Worship: to soothe or disturb?  by Dorothy Mathieson

Dorothy & George Mathieson

Dr Dorothy Mathieson’s ministry has included being a Baptist pastor and the Australian Coordinator of Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor.  With her husband George she counselled people in need of help and healing.

Article in Renewal Journal 6: Worship
Renewal Journal 6: Worship – PDF

Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)
Renewal Journal Vol 2 (6-10)
PDF

_______________________________

Worship energizes us

to be partners in kingdom truth,

love, righteousness and justice

________________________________

The worship was so polished. Meticulous musical precision. There was the lighter beginning, then the ‘moving into a time of real worship’. Hands were raised, some were singing in tongues. The harmony was impeccable. The enthusiasm infectious. A couple gave ‘words of prophecy’ we are loved, we are emerging into freedom and joy like butterlies out of the cocoon of restriction and fear. Applause. ‘God is pleased with our worship,’ the pastor assured. More applause.

A suburban congregation, it could have been anywhere in Australia. Mostly middle class, well dressed, car in the carpark. Good people relieved to be in a ‘live’ church after labouring through stodgy ones.

‘We come for the worship,’ said one couple. ‘You can endure a poor sermon if you have good worship.’

The short request in the bulletin from a local welfare agency for homes for rebellious teenagers drew no response. Another, asking for volunteers to care for people with AIDS, didn’t even reach the bulletin.

The message was clear: worship was for soothing, comforting. Some refreshment for the weary. For the anxious, an assurance that things would be OK. We are right after all, secure from upheaval. God is biased in our favour.

It is nothing new for congregations to use worship to soothe. People did this in the days of Amos the prophet, eight centuries before Jesus came. In some ways modern worship songs have not changed since the songs of those days. The prophet recorded three popular hymns (4:13; 5:89; 9:56).

In these ancient hymns they too celebrated a God who:

* powerfully moulds the mountains as easily as a potter;

* creates the wind;

* reveals his very thoughts to us (4:13);

* faithfully upholds the proper order in creation: planets, day and night, tides (5:8);

* authoritatively invades all of his creation: heavens, earth, seas (9:56).

This is the wonderful Lord we also worship today: all the powerful, sovereign, majestic one. ‘The Lord (Yahweh) is his name’ is the declaration after all three of Amos’ hymns. With the ancients, we join in applause.

But there are some aspects of the hymns of Amos’ day which are rarely part of current worship in renewal churches. In these ancient hymns, God also:

* terrifyingly turns dawn into darkness;

* deliberately overpowers (‘treads’) all human attempts at arrogant independence (‘high places’ or ‘strongholds’ in Amos refer to prestigious fortresslike homes of the wealthy, the systems of selfindulgent and idolatrous worship at shrines at Bethel and Gilgal, the exploitative social, economic and political systems 4:13);

* reverses the natural order of creation so that it becomes a destructive power;

* shatters all seemingly impregnable and unjust systems (strongholds again) of the powerful (5:89);

* uses his glorious creative power to judge the earth so that it convulses like river tides;

* lets no one escape his consuming authority and power (9:56).

Mighty warrior

These things are difficult to sing about! This God is the mighty warrior, the purifying Lord, the indomitable creator. Few modern songs or hymns celebrate these aspects of our God. They would hardly fit into upbeat tempo or rousing worship. Worshippers would be hesitant to applaud certain judgement for ignoring the practice of justice.

Why then are the hymns of our day so soothing, so undisturbing. In this ‘Age of Anxiety’, as sociologist Hugh McKay (1993) labels contemporary times in Austrlia, we long for reassurance that things are alright, that our future will only get better.

But we will be secure, won’t we? God is on our side. We have his promises. Our churches are streamlined. Our clergy have improving credentials and are friends of the wealthy and powerful. We go abroad to plant our kind of churches and export our kind of Christianity. We have so much to offer. We have hundreds of fully computerized plans to complete the Great Commission by the year 2000. Our nation is forging its independent destiny. Trading blocks are in place, hopefully to favour our market. The people of God are the righteous ones. Multiple prophecies have assured that out ministries will be extensive and commanding.

