speaking there, and found (as seems common now) that stories today of God’s current acts continually illustrate comments from Acts 3:19-21 where Peter called for repentance so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. They still do.
The church was full at that meeting, so after extended times of worship and teaching we stacked the chairs at the sides, leaving room for our prayer team from the Renewal Fellowship to pray for all who desired it. Many did. I prayed for minsters and their wives. The Lord seemed to touch many deeply, as he is doing all over the world. The host minister said later that he could not rise from the floor. While there the Lord spoke clearly into his heart, telling him he was loved just as he was, not for what he did, for he is a child of God.
We continued to worship late into the night with songs of love and compassion, including some spontaneous love songs. The pianist played harmonies as I read from Daniel 7 and Revelation 7 about the majesty and glory of the Lord. That prophetic music not only magnified the reading and exalted the Lord, but ministered powerfully into people’s lives.
The man from Norfolk Island attends the Uniting Church there, where this kind of worship and ministry has been happening recently this year. They had not seen that since the days the island was founded by the Pitcairn people. The church on Norfolk Island began in such revival. People were regularly overwhelmed by the Spirit then as they cried out to God in their need.
Increasing numbers of people now report on these fresh touches of God and the deep refreshing from the Spirit of the Lord.
Is it revival? Most say, not yet. But it may be the beginnings of revival. Church leaders in Argentina now see revival with thousands upon thousands being saved and filled with the Spirit. They say that many churches had these times of renewal and refreshing for five years with increasing intensity until revival broke upon them.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Baptist prince of preachers who lived through revival in London in the late 1850s, called it a time of ‘glorious disorder’. Revival is unpredictable. Often disturbing. Like Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6) we find ourselves overwhelmed, convicted, aware we are unclean, undone, and needing to be made right with God. Just a small touch of the glory of God is unnerving, and obviously beyond anything we can comprehend or control.
However, we can respond. With repentance. With humility. With unity. With prayer. With love for God and one another. With worship.
New dimensions of worship
Many of us are living through further dimensions of worship now. Some of us began experiencing corporate worship in a structured one hour church service. Sometimes the Spirit seemed to move upon us and the singing would take off, the preaching was inspired, and people responded at the altar call for prayer and counselling. That still happens.
Then we began experiencing more of the Lord’s grace (charisma) and power. We longed for fuller, freer worship. People began composing new songs of worship, praise and response, including Scripture in song. Those songs quickly spread worldwide. As with hymns of earlier revivals, the best remain in widespread use. Others fade away. Only a few of Charles Wesley’s 6,000 hymns still remain, but they are great!
Now in further touches of the Spirit we find some of the new songs and old hymns helpful, but limiting. Increasingly we worship with spontaneity. Harmonies and melodies and spontaneous songs blend with the best of the new songs and old hymns in creative expressions of worship.
This year I was able to worship in many places including the Philippines, Ghana, Toronto, Anaheim, and in meetings in Australia from Perth to Brisbane. Often powerful spontaneity found expression in extended worship. Many times we worship in harmonies and Spirit songs for extended periods.
All the revivals I’ve read about experienced this. We will see much more yet.
This issue of the Renewal Journal explores many dimensions of worship. John & Carol Wimber describe intimacy with God. Geoff Bullock reminds us of our mission. Dorothy Mathieson gives prophetic challenge. Robert Tann and Robert Colman explore healing in worship. Lucinda Coleman surveys the history of dance in worship. Stephen Bryar and Stan Everitt comment on the significance of renewal. I reflect on worship in revival.
Worship God (Revelation 22:9). That command in the last chapter of the Bible points the way ahead for us now, and forever.
Blacker, John. 1995.Healing in the Now. Melbourne: Australian Renewal Ministries.
John Blacker has authored this book bringing together his observations and experience from 25 years of ministering in renewal and healing across the body of Christ in Australia. John has served the church as a Methodist and Uniting Church minister and with his wife Val and son Paul has been active in the work of the Australian Renewal Ministries.
The privately published book gives a solid biblical and practical basis for the healing ministry in the church, and is the kind of manual many church groups find useful for training their people in prayer and counselling ministries.
In addition to John’s valuable insights, the Appendix offers useful articles by others. Paul Blacker writes on ‘Healing Pain and Grief’. Dan Armstrong writes on ‘Healing and Evangelism’. Owen Salter’s positive reflections on ‘The Toronto Blessing’ style of ministries is reproduced from On Being. The articles on worship and healing by Robert Tann and Robert Colman, reproduced in this issue of the Renewal Journal are from that Appendix.
This is a significant Australian book on the practical application of the healing ministry in the life of the church. It is available from Australian Renewal ministries, 1 Maxwell Court, Blackburn South, Victoria 3130. Ph. (03) 9877 0103; Fax: (03) 9877 0106 (G.W.)
Kaldor, Peter, et.al. eds. 1994. Winds of Change: the experience of church in a changing Australia. Sydney: Lancer.
Reporting on the National Church Life Survey of Protestant churches in Australia, this book provides a wealth of valuable insights on the significant trends changing the church in our lifetime.
They survey was completed by over 300,000 church attenders in around 8,000 congregations in August 1991.
Some of its quotable quotes:
‘Around 20% of all attenders at church have spoken in tongues, including 30% of 20 to 30 year olds. Nearly half of those speaking in tongues attend nonPentecostal churches. …
‘One in every eight attenders has switched denominations in the past five years. Around 23% of all switching has been from nonPentecostal to Pentecostal denominations, with 9% switching in the opposite direction. …
‘Australia is a nation of small congregations. More than half have fewer than 50 people. At the same time, most growth is occurring in larger congregations. These are particularly attractive to the post World War II generations’ (pp. viiix).
Chapter 6 ‘A Wind Shift Rocking the Churches: The charismatic movement in Australia’ has special interest for those involved in renewal. Some quotes from that chapter:
‘The charismatic movement knows no bounds. It has had an impact in all denominations, all socioeconomic and ethnic groups, and all age groups especially the young.
‘The charismatic movement has been the impetus for some of the most significant and profound changes in church life in recent times. It has gained increasing importance in a range of churches across Australia.
‘One of its key characteristics is that it is in flux: small meetings grow to mega churches, others flourish for a period and then disappear. Change is rapid, even unpredictable; the movement shows no respect for institutional boundaries. Denominations of all shapes and sizes, and waving a wide variety of theological banners, are having to respond in some way. … ‘NonPentecostal tongues speakers are not just concentrated in a few charismatic congregations but spread widely. …
‘There is a relationship between attitudes to speaking in tongues and involvement in congregational life. Those who speak in tongues are more involved, tend to feel a greater sense of belonging or have roles in the congregation. They are also much more likely to feel they are growing in their faith. … ‘Likewise those who speak in tongues are more likely to be involved in evangelistic activities, feel they exert a Christian influence, be happy to talk about their faith or invite others to church. In contrast, they are less likely to be involved in community groups. …
‘It is important to recognise the scale of its impact beyond the Pentecostal churches. Even allowing for Pentecostal groups not involved in the survey, nonPentecostal tongues speakers account for a third of all attenders. Nearly all denominations contain a significant procharismatic sector’ (pp. 7489).
The book, of course, ranges much wider than these issues. It is highly recommended for leaders in churches to become aware of the sweeping changes we are now living through and contributing to. [G.W.]
Kaldor, Peter, et. al. eds. 1995. Views from the Pews. Adelaide: Openbook.
Some general comments covered in this further book by the National Church Life Survey team:
Most church attenders are satisfied with the leadership in their churches, but about a quarter of them think their leaders are out of touch with people in the pew. Pentecostals generally see their minister as the one who provides the vision for the church, but this is not so in some denominational churches.
Pentecostals generally reject liturgical frameworks in worship, such as vestments, prayer books and set liturgies, and a majority of worshippers in mainline churches do not find them helpful.
Generally tongues speakers in all churches have a more literal interpretation of the Bible and hold to more traditional moral values and beliefs. Charismatics in denominational churches and Pentecostals rate highest in having an experience of God which involves healing, believing in evil spirits, and in Bible reading. Answers to prayer seem to be evenly distributed across all groups!
Again, this is a useful book for church leaders to increase awareness of the attitudes and trends in the congregations of all Protestant churches. [G.W.]
Norling, Alan. 1994. Jesus the Baptiser with the Holy Spirit. Sydney: Alken Press.
‘At last a book on the Holy Spirit that is Christ centred!’ comments Brian Willersdorf. ‘Allan Norling has made a most valuable contribution to the subject of “Being baptised in, of, by or with the Holy Spirit” … Allan talks of a “new approach” to the subject, but all he is doing is cutting through the accumulation of church cultures and attitudes to present a well written approach to what the Bible has to say about being filled with the Holy Spirit.’
Described by one writer as a multiwave approach to the subject, this book describes being baptised in or with the Spirit as on going encounters of Jesus with and in the believer.
Allan Norton, summarising his approach, says ‘The “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is shown to be a repeated experience in the life of a Christian believer. Jesus will be seen to be more personally, actively and intimately involved with us in every detailed piece of authentic ministry. We will become aware of Jesus working with us, baptising us afresh with the Holy Spirit, each time He uses us in ministry.’
The book provides an evangelical approach to the mystery and majesty of Jesus’ impact in our lives through his Spirit.
Available from the author, PO Box 219, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia (G.W.).
Worship in revival is awe inspiring. The Holy Spirit moves powerfully upon us. The worship is Spirit-led. Spontaneous. Unpredictable.
Its local forms vary. The essence of revival worship, however, is the same everywhere. It involves a growing awareness of and response to the glory and sovereignty of God. The Lord moves upon his people, touching lives deeply.
Revival worship always brings repentance. Often in tears. Sometimes with joy. We grow more sensitive and responsive to the Lord’s leading. We stay longer in his presence. Prayer abounds in song, word and silence. Musicians may play inspired music as David did, and darkness flees. Songs blend and flow in creative harmonies, no longer tied to books or overheads. Sung melodies lead into solos, singing in the Spirit, prophetic songs and words, Scriptures sung and said.
Sometimes stillness reigns in holy awe and silence. Sometimes worship swells in a crescendo of exultation. Sometimes tears blend with wondering joy and repentance. Sometimes a wave of spontaneous clapping expresses worship in wordless adoration, acknowledging the great glory of our God.
Some people may be standing, some sitting, some kneeling, some lying prostrate on the floor, some dancing. Many raise their arms in adoration. Many open their hands in submission. Many have their eyes closed as they focus on the Lord in love, adoration, gratitude, surrender.
How can we enter this dimension of worship more fully?
We don’t need to wait till we are perfect. We’ll be in heaven then!
We come in our weakness. As we become more aware of God’s glory and presence we also become more aware of our sin and utter dependence on God for cleansing and forgiveness. So did Isaiah in his worship in the Temple (Isaiah 6).
We repent. There’s no end to that one! Mostly we repent before God as his Spirit convicts us. We repent of so much. Hard hearts. Unbelief. Pride. Envy. Jealousy and competition. Status seeking. Unloving thoughts, words and deeds. Self interest. Blindness to others’ needs. Materialism. Individualism. Disobedience. Fear, especially fear of people’s opinions.
We pray. And pray. And pray. Especially personally, and also together. We seek the Lord. We wait on God. We listen for his word, his leading. We open our hearts to intimacy with our loving, holy Lord. We meditate on Scripture, communing with its author as we do so. The quality of our worship is related to the quality of our time alone with God, waiting on him, seeking his face, loving him. That may include hours communing withthe Lord in the stillness of the night..
We begin to respond to the Spirit more fully, more freely. We find that prepared ‘orders of service’ rarely fit revival worship (unless charismatically given by the Spirit). We need to be flexible and responsive to the leading of the Spirit. Those called and anointed by God for leading in worship need to be especially sensitive to his gentle direction. They, in turn, release and encourage others to respond to the Spirit in worship.
We usually begin learning this kind of worship in small home groups. The same principles apply in large gatherings. There, the worship leaders’ anointing and gifting facilitate worship among all the others.
We sing and pray less about God and more to God. Worship is intimate. People may spontaneously change words of well known songs to make them personal and prayerful – You are Lord; you are risen from the dead and you are Lord … You are exalted, our King you’re exalted on high … Your name is wonderful, Jesus my Lord …
We need musicians who harmonise with the worship. That often involves playing harmonies to accompany free singing or singing in the Spirit. It does not require only those who can play by ear, although that can help. Those who read the music need to know where to find it – quickly. Songs used frequently can be arranged alphabetically, for example. Anointed musicians will often play prophetically – just music, as the Spirit leads. Musicians may ‘hear’ it in the Spirit and express it (though somewhat reduced!) on their instruments.
We respond to God in many ways as we worship. The variety of response is endless! It varies from meeting to meeting. When did God decree a 20 minute sermon after half an hour of singing? His word may come in the first 10 or 15 minutes of worship and the rest of the meeting may be a response to that word. When did God decree that prayer for repentance would come at the end of the meeting? It may come early in the worship as the Spirit leads, followed by cleansed, powerful worship.
We find the Spirit leads us in harmony, but many people may be doing many different things at the same time – eyes open, and closed; standing, sitting, kneeling, dancing, and lying prostrate; weeping, and joyful; some may have visions while others intercede and others minister in love and others adore the Lord and others bring prophetic insights.
We preach differently – more like Jesus. Speaking often mingles with testimonies, and shares stories of God’s mighty acts – last week or last month. Prepared outlines are often blown away in the strong wind of the Spirit. We learn to ride the wind more often.
We worship more in quantity and quality than before. An hour grows to two; two to three; three to four or more. It’s like praying. Our time with God grows in quantity and quality.
Immediately we think of obstacles. There are many.
If your congregation is not yet ready for this, begin with those who want to. Be led by the Lord. That may be in a home group. It may be a weeknight meeting. It may be Sunday night. Our Renewal Fellowship was all of those. It began as a home group. It grew into an open meeting on Friday nights. It then included Sunday nights.
As the worship time deepened and extended we began saying, ‘If you need to go, slip away anytime.’ Few did. Most wanted to stay, and the meetings gradually became half nights of prayer and worship. Many stayed after supper, or during supper, for prayer, for waiting on God, and for ministry to one another.
We began to realise the Lord was leading us to worship more fully, wait on him more fully, respond to him more fully. Our charismatic or renewal traditions are being transformed into something like revival worship.
The outward forms vary. They express the growing inner worship which involves loving God more fully, yielding more fully, repenting more fully, believing more fully, obeying more fully.
The contrast between our usual charismatic worship and revival worship is a little like the difference between the old time church prayer meetings and renewal home prayer groups. The church prayer meetings I attended as a teenager had some hymns, a Bible study talk, and then individuals stood to pray in King James English. Not wrong. Just limited. In home groups we learned to worship more spontaneously, share ‘words’ from the Lord, discuss and respond to the Bible study, pray specifically for one another, including asking and believing to be filled with the Spirit and learning to use the gifts of the Spirit.
Now, as the same Spirit moves ever more powerfully in the earth, as revival fires are blown from scattered flickers to conflagrations, and as we learn to respond more fully to the Lord in the power of his Spirit, revival worship spreads across the land.
It is not new. It has all happened before. Often.
Revival Worship in the Great Awakening
Awesome worship is common in revivals. As God’s Spirit moves on growing numbers of people their worship grows stronger, and longer. Many people have continued for hours, late into the night, or throughout the day, worshipping and responding to God.
Some revivals, at their height, saw people come and go continually as worship, conviction, repentance, confession, and testimony blended with singing, praying, weeping, exalting, and honouring God in lives transformed by his grace and glory.
Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the presence and glory of God. Many fall to the ground.
Here are examples from the first Great Awakening.
Moravians. Among the Moravian refugee colony on the estates of Count Nicholas Zinzendorf in Germany during 1727, the community of about 300 adults put aside their theological differences and prayed together in repentance, humility and unity. Revival flamed in August.
At about noon on Sunday August 10th, 1727, the preacher at the morning service felt himself overwhelmed by a wonderful and irresistible power of the Lord. He sank down in the dust before God, and the whole congregation joined him ‘in an ecstasy of feeling’. They continued until midnight engaged in prayer, singing, weeping and supplication.
On Wednesday August 13th the church came together for a specially called communion service. They were all dissatisfied with themselves. ‘They had quit judging each other because they had become convinced, each one, of his lack of worth in the sight of God and each felt himself at this communion to be in view of the Saviour.’
They left that communion at noon, hardly knowing whether they belonged to earth or had already gone to heaven. It was a day of outpouring of the Holy Spirit. ‘We saw the hand of God and were all baptized with his Holy Spirit … The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst. Scarcely a day passed from then on when they did not witness God’s almighty workings among them. A great hunger for God’s word took hold of them. They started meeting three times daily at 5 am, 7.30 am, and 9 pm. Selflove and selfwill and all disobedience disappeared, as everyone sought to let the Holy Spirit have full control.
Two weeks later, they entered into the twentyfourhour prayer covenant which was to become such a feature of their life for over 100 years… ‘The spirit of prayer and supplication at that time poured out upon the children was so powerful and efficacious that it is impossible to give an adequate description of it.’
Supernatural knowledge and power was given to them. Previously timid people became flaming evangelists (Mills 1990:2045).
That revival produced 100 German missionaries within 25 years, some of whom had a strong impact on John and Charles Wesley, resulting in their conversion.
Methodists. 1739 saw astonishing expansion of revival in England. On 1st January the Wesleys and Whitefield along with 60 others including Moravians, met at Fetter Lane in London for prayer and a love feast. The Spirit of God moved powerfully on them all. Many fell to the ground, overwhelmed. The meeting went all night.
‘About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer,’ John Wesley recorded in his Journal, ‘the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.’ This Pentecost on New Year’s Day confirmed that the Awakening had come and launched the campaign of extensive evangelization which sprang from it (Wood 1990:449).
American Colonies. Jonathan Edwards described the characteristics of the Great Awakening in the American colonies as, first, an extraordinary sense of the awful majesty, greatness and holiness of God, and second, a great longing for humility before God and adoration of God. He published books still being studied today to help us understand revival.
All these revivals stirred up excesses as well. Wise and firm leadership helped to keep the focus biblical and responsive to the Spirit.
Revival Worship this century
The twentieth century has seen countless local revivals with similar phenomena. They now increase worldwide.
Welsh Revival. The century began with worldwide revivals. Best known is the Welsh Revival of 1904-5. Oswald Smith described it this way:
It was 1904. All Wales was aflame. The nation had drifted far from God. The spiritual conditions were low indeed. Church attendance was poor and sin abounded on every side.
Suddenly, like an unexpected tornado, the Spirit of God swept over the land. The churches were crowded so that multitudes were unable to get in. Meetings lasted from ten in the morning until twelve at night. Three definite services were held each day. Evan Roberts was the human instrument, but there was very little preaching. Singing, testimony and prayer were the chief features. There were no hymn books, they had learned the hymns in childhood; no choir, for everybody sang; no collection, and no advertising.
Nothing had ever come over Wales with such farreaching results. Infidels were converted; drunkards, thieves and gamblers saved; and thousands reclaimed to respectability. Confessions of awful sins were heard on every side. Old debts were paid. The theatre had to leave for want of patronage. Mules in coal mines refused to work, being unused to kindness! In five weeks, twenty thousand people joined the churches (Olford 1968:67).
Azusa Street Revival. William Seymour began The Apostolic Faith Mission located at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906 with about 100 attending. Blacks and whites, poor and rich met together in this radical company which grew out of a cottage prayer meeting.
At Azusa, services were long, and on the whole they were spontaneous. In its early days music was a cappella, although one or two instruments were included at times. There were songs, testimonies given by visitors or read from those who wrote in, prayer, altar calls for salvation or sanctification or for baptism in the Holy Spirit. And there was preaching. Sermons were generally not prepared in advance but were typically spontaneous.
W. J. Seymour was clearly in charge, but much freedom was given to visiting preachers. There was also prayer for the sick. Many shouted. Others were ‘slain in the Spirit’ or fell under the power. There were periods of extended silence and of singing in tongues. No offerings were collected, but there was a receptacle near the door for gifts …
Growth was quick and substantial. Most sources indicate the presence of about 300350 worshippers inside the fortybysixtyfoot whitewashed woodframe structure, with others mingling outside… At times it may have been double that… The significance of Azusa was centrifugal as those who were touched by it took their experiences elsewhere and touched the lives of others. Coupled with the theological threads of personal salvation, holiness, divine healing, baptism in the Spirit with power for ministry, and an anticipation of the imminent return of Jesus Christ, ample motivation was provided to assure the revival a longterm impact (Burgess & McGee 1988:3136).