This is exactly what the Israelites of Amos’ day thought. They assumed their political security perpetual, with neighbouring nations squabbling among themselves. Trading was increasingly to their advantage. Spiritually smug, they boasted increasing attendances at the shrines, with religious leaders having the ear of even the king. But they had domesticated God.

They had turned a loving relationship into a weapon of manipulation. Enjoying unexamined lives, enthusiastic worshippers were also supporters of a social, economic and political system which exploited the poor. They amassed wealth, storing it up in their strongholds for a brighter future, but they did not share with the needy.

Most of their resources were spent on themselves. Their righteousness had become a privatized ethic rather than a renewing spiritual energy directed towards creating an alternative community of love and dignity for all.

Amos longed for ‘rivers of justice’ (5:24). He saw only trickles of self-effort, channelled into maintaining the Israelites’ status quo. Triumphalistic prophecy fascinated them. Weren’t they the people of God, with his covenant and his promises?

It sounds so hauntingly modern. Are the contemporary people of God, even those of us committed to renewal, so very different? ‘The contemporary church,’ says Walter Brueggemann (1978:11), ‘is so enculturated to the ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or act.’ Further he claims, ‘if we gather around a static God who only guards the interests of the “haves”, oppression cannot be far behind’ (1978:18).

There can be no real worship, says Amos, without a commitment to justice for the poor. True worship must be expressed at the bleeding points of the world. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, rather than shutting out the world, leads us into discovering his heart for the despised, the exploited, the outcast. Even with the right words in their hymns the ancients missed it. They were not doing the justice they were singing about.

Worship disturbs

Many critics say these three hymns in Amos are out of place in his prophecy, perhaps later glosses interrupting the flow of his thought. At the heart of these challenges are not only the complications of textual analysis but also the misnomer of the purpose of worship. Worship is meant to disturb by renewing the fullness of our faith heritage, critiquing our present manipulations, and energizing to reembrace radical hope for the future.

Scholars are not alone in missing the point of worship in Amos and beyond Amos. In the so-called discovery of worship in modern renewal, these vital elements have been largely overlooked. Who wants to be disturbed? In the weariness of modern life, who wants to be energized to create something new?

Like Moses before him, Amos ‘dismantles the religion of static triumphalism’ (Brueggemann 1978:16). The freedom of the majestic God cannot be manipulated even by enthusiastic worship. Worship is not the flamboyant parading of self concerns, or of musical or oratorial abilities. ‘You go to church to sin,’ says Amos (4:4).

The songs of Amos are disturbingly in place. Prophecy cannot be separated from doxology. Worship is an act of freedom and justice. It is meant to disturb as well as energize. This is why Amos deliberately used popular hymns as part of his prophecy.

Let’s look at these hymns in their context.

(1) ‘This is the God you must prepare to meet,’ says Amos (4:12), using the usual priestly call to worship before the first hymn (4:1314). They had ignored his acts of judgement which were supposed to restore them to loving relationships. The setting of this first hymn is of holy war. In worship, they come face to face with the God of such power and majesty that he is easily able to also judge even his own people. Worship truly, or prepare for combat with the Lord Almighty, says Amos. Enthusiastic worship offers no immunity.

(2) What is true worship? The second hymn of Amos (5:89) says it is responding to the God who acts in righteousness, even with his estranged people. ‘We are zealous in our religion,’ the people objected. ‘But your own religious system allows you to turn justice into bitterness, to throw righteousness on the ground like refuse,’ was Amos’ reply (5:7). ‘If God’s covenant relationship meant anything to you, it would be reflected in your lives of loving concern for others. That’s worship. How can you sing this song and tamper (‘turn’) with God’s plan of justice and righteousness for creation?’