Hebredies Revival. Duncan Campbell, ministered in revival in the Hebredies Islands of the north west coast of Scotland in 1949. At the close of his first meeting in the Presbyterian church in Barvas the travel weary preacher was invited to join an all night prayer meeting! Thirty people gathered for prayer in a nearby cottage. Duncan Campbell described it:
God was beginning to move, the heavens were opening, we were there on our faces before God. Three o’clock in the morning came, and GOD SWEPT IN. About a dozen men and women lay prostrate on the floor, speechless. Something had happened; we knew that the forces of darkness were going to be driven back, and men were going to be delivered. We left the cottage at 3 a.m. to discover men and women seeking God. I walked along a country road, and found three men on their faces, crying to God for mercy. There was a light in every home, no one seemed to think of sleep (Whittaker 1984:159).
When Duncan and his friends arrived at the church that morning it was already crowded. People had gathered from all over the island, some coming in buses and vans. No one discovered who told them to come. God led them. Large numbers were converted as God’s Spirit convicted multitudes of sin, many lying prostrate, many weeping. After that amazing day in the church, Duncan pronounced the benediction, but then a young man began to pray aloud. He prayed for 45 minutes. Again the church filled with people repenting and the service continued till 4 a.m. the next morning before Duncan could pronounce the benediction again.
Even then he was unable to go home to bed. As he was leaving the church a messenger told him, ‘Mr. Campbell, people are gathered at the police station, from the other end of the parish; they are in great spiritual distress. Can anyone here come along and pray with them?’ Campbell went and what a sight met him. Under the still starlit sky he found men and women on the road, others by the side of a cottage, and some behind a peat stack all crying to God for mercy. The revival had come.
That went on for five weeks with services from early morning until late at night or into the early hours of the morning. Then it spread to the neighbouring parishes. What had happened in Barvas was repeated over and over again. Duncan Campbell said that a feature of the revival was the overwhelming sense of the presence of God. His sacred presence was everywhere (Whittaker 1984:160).
The seventies. We saw touches of renewal and revival in the early seventies when the charismatic renewal had spread into many churches including Catholic prayer groups and communities. A wave of independent charismatic fellowships emerged then also. Revival spread in Canada. The ‘Jesus people’ in America captured media attention. Repentance and touches of revival spread through many colleges, especially Asbury College, and students went out in powerful mission.
The nineties. Now new thrusts of the Spirit disturb us again. For over two years many people worldwide have seen increasingly powerful moves of the Spirit. These include massive crowds with Reinhard Bonnke and others in Africa, huge crusades with healing and miracles in Latin America, miraculous visitations across China, refreshing associated with many ministries which the secular media has lumped together and called the ‘Toronto Blessing’. Reports tell of over 7,000 churches in Great Britain touched by this outpouring of the Spirit. Once again, colleges and schools have experienced sweeping times of public repentance, restitution and reconciliation through 1995, especially in America. Some of it began at Howard Payne University in Brownwood in Texas and spread nationally, including all night prayer and testimony meetings such as at Wheaton College. Students and staff have witnessed publicly in churches, camps and conferences.
Blessing and Refreshing. During the last few years, reports continue to grow of God’s blessing and the refreshing of thousands of churches in North America, England, Europe, and around the world. Some ministers are seeing more conversions than in all their previous ministry.
The worship often has touches of revival. Spontaneous moves of God’s Spirit result in extended times of singing, praying, testifying, repenting, and being anointed for service and ministry. Many are overwhelmed, resting on the floor. Some experience unusual phenomena, including spontaneous laughter and joy. Some tremble. Healings increase.
Australians continue to tell of fresh moves of the Spirit now.
Jeff Beacham (1995:32) reported on a touch of revival worship at the annual conference of the Assemblies of God in Australia attended by crowds of many thousands this year:
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced meetings so powerful as the ones that we enjoyed at our national conference. … The manifest presence of the Spirit of God in the meetings was so strong that many people could hardly stand.
In one of the morning meetings Rodney Howard-Browne exhorted the church to soar to greater heights of inspiration and to pursue the purposes of God in these end times. So strong was this exhortation that it lead into a 45 minute period of glorious praise and worship such as I’d never been in before.
Barry Chant (1995:5), described worship at the annual conference of the full Gospel Churches of Australia this year:
The gatherings were full of joy. There were positive testimonies of salvation and blessing; people often danced for joy; the fellowship was sweet. One thing that particularly impressed us was the frequent use of prophecy, tongues and interpretation. To be honest, one rarely hears these gifts being used these days in local churches. It was refreshing to see them given the attention they deserve.
Prophecies were often in song, with several people picking up the theme and continuing it, so that one prophetic message might include input from four or five people. Often the whole gathering would join in at the end with singing in the Spirit.
All around Australia – and around the world – there are signs of revival. Many good things are happening. It is exciting to be part of the Kingdom of God at such a time as this.
Sue Armstrong describes the touch of God at Nowra, N.S.W., in August 1995:
Every meeting saw people touched and changed by the power of God. However, the final night was different! From the outset there was electrical excitement in the place; the praise and worship took off and by the time it came to the message it was impossible to bring it as the church was so filled with joy we knew the Holy Spirit was doing the work and we gave up!
Dan and Sue Armstrong then visited North America. There they attended a combined churches meeting in Toronto, Canada. Sue reports,
We were blessed to be there for a special event. On the Sunday evening there was a rally called ‘Waves of Power’ in the Metro in downtown Toronto. This was a first. Around 200 churches in the Toronto area came together for this event (around 6,000 people). The praise and worship went for over an hour and it was awesome! Phil Driscoll, an anointed trumpeter, ministered powerfully, and the speaker, Pastor Bud Williams, brought a challenge to take the city of Toronto for God. Over 2,000 people responded to this challenge.
Increasingly churches are willing to come together in repentance and unity to pray, worship and minister. Often this is accompanied by powerful moves of God’s Spirit. Some ‘hot spots’ where these outpourings of the Spirit are most intense include the Airport Vineyard at Toronto in Canada, Pasadena in California, Melbourne in Florida, and Sunderland in England. All these places have churches co-operating together to worship and minister in unity.
All this drives us back to God’s Word to see what he has to say – just as the charismatic renewal drove us to rediscover similar events in the Acts and teaching in the epistles on the body of Christ and spiritual gifts as in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Now we are rediscovering the passages about the awe-inspiring majesty of God, the overwhelming authority of Jesus the risen Lord, and the invincible impact of God’s Spirit in the earth. This drives us to our knees, or we fall prostrate before our God. Unity in the Spirit is longer a nice theological discussion point, but a humbling, sacrificial reality increasingly required and blessed by God.
We need to take God’s word on revival very seriously in this day of his visitation. ‘If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Beacham, J (1995) ‘And the Heat Turns Up’, in the Australian Evangel, August.
Burgess, S M & McGee, G B eds. (1988) Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Chant, B (1995) ‘Personally Speaking’, in New Day, November.
Mills, B (1990) Preparing for Revival. Eastbourne: Kingsway.
Olford, S F (1968) Heartcry for Revival. Westwood: Revell
Pratney, W (1984, 1994) Revival. Springdale: Whitaker House.
Whittaker, C (1984) Great Revivals. Basingstoke: Marshalls.
Wood, A S (1990) in The History of Christianity. London: Lion.
Lucinda Coleman is a dance educator and choreographer, formerly a dance-maker for the independent artists’ collective, ‘Remnant Dance’, based in Perth, Australia. This article, adapted from her post-graduate research on ‘Dance in the Church’, briefly traces the history of dance in worship from the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Reformation. Renewal in the church in recent decades has rediscovered dance, including liturgical, choreographed and spontaneous dance. As with all other forms of worship, it finds its excellence in giving glory to God.Article inRenewal Journal 6: Worship Renewal Journal 6: Worship – PDFAlso in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10) Renewal Journal Vol 2 (6-10) – PDF
praise his name in the dance –
praise him with the timbrel and dance
To worship God in dance is biblical. The Bible commends it: “Let them praise His name in the dance”; “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance” (Psalm 149:3; 150:4). Scripture gives many references to the use of dance as a form of joyous celebration and of reverent worship.
In the Hebrew tradition, dance functioned as a medium of prayer and praise, as an expression of joy and reverence, and as a mediator between God and humanity (Taylor 1976:81). This understanding of dance permeated the faith of the early Christian church. During the Middle Ages despite increasing proscriptions against the use of dance, it continued to be utilized as a medium of prayer and praise. However, by the time of the Reformation the church, both Catholic and Protestant, had eliminated dance from worship.
The Hebrew Tradition
Dance was an integral part of the celebrations of the ancient Israelites. It was used both in worship in ordinary life and on occasions of triumphant victory and festivity.
The sacred dance mediated between God and humanity, thus bringing the Israelites into a closer relationship with their God, Jehovah.
In many Old Testament biblical allusions to, and descriptions of, dance there is no disapproval, only affirmation of this medium of worship. The people are exhorted to praise God with ‘dancing, making melody to him with timbrel and lyre’ (Psalm 149:3), and to ‘praise him with timbrel and dance’ (Psalm 150:4). Dancing is so common that in passages alluding to rejoicing without specific mention of dancing, it can be assumed dance is implied (Gagne 1984:24).
The most frequently used root for the word ‘dance’ in the Old Testament is hul which refers to the whirl of the dance and implies highly active movement. Of the 44 words in the Hebrew language for dancing, only in one is there a possible reference to secular movement as distinct from religious dancing (Clarke and Crisp 1981:35).
The types of dance used in Israelite society included the circular or ring dance, as well as the processional dance. These were often used to celebrate specific events as when David and the people of Israel danced before the Ark of the Lord, which represented the presence of God (2 Samuel 6:14).
A third type of dance included hopping and whirling movements which were exuberant with joy. At the defeat of Pharaoh’s armies following the crossing of the Red Sea, ‘Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances’ (Exodus 15:20). When David slew Goliath, the women sang ‘to one another in dance’ (1 Samuel 29:5).
Each of these forms of dance found an expression in daily life and at festival times. At the Feast of Tabernacles, for instance, ‘pious men danced with torches in their hands and sang songs of joy and praise, while the Levites played all sorts of instruments. The dance drew crowds of spectators … It did not end until the morning at a given sign’ (Gagne 1984:30). The revered tradition of community celebration found its expression through movement.
However, dance is not mentioned formally in the Mosaic code, nor was the movement free of certain prohibitions. A distinction came to be made between the early, holy dances of a sacred nature, and those which resembled pagan ceremonies. This distinction, made by the Israelites, was to be made even more sharply by the Christians in the following centuries.
The Early Christian Church (A.D. 100-500)
In the first five centuries of the Christian church ‘dance was still acceptable because it was planted deep in the soil of the Judeo-Christian tradition’ (Gagne 1984:43). Christians were accustomed to celebrating, in dance, at worship and festivals because of the Hebrew tradition of dance.
Christianity was also subjected to the prevailing social and political influences of the Roman Empire. Changing circumstances in the 4th century thus led to changes in the importance and meaning of dance as well as in the dance material used in Christian liturgy. In the course of the history of theatre and dance, Christianity shaped and proscribed new developments. Although seemingly restrictive in these early centuries, ‘the church actually created a context for new flowerings of social, theatrical and religious dance’ (Fallon and Wolbers 1982:9).
The New Testament gives few direct references to dance. ‘But even this points to a possible parallel of the Jewish tradition of presuming the presence of dance without the need to mention it explicitly’ (Gagne 1984:35). Evidence of the use of dance as an accepted expression of joy is reflected in Jesus’ comment, ‘We piped to you but you did not dance’ (Matthew 11:17). Similarly, in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, there was dancing and rejoicing on the son’s return to his home (Luke 15:25).
Paul reminds Christians that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that they should glorify God with their bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He further indicates physical movement is an approved part of prayer-like expression when he exhorts Timothy to pray lifting up holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8). The biblical stance for most prayers included raising arms and hands above the head (1 Timothy 2:8). In prayers of confession, kneeling or prostration was common, and in thanksgiving prayers or intercession standing with arms raised was common (Adams 1975:4).
Additionally, recent studies suggest there are more references to dance in the New Testament than originally thought (Daniels 1981:11). In the Aramaic language which Jews spoke, the word for ‘rejoice’ and ‘dance’ are the same. Hence, in including ‘dance’ with ‘rejoice’ there are references to dancing and leaping for joy (Luke 6:23) as well as ‘dancing in the Spirit’ (Luke 10:21).
In the two earliest Christian liturgies recorded in detail, dance is used in the order of service. Both Justin Martyr in A.D. 150 and Hippolytus in A.D. 200 describe joyful circle dances (Daniels 1981:13). In the early church, dance was perceived as one of the ‘heavenly joys and part of the adoration of the divinity by the angels and by the saved’ (Gagne 1984:36).
This attitude to dance contrasts sharply with Roman society in which Christianity first appeared. As Shawn comments, ‘Here in Imperial Rome we find the dance first completely theatricalized – then commercialized; and as the religious life of Rome became orgiastic, so the religious dances became occasions for unbridled licentiousness and sensuality’ (Kraus and Chapman 1981:42).
In reaction to what the Christians perceived as moral decadence, the church sought to purify the dance by expunging all traces of paganism from the intention and expression of the movement. Dance, however, continued within the church itself, provided the form and intent were holy and not profane. The purpose of liturgical movement was to bring glory and honour to God, and take the focus off the self.
By the third century there is detailed evidence of dance integrated into the ritual and worship of the church in the writings of Hippolytus (A.D. 215) and Gregory the Wonder-Worker (A.D. 213-270). At the same time, there is an increasing emphasis on spiritual thanksgiving in Christian worship. Christian intellectuals sought to overcome the passion of the flesh by reason of mind, the greatest evidence of this being demonstrated through martyrdom.
During the fourth century, significant changes in and outside the church influenced attitudes towards the type of dance used in Christian worship. The major cause of change stemmed from the reign of Constantine (AD 306-337). Constantine converted to Christianity in A.D. 312 and was instrumental in accepting and supporting the church. The Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in A.D. 378, thus ushering in a new relationship between church and state.
Many references to dance as part of worship in the fourth and fifth centuries are tempered by warnings about forms of dance which were considered sinful, dissolute and which smacked of Roman degeneracy. As membership in the Christian Church became popular, licentiousness began to characterize the sacred festivals.
In the writings of the Church Fathers of these early centuries, there is evident concern with the changing focus of Christian dances. Epiphanius (AD 315-403) sought to emphasize the spiritual element in the dance. In a sermon on Palm Sunday A.D. 367, he describes the festival’s celebration in the following way:
Rejoice in the highest, Daughter of Zion! Rejoice, be glad and leap boisterously thou all-embracing Church. For behold, once again the King approaches … once again perform the choral dances … leap wildly, ye Heavens; sing Hymns, ye Angels; ye who dwell in Zion, dance ring dances (Kraus and Chapman 1981:49).
This text describes both the literal dance and the spiritual emphasis of the ceremony, while favouring the latter as the focus of the celebration.
This was the tendency of other church leaders, who ‘attempted to turn their eyes away from the actual physical movement intrinsic to dance and regard dance from a singularly spiritualized perspective, as symbolic of spiritual motions of the soul’ (Gagne 1984:47).
In the late fourth century, Ambrose (AD 340-397), Bishop of Milan, tried to clarify the values and dangers of sacred dance by emphasizing the spiritual. ‘The Lord bids us dance, not merely with the circling movements of the body, but with the pious faith in him’ (Adams 1990:18). He saw dance as spiritual applause and did not rule it out of the church. Similarly, Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-394) described Jesus as the one and only choreographer and leader of dancers on earth and in the church.
However, other leaders in the church began to voice their opposition to the use of dance. John Chrysostom (AD 345-407), in speaking of Herodias’ daughter, commented that ‘where dancing is, there is the evil one’ (Gagne 1984:50). Augustine (AD 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, warned against ‘frivolous or unseemly’ dances (Adams 1990:20) and insisted on prayer, not dance. Caesarius of Arles (AD 470-542) condemned dance at the vigils of saints, calling them a ‘most sordid and disgraceful act’ (Gagne 1984:51).
This conflict reflects the difficulties the Church Fathers were experiencing as the church grew in popularity. The increasing number of converts made attempts to retain the dances of their own pagan cults, so that by the beginning of the sixth century, dance came under severe condemnation in the church.
The fall of Rome in A.D. 476 left Europe without a centralized power. The Church stepped in as the arbitrator of morality, law, education and social structure. The conflicts between the tradition of ecclesiastical dancing and the moral reprobation of the church itself led to conflict over the use and value of dance, which continued throughout the Middle Ages.
The Early Middle Ages (AD 500-1100)
The first four centuries following the fall of Rome were characterized by warfare, invasions of Christian lands by Barbarians, or vice versa, and intense missionary activities. The church was becoming more authoritarian in its activities and the concept of the church as a judicial institution began to outweigh the concept of church as community.
As the conscious use of authority widened and deepened within the church and state systems, there were increasing numbers of edicts and considerable legislation which reformed church liturgy. The use of dance was restricted, and continually monitored as the emphasis on the mysterious ritual of the worship service superseded the emphasis on spontaneous celebration and praise to God (Fallon and Wolbers 1982:42).
Gradually a distinction between the clergy and laity was developing as a consequence of the church authorities’ regulations on the Mass. Latin was no longer the language of the people, therefore knowledge of the Mass was restricted to the educated and clergy. Choirs took over all sung parts of the Mass, thus leaving the laity to engage in private devotions during the service. Liturgically, participation in the Mass was more restricted for the lay person and spectatorship became the hallmark of this period (Taylor 1976:83).
Inevitably as the liturgy became the reserve of the clergy, two different sacred dance traditions emerged.
The first tradition centred around dance performed by the clergy as part of the Mass. This movement became ritualized and symbolic of the theology of the church (Adams 1990:30). The Mass itself was a disciplined and prescribed sacred movement with definite postures proscribed by church authorities for the moving of ritual articles such as candles, books, and censors (Taylor 1976:10). On special occasions such as Saints’ days, Christmas and Easter, the clergy performed sacred dances for the congregation who were spectators of these ritual acts. The usual forms for dance were the processional or round dances.
The second dance tradition that developed, with the approval and guidance of the church, was known as popular sacred dances. These developed in connection with church ceremonies and festivals. It was customary to celebrate these with a processional dance although round or ring dances were popular. They were performed in the church, churchyard, or surrounding countryside during religious festivals, saints’ days, weddings or funerals.
It was difficult for the church to regulate these popular dances because the very nature of the dance and its occasion often entailed spontaneous movement. The rhythmic stomping and hopping steps sometimes caused uncontrollable ecstasy. When accompanied by feasting and drinking, these excesses were frowned on by the church.
The dances were usually performed to hymns or carols. ‘To carol’ means ‘to dance’ (Adams 1975:6). ‘Carol’ is derived from the Latin corolla for ‘ring’, and ‘caroller’ is derived from the Latin choraula meaning ‘flute-player for chorus-dancing’ (Oxford Dictionary). Most carols were divided into the stanza, meaning to ‘stand’ or ‘halt’, and the chorus, which means ‘dance’. Thus, during the chorus, the people danced and unless a solo dancer performed for the stanza, there was little movement as the stanza was sung.
The most common step performed during the chorus was the tripudium, which means ‘three step’. This was danced by taking three steps forward and one backwards; then it was repeated. The timing was usually 4/4 or 2/4 and the step was popular for processional dances. Often five or ten people would link arms and then join with others to process through the streets, and around the church, symbolizing the unity and equality of the church community.
As the centuries passed during the Middle Ages, however, the ‘rising hierarchy eschewed dancing with the people – for dancing symbolizes and effected a sense of equality’ (Adams 1975:5). Generally the bishops abstained from dancing, although some joined the people dancing, a practice which threatened the developing hierarchy and so it ‘hastened church legislation against all dancing’ (Adams 1975:5).
Later Middle Ages (A.D. 1100-1400)
As the church consolidated its authority in the medieval period, the censorship of dance continued. Dance was still an accepted liturgical form and various references attest to the rise of dance in the ring and processional form (Adams 1970:22). However, gradually the sacred dance form began to shift and instead of devotional dance, the movement became more theatrical and dramatic.
As public interest in the Mass waned, the Christian authorities made a definite effort to arouse the congregations by including more choral songs, picturesque processions and even ceremonial dances performed in the choir area. John Beleth, a 12th-century rector at the University of Paris mentioned four kinds of choral dances, with tripudiam, which were customarily used at church festivals (Adams 1990:22).
The worship dance did persist as the exclusive realm of the clergy. Bonaventure (c. 1260) wrote that in the joys of paradise there will be endless circling, ‘rhythmic revolutions with the spheres’ (Adams 1990:21). Even as late as the 16th century a manuscript describes an Easter carol or ring dance which took place on Easter eve at the church in Sens. In this dance, the Archbishop is assisted by the clergy who first moved round two by two, followed in the same manner by prominent citizens, all singing songs of the resurrection. The carol moved from the cloister into the church, around the choir and into the nave, all the while singing Salvation Mundi (Taylor 1976:22).
However, evidence of worship-centred dances such as these declined in favour of dramatic dance to be used in the church as an allegorical explanation of the Mass. Short plays were introduced into the liturgy to improve its appeal to the laity. By 1100, playlets made their way into eucharistic liturgy and became the precursor to mystery plays.