‘Look what I turn’, says Yahweh. ‘Darkness to dawn. I create. You destroy. But I also can destroy, particularly the exploitative systems of the powerful. Turn to me in true worship,’ says the Lord. ‘Then you won’t trample on the poor, justify your indulgences as your needs (5:11), or remain quiet against injustice. Seek me, not your own systems. Your life depends on it,’ says God (5″14).

(3) Later in Amos’ prophecy comes the third hymn (9:56) after the disturbing threat that the awful stare of God, the warrior, is focussed on his people, for evil, not good (9:4). How could Amos call the people to sing after this? Again, as in the other two hymns, their worship is inappropriate. Worship can never fit with unexamined lives of privatized morality, bearing no responsibilities for the evils of their society. The message of this hymn becomes hauntingly clearer. Their God is now their warrior. He will judge his own people. When he touches the land, the awesome convulsions bring great misery (9:5). Nothing in earth or heaven can stand before him or hide from him. His control is complete. ‘When you sing this hymn,’ says Amos, ‘you are singing about your own judgment, not only about the judgment of others.’

True worship disturbs. Modern songs mainly reassure and coddle complacencies.

Avoidance of the real issue of injustice is still ingrained in the church. The poor are suffering. On the basis of God’s covenant, his relationship of love, they can rightfully expect his people, the righteous, to hear and respond to their cries (Proverbs 29:7). When God’s people do this, they can truly worship.

Worship energizes us to be partners in kingdom truth, love, righteousness and justice. Worship renews loving relationship with our God who must be true to his character, unimpeded by our constrictions. Worship leads us to act for justice for the poor. Together we then celebrate the one in whom all rivers of justice are birthed.

References

Brueggemann, Walter (1978) The Prophetic Imagination. Fortress.

McKay, Hugh (1993) Reinventing Australia. Angus & Roberton.

_______________________________________________

© Renewal Journal 6: Worship, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)

Renewal Journal 6: Worship

Renewal Journal 6: Worship – PDF

Renewal Journal 6: Worship – Editorial

Worship: Intimacy with God, by John & Carol Wimber

Beyond Self-Centred Worship, by Geoff Bullock

Worship: to Soothe or Disturb? by Dorothy Mathieson

Worship: Touching Body and Soul, by Robert Tann

Healing through Worship, by Robert Colman

Charismatic Worship and Ministry, by Stephen Bryar and

Renewal in the Church, by Stan Everitt

Worship God in Dance, by Lucinda Coleman

Revival Worship, by Geoff Waugh

Contents of all Renewal Journals

See Renewal Journal 6: Worship on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Renewal Journals Vol 2, Nos 6-10

Renewal Journals Vol 2: Nos 6-10

Renewal Journal Vol 2 (6-10) – PDF

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BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

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Beyond Self-Centred Worship  by Geoff Bullock

Geoff Bullock served as music pastor at Hills Christian Life Centre in Sydney and has produced widely acclaimed worship CDs and DVDs.

Article in Renewal Journal 6: Worship
Renewal Journal 6: Worship PDF

Also inRenewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)
Renewal Journal Vol 2 (6-10)
PDF

_________________________________

True worship is much more than

singing songs we like to sing

_________________________________

 

Have you ever wondered how Paul and Silas could sing praises in a Philippian gaol after being stripped, flogged and clamped in the stocks?  Or how Jesus could sing a hymn on the eve of his arrest, knowing everything that was about to happen to him?  Or how Paul could describe worship with the spine-tingling phrase ‘living sacrifice’?

It was because their worship was not based on what they liked.  It was based on who they loved.

There is an explosion of worship in the church today.  The buzz word is ‘contemporary’ and the aim is to ‘enter into God’s presence’ and enjoy a sense of closeness with him.  The music, the setting, the lyrics must all help create a fulfilling worship ‘experience’.