Aside from the dramatic dances, the attitude of the church authorities to the sacred dance, as well as the popular dances, was restrictive. In struggling to unify and control Christian dance, the church hierarchy issued a number of edicts against the use of dance.
The most widely known of all religious dances in the 14th and 15th centuries was the Dance of Death or danse macabre. The obsession with this dance reveals the medieval people’s preoccupation with death. Although initially a spontaneous movement, eventually a set pattern evolved in a processional format. The church sought to prohibit such dances stating, ‘Whoever buries the dead should do so with fear and trembling and decency. No one shall be permitted to sing devil songs and perform games and dances which are inspired by the devil and have been invented by the heathen’ (Kraus and Chapman 1981:59).
However there was an upsurge in the popularity of the Dance of Death with its grotesque parodies of funerals and frenzied dance outbursts during the period of the Black Plague (1347-1373). The plague was a combination of the bubonic plague and pneumonia and it raged throughout Europe killing half the population of Europe by 1450 (Brooke 1971:14).
Simultaneously, there were outbreaks of dance epidemics known as Danseomania – dance mania. John Martin comments that people were so affected by a succession of calamities that they sought an outlet for emotional stress through the dancing. Other sources have maintained these epidemics were traceable to a poisoning caused by the consumption of diseased grain in rural communities. ‘Whole communities of people … were stricken with a kind of madness that sent them dancing and gyrating through the streets and from village to village for days at a time until they died in agonized exhaustion’ (Kraus and Chapman 1981:55).
The dance epidemics reached an intensity that rendered ecclesiastical councils helpless in opposition to them. Despite the church’s command to cease the dance manias, the people either wouldn’t or couldn’t. Consequently, the dancers were often accused of being possessed by the devil.
In the light of these dance manias, the sacred dance liturgies of the church receded into oblivion. Several edicts sought to restrict dance and control its excesses, both outside the church, and within. Yet the numerous proscriptions against church dance only served to push it outside to the streets. While sacred dance by the clergy was beginning to cease, the popular church dances persisted. For a time, the church remained unsuccessful in suppressing these popular dances.
With the rise of papal control of all aspects of Christian life, along with excesses of the Dance of Death and dance manias, the liturgical dance forms began to suffer. What remained of the Christian dance forms were shadows of the former worship-centred celebrations of the earlier centuries. As the focus in church dance shifted to the liturgy, the movement within the church became proscriptive and functional. As the focus in popular dance shifted to the movement of the body, rather than on the divine, it too lost the essence of the original meaning of Christian dance.
The Renaissance (1400-1700)
The Renaissance heralded the beginning of substantial changes for Christian dance. Historically, it was a period of great upheaval. In 1455 books began being printed and this encouraged an emphasis on intellect, so that the mind was perceived of greater importance than the body in religious growth. The Protestant Reformation (15171529) and the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation as evidenced by the Council of Trent (15451563) wrought enormous changes to the perceived use and value of dance in the Christian context (Adams 1990:23).
What flourished in the dance realm were processional celebrations, theatrical moral ballets and some interpretations of hymns and psalms in worship. Theatre and spectacles were on the rise, and with the emergence of the dancing master, the church’s liturgical dance faded in significance.
Prior to the Renaissance, religious dance had become severely ritualized within the church, and only in popular sacred dances did it retain the element of spontaneity. Yet within the ensuing changes brought by circumstances of the Renaissance, the church and civil authorities sought to sedate, proscribe and ritualize these dances also.
Ultimately, however, it was the Reformation, which tended, in its extreme forms to do away with Christian dance. All dances and processions, except funeral processions, were abolished (Adams 1990:25).
The Reformation (1517-1529)
The leaders of the Protestant Reformation were highly critical of traditional church customs. They sought to suppress the use of icons, the worship of saints, and pilgrimages and processions. They preached the renunciation of the world and intensified the struggle between soul and body by placing greater emphasis on the mind. The connection between the body, dance and eroticism was openly acknowledged, and Christians were taught not to glorify the body.
These ideas spread rapidly as the church utilized the printing press, spreading tracts which were highly critical of dance. The following excerpt is from a booklet printed at Utrecht:
The heathen are the inventors of dance. Those who cultivate it are generally idolaters, epicureans, good for nothings, despicable or dishonourable comedians or actors, as well as souteneurs, gigolos, and other dissolute, worthless, wanton persons. Its defenders and followers are Lucian, Caligula, Herod, and similar epicureans and atheists. With it belong gluttony, drunkenness, plays, feast days, and heathen saints’ days (Fallon & Wolbers 1982:15).
Yet the early leaders of the Protestant Reformation were not anti-dance. Martin Luther (c. 1525) wrote a carol for children entitled From Heaven High in which two stanzas support the role of song and dance in worship.
Additionally, the English Church leader, William Tyndale, in a prologue to the New Testament wrote of the roles of joyous song and dance, and was happy to use the words, daunce and leepe when he considered the joyous good news of Christianity (Adams 1990:26). It was as the teachings of the leaders were interpreted by the people that bans on sacred dance increased dramatically.
Similarly, in the Catholic Church during the meetings of the Council of Trent, the intention was less on the abolition of sacred dance, than on seeking unity in liturgical and theological matters. The Council’s decrees, however, stifled creativity and growth within the church drama scene. In 1566, statutes of the Synod of Lyons for example, threatened priests and other persons with excommunication if they led dances in churches or cemeteries.
In general, the church insisted on liturgical unity without the use of dance in worship. As increasing pressure to cease all religious dance mounted, there seemed no avenue for a possible creative revival in dance.
Consequently, religious dance disappeared or survived in only a few isolated places. Some religious denominations cultivated specific liturgical movements which harked back to the early church dance. Other Christian dance movements were changed into folk expressions, to be seen at weddings or funerals, or else remained buried in the structured movement of the Catholic Mass.
The events of the period eventually led to the eradication of liturgical dance, processions, and most visual arts, leaving only the arts of painting, preaching and music unscathed.
In the post Reformation period both the Protestant and Catholic Church ‘firmly attempted to close the door on creative expression of dance in the liturgy’ (Gagne 1984:59). The Catholics’ increasing proscriptions against dance, coupled with an increasing sense of mistrust of dance on the part of Protestants, forced dance back into the secular realm. ‘Dance was given back totally to society, with few exceptions remaining of church-related Christian dance’ (Gagne 1984: 59).
Dance within the Christian context, having sprung from the Jewish tradition, was embraced by the early church as an integral part of celebrations and of worship. During the Middle Ages various influences affected the development of Christian dance and despite increasing proscriptions concerning its value and use, it survived as a sacred dance form. However, with the commencement of the Reformation, the dance was forced out of its place in the liturgical celebrations of the Christian church, and with few exceptions flourished instead in the secular realm.
Gradually, with the renewal of the church in the twentieth century, including liturgical renewal, dance has begun to find increasing acceptance in the worship life of the church once again. It has a rich and biblical tradition. Dance offers an enormous range of forms and expressions in worship from the carefully choreographed dramatic presentation to the spontaneous worship and celebration of individuals and congregations of all ages.
Adams D. (1975) Involving the People in Dancing Worship: Historic and Contemporary Patterns. Austin: Sharing.
Adams, D. (1980) Congregational Dancing in Christian Worship. Austin: Sharing.
Adams, D. ed. (1978) Dancing Christmas Carols. Saratoga: Resource.
Adams D. & Apostolos-Cappadona, D. eds. (1990) Dance as Religious Studies. New York: Crossroad.
Brooke, C. (1971) Medieval Church and Society. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
Clark, M. & Crisp, C. (1981) The History of Dance. New York: Crown.
Daniels, M. (1981) The Dance in Christianity: A History of Religious Dance through the Ages. New York: Paulist.
Davies, J. G. (1984) Liturgical Dance. London: SCM.
Fallon, D. J. & Wolbers, M. J. eds. (1982) Focus on Dance X: Religion and Dance. Virginia: A.A.H.P.E.R.D.
Gagne, R., Kane, T. & Ver Eecke, R. (1984) Dance in Christian Worship. Washington: Pastoral
Kraus, R. & Chapman, S. (1981) History of the Dance in Art and Education. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Taylor, M. F. (1976) A Time to Dance. Austin: Sharing.
My childhood years were influenced by an orderly and conservative Anglican tradition. Signs and wonders were not for today and any who spoke in tongues were considered extremists belonging to a strange cult. You could imagine the furore when the assistant rector spoke in tongues!
I was converted in 1966 and commenced attending the Salvation Army in 1972. At that time I gave little or no thought to the charismatic question, except that I noticed in my occupation as a funeral director that services conducted in Pentecostal churches were joyful.
My first serious encounter with the charismatic issue occurred during our first appointment in 1980. The Salvation Army was invited to share in an interdenominational campaign, with the key evangelist and speaker an Anglican priest. He was the rector of a rapidly growing church, contrary to the declining trends of other Anglican churches.
A team accompanied him and, as an ecumenical community, we welcomed them at a special tea. I spoke with several team members. One spoke to me concerning my own conversion and then asked me the question, ‘Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit?’
I had no idea what she was talking about and felt most indignant. My enthusiasm for the campaign dwindled because of the charismatic tone of this group.
As the week went on, I noticed a freshness and vitality about their Christian faith that I had rarely witnessed. They had something I didn’t have and I reacted with anger. I sought to find fault with them, an attitude which they responded to with love and humility.
I believed that divisions were caused by charismatic people. It was bad enough that the Anglican church had been infiltrated. Imagine my horror when I learned that there were charismatic Christians even in the Salvation Army!
In 1987 we reluctantly accepted an invitation for our corps cadets (youth Bible group) to lead a worship meeting at a neighbouring corps which had a strong charismatic flavour. Much to my surprise, the meeting was a delight to lead. The same freshness and vitality that I had witnessed in 1980 was present in that meeting. There was a real body ministry present in that corps.
I returned later to our own corps and sat in on a meeting. The contrast between the two congregations was clearly evident and for the first time I was confronted with the question I had so long wanted to avoid. These people whom I considered so strange had something that was lacking in my own Christian life and ministry and in the lives of Christians in general.
The years following were difficult for our family. By the end of 1990 I was broken both spiritually and emotionally. Yet again I was requested to lead a meeting of worship in another corps that had a charismatic emphasis. I had never felt so hypocritical in my life. Here I was leading worship of a group of people who had a love and passion for God that was absent in my own life.