But I am absolutely convinced that it’s not the worship that God wants us to enjoy.  It’s him.

Christians have often felt that worship has to suit their tastes.  Many times churches have been built based on people’s preferences in worship style.  We want to choose how we will worship.

We’ve made worship self-centred instead of God-centred.  We lobby for what we want: ‘I don’t like the songs’,  ‘I don’t like the volume’.  It’s as if we’re worshipping worship instead of worshipping God.

Imagine conducting your relationship with your spouse on the basis of only relating to them in certain circumstances.  In marriage you can’t love demanding an answer; you have to love selflessly.  You don’t say, ‘As long as I get everything I want out of this relationship I’ll commit myself.’  But that’s the attitude we often have to worship.  We say: ‘You musicians, singers and pastors do your tricks, then we’ll be happy.’

Worship is not a musical experience.  Musicians, singers and worship leaders can no more create a worship experience than an evangelist can create a salvation experience.  Both worship and salvation are decisions – decisions that only individuals can make.

When we allow someone else to take responsibility for our decisions we place human interests in front of God’s.  If my worship depends on others creating an atmosphere, I am allowing them to make my decision to worship for me.

Worship is not a result of how good the music is or whether my favourite songs are sung.  It is not a consequence of whether I stand or sit, lift my hands or kneel.  My worship must be an expression of my relationship with God – in song, in shouts and whispers, sitting, walking, or driving the car.  Worship is my response to God.

If worship is a decision, then the greatest worship happens when someone who doesn’t like a church’s music or liturgical style prays, ‘Not my will but yours be done, God – I’ll worship you in spite of it.’

Your gifts aren’t the issue

There’s another way in which we worship worship instead of worshipping God.  Let me come at it by a round-about route.

Consider two ways of understanding why the church exists.  The first is that it exists to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  So part of our teaching and worship must be aimed at equipping the saints.

But there is a danger in this first perspective.  It could lead us to think that people are in a church so that the church can release their individual gifts and ministries.  This is back-to-front.  People are actually in a church with their gifts to release the ministry of the church.

It’s far more important to know where you are called than what you are called to do.

Let me give a practical example.  My hands write songs by accident; they just happen to be attached to the rest of my body and I’m a songwriter.  In the same way, I’m a songwriter at Hills Christian Life Centre more because I’m ‘attached’ to a worshipping, song-writing church than because Hills Christian Life Centre has a songwriter who writes songs.  The call is on the church, and my talent as a songwriter helps the church fulfil its call.

This is a the second way to understand the church’s existence: It exists to fulfil God’s call on its life.  To live out God’s vision.  And the people in a church don’t so much need to own that vision as to be owned by it.  Once that happens, the various facets of its life are given shape according to what God has called the church to be and do.

This has a profound effect on worship.  It takes the focus away from what we want and replaces it with what is needed to fulfil the vision.  It really doesn’t matter whether we like the worship style or not; it’s whether the style is consistent with the call and vision.  Unless we think this way, we’re in danger of creating our own entertainment – and hence of worshipping worship again.

Worship and the will of God

In other words, for our worship to be a response to God, an expression of our love and devotion, it must be a reflection of his will in and through our lives.  For me to express my love for my wife Janine, I must do more than say ‘I love you”.  I must mow the lawn, pick up my socks, wash the car, share her dreams and visions and goals – I must be a partner to her, working to be a team that expresses mutual love to each other selflessly.

In this I discover that the best intimacy is the intimacy that forces you to get up in the morning after making love with your wife the night before and go and mow the lawns, fix the kitchen door, paint the shed – to do those things that are produced out of love.

It’s the same in our relationship with God.  I can’t sing, ‘I love you, Lord’, ‘I’ll worship you’, ‘Be exalted’ without being a partner in his will and vision.