Their faith was fresh and enthusiastic. That day was 7 July 1991 and later that evening I knelt down in our sitting room and asked God to make me clean. He answered my prayer! The purity and cleanliness of the Holy Spirit flooded through my innermost being to every joint in my body. I wanted to get up and skip and dance. I loved God and I loved everything around me.
That night I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. Almost overnight I found myself on the other side of the charismatic fence and the question took on a new dimension.
The division is sad and I am not so naive as to suggest that charismatic Christians have not contributed. However to blame charismatic people almost exclusively is, as I have discovered, inaccurate and untrue.
Many non‑charismatic Christians have claimed to be made to feel inferior, confused and hurt and I don’t doubt this to be the case.
The other side of the coin has been feeling shut out; accused of having an experience of the devil; being told I am a ‘weirdo’ ‑ and I have even had invitations to lead worship mysteriously withdrawn.
The charismatic question is more than simply the unwanted intrusion of charismatic Christians into the life and style of a non‑charismatic church. If we look at it in that light we tread on very dangerous ground as we are effectively limiting the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Every denomination has charismatic Christians who speak in tongues. So if we are serious in wanting God’s kingdom to be advanced, rather than divided, we need to understand the charismatic question rather than simply condemn it.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is one that raises many issues, such as full salvation, sanctification, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The title we give it is not important; the experience is important.
All four Gospels record the promise that Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). Jesus himself promises that we will be baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), a promise not limited to the believers at Pentecost (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 10.44 and 11:16; 19:6).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the activation and release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (Acts 1:8). The disciples received the Holy Spirit on the evening of the resurrection day (John 20:22). Likewise we too receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion (Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; 1 John 3:24). However, the Holy Spirit’s release in our lives, although possible and in fact desirable at the time of our conversion, is quite a separate experience.
Scripture indicates that the release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer may be at the time of conversion (Acts 10:44) and also on later occasions (John 20:22; Acts 2:1‑4; 8:12‑17; 9:3‑19; 19:1‑6).
The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth testified to this fact in a letter to Dunedin Hall corps reproduced in a Christian Mission Paper in 1869:
I desire to give a few brief practical hints, and, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls for ever, this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, the spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power.
I would not have you think that I imagine for a moment that you have not the Spirit. By your fruits I know you have. No men could do the works that are being done in your midst except God was with them. But how much more might be done had you all received this Pentecostal baptism in all its fullness!
Experience in the last 300 years, with various revivals, testifies to baptism in the Holy Spirit being a distinct and separate experience and together with signs and wonders has been a common part of revival.
It is interesting to look at the growth, in the last 90 years, of the Pentecostal/charismatic churches which give particular emphasis to baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In the early part of the 20th century 34.4 per cent of the world population were practising Christians. Of this number 3,700,00 were Pentecostal which was less than one per cent of practising Christians.
In 1995, 33.7 per cent (over 1291 million) of the world population were practising Christians. However, significantly, of this number over 460 million (approximately one third) were Pentecostal/charismatics. Between 1980 and 1995 the worldwide number of Pentecostal/charismatic Christians rose from 158 million to more than 460 million (Statistics from David Barrett in World Christian Encyclopedia and annual reports in International Bulletin of Missionary Research).
In his book about religious beliefs in Australia entitled Many Faiths One Nation, Ian Gillman observes that in Australia the Pentecostal movement grew by 200 per cent between 1972 and 1984. He further noted that the growth in Pentecostal/charismatic churches between 1976 and 1981 was 87.9 percent, which is 75 per cent higher than the nearest traditional denomination.
These trends, I imagine, would be similar in other countries. As we ponder on these figures of fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God, the words of Jesus (Acts 1:5) promising the baptism in the Holy Spirit for all believers, need to be understood and appropriated.
Perhaps the most critical point is the assertion by many Pentecostals that the initial sign for being baptised in the Holy Spirit is to speak in tongues. From a biblical perspective, I believe there is overwhelming and compelling evidence that in the early church, the initial signs of baptism in the Holy Spirit was to speak in tongues (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6).
Two other accounts do not directly indicate that they spoke in tongues ‑ Acts 8:17; 9:17. In the first account something observable happened, even though not the signs and wonders which occurred earlier in Acts 8:6,7.
According to many reputable Bible scholars this observable sign was speaking in tongues. In the account of Acts 9:17 when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, although it does not say specifically that he spoke in tongues there and then, we do know that he did speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).
With this Biblical perspective, what about today? Is it possible to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues? My own opinion is an overwhelming Yes!
Many Christians, spiritual giants with powerful ministries, have never spoken in tongues. I personally did not receive the gift of tongues until some months after the experience of baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Michael Harper shares this view and gives three reasons why people baptised in the Spirit may not speak in tongues:
Firstly, not knowing: I did not know how to speak in tongues. In fact, I believed the Holy Spirit spoke through me. I often had the urge to praise God with strange syllables but stopped myself because it wasn’t what I believed was speaking in tongues. When I finally discovered that I had to speak, the unknown language flowed.
Secondly, fear: unfortunately tongues has been misused in the past as was the case with the Corinthian church. This has caused genuine fear in some people.
Thirdly, prejudice: some are blatantly against speaking in tongues. They hear negative things about it and so are brought up, as I was, to reject it.
I would add a further reason and that is there are many who are not personally opposed, and are happy for others to have the gift, but don’t wish to appropriate it for themselves.
Another very contentious issue is whether tongues is universal for all Spirit‑filled Christians? I believe that tongues, although not appropriated by all Spirit‑filled Christians, is an available gift. I base this on a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is a glorious gift that deepens prayer life and relationship with the Lord. I have also witnessed many answers to prayers in tongues. I find it difficult to believe that God would give such spiritual benefits to some and not to all.
Secondly, speaking in tongues and praying in the Spirit are clearly identified as the same in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 13‑18. There are a number of references in Scripture to ‘praying in the Spirit’ and each appears to point to a universal use of tongues, for example, Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20.
In the book of Acts where believers prayed in tongues after being filled with the Spirit, it does not say some prayed in tongues. It is more probable that all prayed in tongues.
Thirdly, the main biblical objection to the universal use of tongues, it is claimed, is found in 1 Corinthians 12:10 – ‘to another, speaking in different kinds of tongues’. On initial reading this would appear to be the case. The argument hinges on the different Greek words use for another.
In this passage the word ‘another’ appears eight times, but it translates two quite different Greek words. The Greek words are allos ‑ meaning ‘another of the same kind’ and heteros ‑ meaning ‘another of a different kind’. So the passage reads: ‘to another (allos) the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another (heteros) faith by the same Spirit, to another (allos) gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another (allos) miraculous power, to another (allos) prophecy, to another (allos) distinguishing between spirits, to another (heteros) speaking in different kinds of tongues, to still another (allos) the interpretation of tongues.’
For all gifts, except faith and tongues, Paul uses the Greek allos. For faith and tongues he uses heteros. No one would suggest that only some have faith because the gift of faith is different. Similarly, we cannot claim that because heteros is used, the gift of tongues is only available to some.
Likewise, there are two kinds of tongues. C. Peter Wagner describes these differences as private tongues and public tongues. Private tongues is a personal prayer language, whereas public tongues, which 1 Corinthians 12 speaks about, is one which can be used publicly with accompanying interpretation.
Finally, the aspect charismatic people must beware of is spiritual pride. We have been saved, and are what we are, purely by the grace of God and none of us, charismatic or non‑charismatic, has anything to boast about (Ephesians 2:8,9).
A timely warning was given by Charles Widdowson:
Don’t go overboard with the power and the gifts at the expense of the person and the fruit. I want to underline that in the early days of the charismatic movement in the late sixties and early seventies, all you heard about was the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. We heard very, very, little, comparatively, about Jesus and love. Now that has been balanced, I believe. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus. We have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love and nothing of the power is to be exercised apart from the fruit of the Spirit which is love.
I endorse these remarks. Any gift possessed and exercised without love amounts to nothing, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.
Something of William Booth’s own attitude to gift of the Spirit can be gauged from the following letter, published in The East London Evangelist, 1 April 1869:
Letter from William Booth
TO THE BRETHREN AND SISTERS LABOURING FOR JESUS
in connection with the
Dunedin Hall Christian Mission, Edinburgh
BELOVED FRIENDS ‑ Though I have not been privileged to see you in the flesh, yet I have heard with great thankfulness from time to time of your work of faith and labour of love: and I rejoice greatly in the abundant blessing granted to your labours, and bless God for every brand plucked from the everlasting through your instrumentality. I earnestly pray that you may be made a hundredfold more useful in the future than you have been in the past. The work in which you are engaged is the most important that can engage the attention or call forth the energies of any being…
Success in soul‑winning, like all other work, both human and divine, depends on certain conditions… If you want to succeed you must be careful to comply with these conditions…
I desire to give a few brief practical hints…And, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is, the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls for ever this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, that spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power. No matter what else you may lack, or what may be against you, with the Holy Ghost you will succeed; but without the Holy Spirit, no matter what else you may possess, you will utterly and eternally fail.
Many make mistakes here. Aroused by the inward urgings of the Holy Spirit, they endeavour to comply with the call which comes from the word and the necessities of their fellow men; but being destitute of this power, they fail, and instead of going to the Strong for strength, they give up in despair. Again aroused, again they resolve and venture forth, but having no more power than before, they are as impotent as ever. And fail they must, until baptised with power from on high.
This I am convinced, is the one great need of the Church. We want no new truths, agencies, means, or appliances. We only want more of the fire of the Holy Ghost. …
O what zeal, what self‑denial, what meekness, what boldness, what holiness, what love, would there not be? And with all this, what power for your great work? The whole city would feel it. God’s people in every direction would catch the fire, and sinners would fall on every side. Difficulties would vanish, devils be conquered, infidels believe, and the glory of God be displayed…
You do desire to see signs and wonders wrought in the name of Jesus. To see a great awakening among the careless crowds around you…
This baptism then, is your first great need. If you think with me, will you not tarry for it? Offer yourselves to God for the fullness. Lay aside every weight…
Hold on! Though your feelings are barren, your way dark, and your difficulties be multiplied, steadily hang on the word of God.
Expect the baptism every hour; wait if he tarry. ‘This kind goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting’; and the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to his temple.
I have more to say to you, but must wait another opportunity. Yours in the fellowship of the Gospel.
These are strong words. Every Christian today needs this baptism in the Holy Spirit. We must, if we are serious about the kingdom of God, teach this to our people and pray for revival power to return to our church communities.
Renewal in the Church
by Stan Everitt
Lieutenant Colonel Stan Everitt wrote as the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, South Queensland Division.
God’s Holy Spirit is being
poured out upon his people
‘In the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.’