What is God’s vision, his expectations? Is it that we hold nice, comfortable worship services with three praise songs, two worship songs, one prophecy, one offering, one message, two altar calls and a closing hymn?  Is his expectation our comfort, our enjoyment, our tradition?

No.  God’s vision is that the world will know his Son.  The Lord’s expectation of us is crystal clear in Matthew 28:19-20: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

God has called us into his contemporary world to make disciples.  Our worship central in our decision to meet this commission.

Of course we must sing and dance and praise the Lord.  But if while we sing and dance and praise  we either ignore God’s commission or create a culture that alienates those whom God has called us to reach, are we really worshipping God at all?  Or are we, yet again, worshiping the worship instead of him?

Communication is more than words

The church I’m part of is a middle-income, yuppie, contemporary church of baby boomers and their children. That’s who we are, and that’s whom God has called us to reach.  So that’s what we look and sound like.  Other churches have different calls – perhaps to the elderly.  In that case people will have to get used to singing hymns.

If every church became ‘modern contemporary’ in music and we all played Crowded House and Dire Straits, what would happen to churches in Vaucluse in Sydney or St Kilda in Melbourne, which need a totally different touch?

To put it in marketing terms, once we understand our mission (to make disciples), we need to find our market place (the people that God want us to reach).  That will then give us our methodology.

We have to find and use the language of our market place.  At Youth Alive rallies, for example, where 10-12,000 people cram into the Sydney Entertainment Centre, we know that ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ aren’t going to work with some 15-year-old home boy with his cap on backwards who’s into the basketball culture.  So we sing songs like ‘Jump into the Jam with the Great I Am’ – songs that reflect our passion for Jesus and our love and vitality for life in their language.  In this way we reclaim their music to glorify God and open a window to Christian experience in language they can understand.

When I say ‘language’ I don’t just mean terminology, words.  People can go to a Madonna concert in Japan and not understand a word she says but still feel part of what she’s doing because they understand the whole language – the visual communication, the sound, the music.

We need to speak people’s language – not just in our music but in our newsletters and graphics and decor and preaching and dress.

When the church forgets this and loses sight of its mission and market place, it locks itself into its own culture.  Anyone who comes in from outside has to undergo a cultural revolution, before they can get to our answer.  In the end the only people we reach are ourselves.  That’s scandalous.  We’re called to be light in darkness, not light in light.

I’m not saying that all worship must be directed toward attracting non-believers – far from it.  Worship is an individual’s adoration of God.  Our worship attention must be on intimacy with God led by the Spirit.  So we must not make it so relevant that we lose the intimacy.

You won’t reach your marketplace until you equip the saints, and you won’t equip the saints by just speaking the language of the marketplace.  You have to teach them to speak the language of the marketplace.  There’s a transition.  So there must be a balance between equipping the saints and reaching the marketplace.

Sometimes, however, the saints bet lost in enjoying the ‘showers of blessings’ that come through their relationship with God.  When we go to church to stand under the shower of blessings, our worship involves that experience.

But life is more than standing under the shower.  Life is also getting dressed and going to work.  Our worship should translate into the outcome of our lives.

For the believer, an effect of worship is like a remedial massage at half-time to get us back on the field.  It’s healing for injuries so we can keep playing.  It’s the coach at half-time saying toa tired team, ‘You can win’ – and sending them out to turn the game around.

Worship, then, is refocussing.  It’s re-equipping.  It’s realigning yourself with the passion of God and realising that you have to say, ‘Not my will but yours be done’.

Worship doesn’t end with ‘I exalt you’.  It goes on to say, ‘I must go out and take the experience to others.’  I believe that God is changing the face of Christian worship today because he is trying to align us again with him and his vision.

We can’t worship God truly and remain unchanged.  When we worship, we push into God’s heart.  Older married couples can sometimes sit in a room together for an hour and a half and not speak to each other and yet communicate, because they’ve grown together and they understand each other’s heart.  It’s like that with God.  As we worship him we come to understand his heart, and we start to share his passion.  Then his vision comes our vision.