I am not sure if these are the last days, but I know God’s Holy Spirit is being poured out upon his people, bringing new life to the individual and eventually to his church.
Looking back on thirty years in ministry, there is no doubt in my mind that we have entered a time of spiritual renewal which, I believe, is but the beginning of a mighty worldwide renewal. As I see it, the priorities of many Christian are moving on to Bible study, prayer, and concern for the unconverted. This is happening amongst my own people as they become aware of the fact that the promise given so long ago is for each of them as individual people.
The testimony of a new Christian strengthened my belief that the Spirit of God is at work when I heard her say, ‘Knowing nothing about the Holy Spirit, I was nevertheless made aware of a new overwhelming sense of God’s presence, bringing a peace that I have never known before.’
While the organised church becomes more and more caught up in discussion on doctrinal matters and liturgical processes, individual church members are responding to the challenge of the Holy Spirit to strengthen their own faith, and in doing so, being able to communicate better with needy people in the community who are hungering for the Word of God.
As a believer, there is no doubt in my mind that the true worldwide church of God (whatever tag sections of it may wear because of traditional and doctrinal stances) will never be abolished. The true church in many developing countries founded upon the risen Lord is growing by thousands every day and is yet to have its more glorious era, as the name of Jesus is uplifted.
Although there are signs of corporate renewal, most churches in the so-called western countries, particularly in Australia, have become so much like the organised religion of Jesus’ day that our effectiveness in the community is minimal.
One gets the feeling that a monumental percentage of the clergy’s time is spent on administration and, in the light of eternity, things that are so insignificant. This is at the cost of deepening one’s spiritual life and the pastoral ministry to our people and the needs of the community.
All is not lost, I believe, but it seems that in so many places the individual Christian, often without any help from the pastor or priest, is setting the pace in areas which should be the concern of the organised church, and areas in which Jesus would be ministering if he were here in person.
In conclusion, I make a plea that we, as church leaders, might humble ourselves in God’s presence, and pray that the promise made so long ago might become a reality in our lives, making us more dependent upon the Holy Spirit than upon the organisation and ritual of the structured church of the ’90s.
Several decades ago, A. W. Tozer said, “Worship is the missing jewel in the Christian Church’. In some ways things have changed since Tozer wrote those words. Over the past 25 years the Holy Spirit has been renewing his church in a remarkable way and bringing Christians everywhere a new understanding of the meaning and importance of worship. We have a way to go though, if we are to follow the words of Jesus to ‘worship the Father in spirit and in truth’.
Our primary task in life is to worship God. Deep within everyone there is an urge to worship. It was placed there by God. If we do not worship the Most High God, then we will worship ourselves, or an extension of ourselves, for we MUST worship.
Our greatest challenge is that we intellectualize God. We allow him access to the mind, but steadfastly resist any approach by God to our emotions or our bodies. Why do we find it difficult to express ourselves with our emotions and bodies in worship? When sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, so did embarrassment, self-consciousness, wrong kinds of self-awareness, lust, and so on. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the shame which put us in bondage to self-consciousness. Only through him can we experience total freedom in our emotions and bodies.
William Temple, the great Anglican theologian, said, ‘Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose’, and I would add ‘and the surrender of our bodies to his total freedom’.
We are the ones who prevent God working in his wholeness in us. True worship can only take place when we agree to God sitting not only on his throne in the centre of the universe but on the throne that stands in the centre of our heart.
The work of Christ in redemption has one great end – it is to save humanity and restore us to the joy of knowing true worship. Adam and Eve enjoyed that when they walked with God in the cool of the Garden before the Fall. Our major problem when it comes to worship is our sinful self-centeredness. Sin consists in maintaining self in the centre of our lives, the place that God actually reserves for himself. When God no longer occupies the centre of our being, then we become the centre – we become god! And that other god is called ‘I’.
Invaded by God
Unless the central core of our being is invaded by God and maintained by him, then there can be no proper object on which to focus our worship. Many of us are caught up in an inner fight with ourselves because we never understood that to become the person God wants us to be, we must stop fighting ourselves, and surrender to God. Then he can come in, take up his rightful place in the centre of our lives, and rule and reign as Lord. Unless we surrender totally to God then the inevitable result will be inner conflict and disharmony. Our human ego functions best when it functions in harmony with God, for, left to itself it becomes a dangerous and damaging force.
What does God require? The answer is quite simple, and yet so deeply profound – self-surrender. This is the joyful exchange of an egocentric, sinful self for a God-centred self made whole. It is in fact a swap – our life for his and his life for us.
Romans 12:1 says, ‘Therefore, I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
We need to exercise our will in deciding to accept the freedom Jesus offers. He never makes us feel silly or proud. Satan’s insidious voice speaks to our fallen nature, the part that feels silly and proud. We need to resist him and claim our victory in Christ.
Then, when we learn to express ourselves to God, with body, emotions, mind, will and spirit, we will enjoy a continuing, freeing experience. We don’t stifle our emotions; then they don’t get bottled up inside. And we begin to gain more confidence. Our self-image benefits and we become more aware of others. Jesus takes us out of our self-awareness, and we reach out to others, to communicate with them and be more sensitive to them.
Remember that our healing starts with our personal time with the Lord. It’s there that we can be free with God alone and after spending time alone with him, we can become more free with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Both are essential to know complete healing. Worship then becomes our whole life, involving all our being.
Paul summarises this well in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The healing ministry of Jesus was always God-centred. Every life he touched he touched as an expression of worship, that is to say it honoured God. The Apostle John rarely referred to ‘miracles’, instead he used the term ‘sign’ as he recorded the ministry of Jesus. Whether it was a miracle over nature, or a life touched by healing, the purpose was the same, to glorify God. In the light of this, I believe we cannot underestimate the place of worship in the healing ministry.
The great twentieth century preacher, A. W. Tozer, is quoted as saying ‘worship acceptable To God is the missing crown jewel in evangelical Christianity’. I believe he is right. Worship is more than ritual. Worship is more than traditional liturgical patterns. Worship is experienced and it is as we experience God that our lives are touched – body and soul.
In our churches today there is growing evidence of the rediscovery of worship in its true sense – the experience of God through self giving. In my own parish at Ulverstone, Tasmania, the older folk are recovering the sense of revival that early Methodism had for them with all its ‘fire in the belly’ and praise from the heart. The younger folk are discovering for the first time some of the wonderful old hymns of the faith and realising the connection between Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby and the likes of Jack Hayford, Graham Kendrick and Chris Bowater.
Music is freeing the soul. Emotions are being touched, and ‘hearts strangely warmed’, as John Wesley put it 250 years ago. At the same time lives are being touched in physical healings. Without doubt there is a connection, for within worship we are seeing healings occur.
When we gather to adore, worship, praise and thank our God, it is not just some liturgical exercise, not is it simply an academic process. At least it should not be. It is an experience of the presence of the living God. We come into God’s presence, the presence of the creator of heaven and earth, and offer ourselves to him. I strongly believe that to enter into such worship will be life changing.
Imagine the magnitude of creation. The universe stretched out for countless light years in the vastness of space. Balance that with the tiny flower on a patch of moss, nestled at the base of a towering Mountain Ash, itself nestled at the foot of a craggy peak soaring a thousand meters above. Look a the human body, warts and all! What a work of wonder! The hand that put all this together is the One we worship. Not a carved effigy. Not hero worship of a dead Galilean carpenter. Not philosophical debate, but the Creator’s presence! I fail to see how lives cannot be changed as we worship him. My experience is that those life changing episodes can, and often do, include healing – physical, emotional, spiritual.
A number of Jesus’ miracles occurred in formal synagogue worship, such as the account of the man with a withered hand (Mt. 12:10-13) and the demon possessed man (Mark 1:23-27). In these examples, the healing was also used as a demonstration of Jesus’ power and authority.
While most of Jesus’ miraculous ministry was done outside formal worship, I see much of it being worshipful. Worship is, after all, an attitude, not just an action.
When Jesus encountered ten leprous men who cried out for help respectfully at a distance because of their condition, Jesus sent them to the priests (Luke 17:11-19). As they left the cleansing occurred. One returned, praising God and falling down to worship Jesus, offering thanks. That is worship – worship in the dust of the roadside.
The leper has shown four key worship attitudes. He had praised, and had given thanks. He also worshipped/adored Jesus, and had paid homage, throwing himself at Jesus’ feet. He was regarded with the words, ‘Rise and go, your faith has made you well.’
I see five key elements in worship that play a part in the healing ministry. These are demonstration, encouragement, excitement, evangelism and emotion.
Our God is not a theory. Our God is not an empty idol. Our God is alive. when we worship, God responds. We see the reality of what we say we believe. God’s grace is demonstrated. God’s power is seen.
During July 1991 my wife and I had the privilege of attending Brighton ’91 in England, a world gathering of leaders in evangelism and renewal. Well known author and renewal leader Canon Michael Green made a challenging observation. My record of his words is this, ‘The western church stands condemned for the preaching of an incomplete Gospel. For too long the fact that signs and wonders accompanied the preaching of the word from the time Jesus walked this earth and throughout the early church, has been ignored. We must be open to the demonstration of God’s power in our worship.’
Such activity is emerging at a phenomenal rate in many areas of the world at this time. Miracles on street corners in Romania, Hungary, and other Eastern Bloc countries. In Argentina miracles occur at most services of worship, reports Dr Omar Cabrera. On one special day dozens were healed of a myriad of disorders as the offering plate passed by. As the people gave to God, God gave to them! Hundreds of such stories emerge and, praise God, we in Australia are beginning to see it as we shake off spiritual lethargy.
People are encouraged in their faith when they see God at work in their midst, and it’s catching! I have been part of many major rally type events, and there seems to go with them a heightened expectancy within the people. Faith adds to faith, strength adds to strength, as the people pray and wait on God.
That is not to say that God needs a crowd to act. He doesn’t. But when people gather, the encouragement they give each other has been, in my experience, significant in healing.
I remember standing with a lady at a conference in Canberra. She asked for prayer for a lump in the hollow of her neck. Two or three of us prayed. Nothing happened, or so it seemed, except a couple of us had a similar vision, that of a sponge drying up and turning to dust. We confidently told the woman, ‘God will destroy the lump!’.
When we turned to sit down she said, ‘Oh, one more thing. I have cataracts. Will you pray for my eyes, for I’m going blind.’
My heart went ‘Ooh!’
Did I have faith for eyesight? Did my colleagues gathered around her have faith? We looked at each other, and at her, then at the Lord. I was encouraged by the atmosphere of the event, and by their prayers. We prayed, hands over her eyes.