Reprinted with permission from the February 1995 issue of On Being magazine, 2 Denham Street, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122.

© Renewal Journal 6: Worship, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)

Renewal Journal 6: Worship

Renewal Journal 6: Worship – PDF

Renewal Journal 6: Worship – Editorial

Worship: Intimacy with God, by John & Carol Wimber

Beyond Self-Centred Worship, by Geoff Bullock

Worship: to Soothe or Disturb? by Dorothy Mathieson

Worship: Touching Body and Soul, by Robert Tann

Healing through Worship, by Robert Colman

Charismatic Worship and Ministry, by Stephen Bryar and

Renewal in the Church, by Stan Everitt

Worship God in Dance, by Lucinda Coleman

Revival Worship, by Geoff Waugh

Contents of all Renewal Journals

See Renewal Journal 6: Worship on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Renewal Journals Vol 2, Nos 6-10

Renewal Journals Vol 2: Nos 6-10

Renewal Journal Vol 2 (6-10) – PDF

Amazon – Renewal Journal 6: Worship

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GENERAL BLOGS INDEX

BLOGS INDEX 1: REVIVALS (BRIEFER THAN REVIVALS INDEX)

BLOGS INDEX 2: MISSION (INTERNATIONAL STORIES)

BLOGS INDEX 3: MIRACLES (SUPERNATURAL EVENTS)

BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

BLOGS INDEX 5: CHURCH (CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION)

BLOGS INDEX 6: CHAPTERS (BLOGS FROM BOOKS)

BLOGS INDEX 7: IMAGES (PHOTOS AND ALBUMS)

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Worship: Intimacy with God  by John and Carol Wimber

The Way it Was

Pastor John Wimber and his wife Carol were founding leaders of the Vineyard Christian Fellowships around the world, including Vineyard Christian Fellowships in Australia.

Article in Renewal Journal 6: Worship
Renewal Journal 6: WorshipPDF

Also inRenewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)
Renewal Journal Vol 2 (6-10)
PDF

_______________________________________

We learned that what happens

when we are alone with the Lord

determines how intimate and deep

the worship will be when we come together

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Worship, the act of freely giving love to God, forms and informs every activity of the Christian’s life.

Many people who visit Vineyard Christian Fellowships remark on the depth and richness of our worship. This has not come about by chance: we have a well-thought-out philosophy that guides why and how we worship God. In this article I will communicate that philosophy.

To understand how we worship God, it is helpful to learn about our fellowship’s history, which goes back to 1977. At that time my wife, Carol, was leading a small group of people in a home meeting that evolved into the Anaheim Vineyard. I’ll let her describe what happened during that time.

‘We began worship with nothing but a sense of calling from the Lord to a deeper relationship with him. Before we started meeting in a small home church setting in 1977, the Holy Spirit had been working in my heart, creating a tremendous hunger for God. One day as I was praying, the word worship appeared in my mind like a newspaper headline. I had never thought much about that word before. As an evangelical Christian I had always assumed the entire Sunday morning gathering was “worship” – and, in a sense, I was correct. But in a different sense there were particular elements of the service that were especially devoted to worship and not to teaching, announcements, musical presentations, and all the other activities that are part of a typical Sunday morning gathering. I had to admit that I wasn’t sure which part of the service was supposed to be worship.

‘After we started to meet in our home gathering, I noticed times during the meeting – usually when we sang – in which I experienced God deeply. We sang many songs, but mostly songs about worship or testimonies from one Christian to another. But occasionally we sang a song personally and intimately to Jesus, with lyrics like “Jesus I love you”. Those types of songs both stirred and fed the hunger for God within me.

‘About this time I began asking our music leader why some songs seemed to spark something in us and others didn’t. As we talked about worship, we realised that often we would sing about worship yet we never actually worshipped – except when we accidentally stumbled onto intimate songs like “I love you Lord”, and “I lift my voice”. Thus we began to see a difference between songs about Jesus and songs to Jesus.