We stood back and she cried, ‘Praise God! I can read the signs at the back of the auditorium.’
There was some ‘fuzziness’, but we prayed again and she went away rejoicing.
Faith linked with faith. The encouragement of being with others when we pray. But it doesn’t stop there, for each of us who prayed were encouraged to pray again when he need arose, or when it will arise again. I will never forget that day, for it remains an encouragement.
The feeling that followed that healing stays with me. Yet, that kind of feeling flows to others also. In my parish recently, a member came seeking prayer. ‘Joan” was suffering deep arthritic pain in her hands, elbows and her shoulders. She had come to church that night almost unable to hold her handbag, and unable to lift her arms very far above waist height.
‘Joan’ is a shy person, and asked for prayer for the first time ever, so I believe. God touched her. The pain left, and she was able to raise her arms high in the air, and still can. Her excitement was contagious! She testified in church the following week, and is not backward in acknowledging Jesus as her healer.
The testimony she gave added to the excitement of those who were there when we prayed. It encouraged others to spread the word to friends both in the parish and beyond. It led directly to a small group going to pray for a non Christian who was suffering from a painful spinal condition. As we offered prayer, there was an immediate release from pain in that person too. More excitement! There was immediate praise and thanksgiving to God. Worship flows from healing.
Time after time the pages of Scripture leap out at us with the evidence of growth in the church as a result of the demonstration, the encouragement, and the excitement of healing. It leads to conversion. It leads to salvation. It leads to more people becoming aware of the truth of God’s love as expressed through Jesus. Thus, evangelism is aided by healing.
I see evangelism as an act of worship. The offering of lives as living sacrifices to our God is a most wonderful thing, and the lives made whole by God’s grace are even more wonderful.
At the Brighton ’91 conference, we heard stories of miracles on street corners as the word was preached. This led to thousands of people coming to hear and see the word within the following days as football stadiums, halls and meeting rooms overflowed with people seeking God after years of communist rule. The word of God was preached in word and action. God was worshipped. Lives were changed. Healing of body and soul occurred in the presence of the living God.
In our western mind set, worship services rarely take on such proportions. We seem locked into traditional patterns. Anything outside the ‘norm’ is judged improper or untidy or uncomfortable, and so we fail to see what the world around us is seeing. But more than that, our churches are emptying as a church of words, words, and more words, fails to lead a searching people any nearer To God.
I believe that our churches would see dramatic increases in numbers of people and signs of the Spirit of God if we would open our hearts and really worship. This would also return the church’s healing ministry to its biblical pattern of being a ‘normal’ part of the life and witness of the church.
A criticism of some Pentecostal expression and ministry is that it is too emotional, or it is emotionalism rather than a true and whole expression of emotion. I interpret emotionalism as being ‘manufactured’ hype that has been generated by particular preaching styles or music presentations. That is very different from allowing our emotions to be involved in our worship.
Can you imagine Moses meeting with God and not being emotionally affected? Can you imagine the woman who had bled for years not feeling emotion when she touched Jesus’ garment and was healed? Emotion is part of our human nature and it is right that, when we come into the presence of the Lord, our whole being is involved. Emotion, as I see it, has a lot to do with the healing process, for so much of our human frailty and weakness, so much illness and infirmity, is centred in our emotions. If we can be freed from that which binds us emotionally, we can be free indeed.
Repentance involves emotional release; guilt floods away as we are forgiven. Anger is an emotional disease; peace comes and we feel the blessed release wash over us. Hate is an emotion; but with God’s help we learn to forgive and to love, and inner turmoil ceases. All of this is made easier, the process is enhanced, when we are at worship.
The Apostle Paul, both in Romans 12:1-8 and 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, writes of the transforming presence of God as we offer ourselves as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans), and the freedom experienced as we step into God’s presence ‘with unveiled faces’ (Corinthians). We open ourselves to the experience. As Graham Kendrick puts it, ‘to worship is to be changed’. I believe part of the healing process, whether rapid or more lengthy, is enhanced in the emotion-charged encounter with God. We encounter God as we worship.
Does this worship need to be corporate, or can it be a private devotion? No, it does not need to be corporate worship, and yes, it can be more private. But the Body of Christ coming together brings great benefits. Here, as the church gathers, praise rises to our God. We find a sense of oneness with each other and with Jesus our risen Lord, and the power of the Spirit flows more freely. Even in the midst of our corporate worship, one can commune at the private level with God, yet still be aided by the surrounding atmosphere of praise and adoration.
Corporate worship makes a public statement of faith. This honours God. The people publicly declare their love, and God rejoices in the love offered to him. The worship act builds up the Body, and in corporate worship the gifts of the Spirit will be more likely to be evident. As Paul so clearly wrote to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 12-14), the gifts are to edify the whole body, each bringing their gifts to join with others. Thus the gift of healing may need discernment, knowledge, or wisdom to direct it. Corporate worship allows this to happen.
In addition, the healing ministry, both its benefit and its witness, is shared widely and thus again the Body is enhanced. Scripture is clear that Jesus’ ministry was a testimony to God. From the beginning of his ministry ‘news about him spread throughout the whole countryside’ (Luke 4:14). Jesus’ ministry was, with a few minor examples, a public ministry. This is a key we must learn from. God is glorified when his grace is seen and acknowledged. Public, corporate worship is such an acknowledgment.
Anointing and Eucharist
Within the worship environment, two rites hold a special place in regard to the healing ministry. These are anointing and the Eucharist (thanksgiving – communion). Whilst neither need be a part of the healing ministry in worship, both can be.
The writer of James directs us, ‘Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven’ (James 5:14-15, NIV). Obviously this allows for the elders to go to the sick, but it also allows for the rite of anointing to be administered by appropriate people within worship.
Recently in our own parish, such an event occurred. ‘David’ spoke to me during the serving of communion. He was an elder assisting. Indicating a personal need, persistent and distressing asthma, he asked for prayer ‘whenever I felt it appropriate in the service’. We completed communion and then I had ‘David’ take a seat in view of the people. I explained the teaching of James, and then asked two other elders to join me. We anointed ‘David’s’ brow and prayed for his healing. He spent the next two weeks helping in a house construction project with all the dust and dirt associated with that and was totally free of any asthma trouble, to which he later testified. This was, as detailed above, a demonstration of God’s love which encouraged the whole congregation. It was exciting to hear the testimony and see the raised level of anticipation in the people.
I am becoming more aware of the power of the Eucharist in healing, especially in the areas of emotional spiritual healing. The Table of the Lord is a meeting place of grace. The symbols of his broken body and shed blood take on new meaning when you approach them in pain. As the old hymn goes, ‘There is power … wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb’.
The greatest need in many people today is freedom from guilt – the need for forgiveness. The nature of God is to love, to accept, to forgive. The Table of the Lord states that more clearly than a thousand words. Here before us are simple elements that speak of a most profound truth – a powerful truth. They speak of healing.
When is it most appropriate to pray for healing during the communion service? That depends on the situation. Some people feel unable to take such a holy step feeling dirty or unclean from their past. If this is the case, pray for the healing before they receive the elements. Thus the Table for them becomes a seal on the healing grace. For others, the very act of coming to the Table will convict them of the need for prayer, and so healing prayer following the taking of the elements in quite in order. It gives a final blessing.
Another alternative is during the serving. If, as is usually the case, a minister is being assisted by lay helpers, the prayer can be offered after receiving the bread and before taking the cup. In early church history and following the pattern of the Passover meal, there was often a break between bread and wine. The cup came later in the meal. The cup used by Jesus was the Passover ‘Cup of Blessing’, and so to receive the bread as a symbol of the forgiving grace of God, then to receive prayer for healing and finally to take the Cup of Blessing is often very appropriate. Local needs will, of course, dictate the use and place of such prayer.
The relationship between Eucharist and emotional and spiritual healing is clear. Recently a young woman came to our church for the first time. The invitation for communion was given and, as is our practice, the people came forward to receive the elements. She came with the first group, but quickly dissolved into tears, and moved to one side. I directed an elder to assist her. After a few moments outside, she was able to join the last group around the Table. I met with her later for more prayer, and then accompanied her to her nearby home where we prayed. She had experienced an occult or supernatural phenomenon the night before. It had frightened her. When she first came forward, something seemed to try and wrench her away from the Table. The prayers both during and after communion as well as at her home brought peace, and there has been no recurrence of this episode. The young lady said that she just knew she had to come for communion after the event. It was needed for cleansing power.
To some church people, the anointing with oil or prayer for healing during the Eucharist may seem strange or an intrusion on the usual way things are done. With appropriate teaching, they can be quickly put at ease.
The famous Smith Wigglesworth has a thought provoking comment on anointing and it place in worship. He says, ‘I believe that we can all see that the church cannot play with this business. If any turn away from these clear instructions (James 5:15), they are in a place of tremendous danger. Those who refuse to obey do so at their unspeakable loss.’
Dynamic of the Holy Spirit
Within worship the dynamic of the Holy Spirit is most prevalent. Our own insignificance and feeble faith are supported, picked up, and strengthened by those around us.
Just as an individual stick can be bent or broken when taken on its own and snapped over a knee, so the more sticks held together the harder it is to break even the weakest in the bundle. The more Christians who gather, the stronger the faith level seems to be. The more people praying, the stronger the prayers seem to be. The more spiritual gifts that surround us, the more confident the weak seem to become.
The worship environment assists greatly in taking us out of the influence and distraction of the world and bringing us into the holy and therapeutic realm of the Spirit. The hymns of praise, the songs of adoration and worship, the prayers and the Word of God read and preached, focus our thoughts on him whom we call Lord. We leave the world behind. We enter the Holy Place, and await the touch of God upon our broken, damaged and imperfect lives, and the transformation begins.
The more we grow in our understanding of the power, the beauty, the richness of true spiritual worship, the more we will understand the healing ministry. The power of God to heal is undoubted. Even in my limited experience I have sen too much evidence to believe otherwise. That the presence of God is touching the lives of very significant numbers of church people across the nation is new and rich ways is also undeniable.
The renewal movement has added a new dimension to worship, and while much can be said about the various expressions of worship available across the spectrum of churches in Australia, I believe that those places of worship, irrespective of denominational label, which allow the Spirit the freedom to move in music, song, prayer and giftings are also the churches where healing ministries are growing as part of worship.
The link is there. Worship and healing – the Spirit of the risen Christ touching body and soul, to the glory of God.
Reproduced with permission from Healing in the Now, edited by John Blacker (1995), Australian Renewal Ministries, 1 Maxwell Court, Blackburn South, Victoria3130.