‘Now, during this time when we were stumbling around corporately in worship, many of us were also worshipping at home alone. During these solitary times we were not necessarily singing, but we were bowing down, kneeling, lifting hands, and praying spontaneously in the Spirit – sometimes with spoken prayers, sometimes with non-verbalised prayers, and even prayers without words at all. We noticed that as our individual worship life deepened, when we came together there was a greater hunger toward God. So we learned that what happens when we are alone with the Lord determines how intimate and deep the worship will be when we come together.

‘About that time we realised our worship blessed God, that it was for God alone and not just a vehicle of preparation for the pastor’s sermon. This was an exciting revelation. After leaning about the central place of worship in our meetings, there were many instances in which all we did was worship God for an hour or two.

‘At this time we also discovered that singing was not the only way to worship God. Because the word worship means literally to bow down, it is important that our bodies are involved in what our spirits are saying. In Scripture this is accomplished through bowing heads, lifting hands, kneeling, and even lying prostrate before God.

‘A result of our worshipping and blessing God is being blessed by him. We don’t worship God in order to get blessed, but we are blessed as we worship him. He visits his people with manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

‘Thus worship has a two-fold aspect: communication with God through the basic means of singing and praying, and communication from God through teaching and preaching the word, prophecy, exhortation, etc. We lift him up and exalt him, and as a result are drawn into his presence where he speaks to us.’

Definition of worship

Probably the most significant lesson that Carol and the early Vineyard Fellowship learned was that worship is the act of freely giving love to God. Indeed, in Psalm 18:1 we read, ‘I love you, O Lord, my strength.’ Worship is also an expression of awe, submission, and respect toward God (see Ps. 95:1-2; 96:1-3).

Our heart’s desire should be to worship God; we have been designed by God for this purpose. If we don’t worship God, we’ll worship something or someone else.

But how should we worship God? There are various ways described in the Old and New Testaments:

l Confession: the acknowledgment of sin and guilt to a holy and righteous God.

l Thanksgiving: giving thanks to god for what he has done, specially for his works of creation and salvation.

l Adoration: praising God simply for who he is – Lord of the universe.

As Carol pointed out, worship involves not only our thought and intellect, but also our body. Seen through the Bible are such forms of prayer and praise as singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, kneeling, bowing down, lifting hands, and so on.

Phases in the heart

Not only is it helpful to understand why and how we worship God, it is also helpful to understand what happens when we worship God. In the Vineyard we see five basic phases of worship, phases through which leaders attempt to lead the congregation. Understanding these phases is helpful in our experience of God. Keep in mind that as we pass through these phases we are headed toward one goal: intimacy with God. I define intimacy as belonging to or revealing one’s deepest nature to another (in this case to God), and it is marked by close association, presence, and contact. I will describe these phases as they apply to corporate worship, but they may just as easily be applied to our private practice of worship.

1. The first phase is the call to worship, which is a message directed toward the people. It is an invitation to worship. This might be accomplished through a song like, ‘Come let us Worship and Bow Down’. Or it may be jubilant, such as through the song, ‘Don’t you Know it’s Time to Praise the Lord?’

The underlying thought of the call to worship is ‘Let’s do it; let’s worship now.’ Song selection for the call to worship is quite important, for this sets the tone for the gathering and directs people to God. Is it the first night of a conference when many people may be unfamiliar with the songs and with others in attendance? Or is it the last night, after momentum has been building all week? If this is a Sunday morning worship time, has the church been doing the works of God all week? Or has the church been in the doldrums? If the church has been doing well, Sunday worship rides on the crest of a wave. All these thoughts are reflected in the call to worship. The ideal is that each member of the congregation be conscious of these concerns, and pray that the appropriate tone be set in the call to worship.

2. The second phase is the engagement, which is the electrifying dynamic of connection to God and to each other. Expressions of love, adoration, praise, jubilation, intercession, petition – all the dynamics of prayer are interlocked with worship – come forth from one’s heart. In the engagement phase we praise God for who he is through music as well as prayer. An individual may have moments like these in his or her private worship at home, but when the church comes together the manifest presence of God is magnified and multiplied.

Expressing God’s love

As we move further in the engagement phase, we move more and more into loving and intimate language. Being in God’s presence excites our heart and minds and we want to praise him for the deeds he has done, for how he has moved in history, for his character and attributes. Jubilation is that heart swell within us in which we want to exalt him. The heart of worship is to be united with our Creator and with the church universal and historic. Remember, worship is going on all the time in heaven, and when we worship we are joining that which is already happening, what has been called the communion of saints. Thus there is a powerful corporate dynamic.

Often this intimacy causes us to meditate, even as we are singing, on our relationship with the Lord. Sometimes we recall vows we have made before our God. God might call to our mind disharmony or failure in our life, thus confession of sin is involved. Tears may flow as we see our disharmony but his harmony; our limitations but his unlimited possibilities. This phase in which we have been wakened to his presence is called expression.

Physical and emotional expression in worship can result in dance and body movement. This is an appropriate response to God if the church is on that crest. It is inappropriate if it is whipped up or if the focal point is on the dance rather than on true jubilation in the Lord.

Expression then moves to a zenith, a climatic point, not unlike physical lovemaking (doesn’t Solomon use the same analogy in the Song of Songs?). We have expressed what is in our hearts and minds and bodies, and now it is time to wait for God to respond. Stop talking and wait for him to speak, to move. I call this, the fourth phase, visitation: The almighty God visits his people.

This visitation is a by product of worship. We don’t worship in order to gain his presence. He is worthy to be worshipped whether or not he visits us. But God ‘dwells in the praises of his people’. So we should always come to worship prepared for an audience with the King. And we should expect the Spirit of God to work among us. He moves in different ways- sometimes for salvation, sometimes for deliverances, sometimes for sanctification or healings. God also visits us through he prophetic gifts.

Generosity

The fifth phase of worship is the giving of substance. The church knows so little about giving, yet the Bible exhorts us to give to God. It is pathetic to see people preparing for ministry who don’t know how to give. That is like an athlete entering a race, yet he doesn’t know how to run. If we haven’t learned to give money, we haven’t learned anything. Ministry is a life of giving. We give our whole life; God should have ownership of everything. Remember, whatever we give God control of he can multiply and bless, not so we can amass goods, but so we can be more involved in his enterprise.

Whatever I need to give, God inevitably first calls me to give it when I don’t have any of it – whether it is money, love, hospitality, or information. Whatever God wants to give through us he first has to do to us. We are the first partakers of the fruit. But we are not to eat the seed, we are to sow it, to give it away. The underlying premise is that whatever we are is multiplied, for good or for bad. Whatever we have on our tree is what we are going to get in our orchard.

As we experience these phases of worship we experience intimacy with God, the highest and most fulfilling calling men and women may know.

_______________________________________________________

(c) Equipping the Saints, Vol. 1, No. 1. Used with permission.

© Renewal Journal 6: Worship, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 6: Worship

Renewal Journal 6: Worship – PDF

Renewal Journal 6: Worship – Editorial

Worship: Intimacy with God, by John & Carol Wimber

Beyond Self-Centred Worship, by Geoff Bullock

Worship: to Soothe or Disturb? by Dorothy Mathieson

Worship: Touching Body and Soul, by Robert Tann

Healing through Worship, by Robert Colman

Charismatic Worship and Ministry, by Stephen Bryar and

Renewal in the Church, by Stan Everitt

Worship God in Dance, by Lucinda Coleman

Revival Worship, by Geoff Waugh

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