The Worship Workshop

 

Articles to read and be blessed.

New Heights of Worship  - By Jarrod Cooper

What on earth has worship become, that a recent poll states that, "A majority of people leave church without feeling that they experienced God's presence? In a typical weekend, less than one-third of adults who attend services feel as if they truly interacted with God."

This incredible indictment against all we have sought to accomplish in corporate worship over the past decades leads me to one conclusion: For all our worship conferences, musical excellence workshops and praise & worship initiatives we are failing to touch the throne of heaven in our worship.
Despite the current hype in the Christian music scene; the rise in worship albums, famous worship leaders and concert type events; there are three areas in the "real world" of local church worship that are quietly causing a whisper of frustration in those who desire the real thing in the church.

The First Sign: Predictability:
The first sign is that I can tell you exactly what is going to happen at your church next Sunday. You'll start with three fast songs, move into four slow songs, followed by communion, then the "word" and, if you're a really spiritual church, end with a ministry time.

John 3:6 states that "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it's sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." You cannot tell where a person of the Spirit is going. He or she is as unpredictable as the wind! But amazingly we know exactly where most leaders will go next during a service. Most congregation members can pre-empt their leaders moves. They sit down, "ready" for communion. They fidget when it's, "time" for the message end!

If John 3:6 is truth, then we have to ask the honest question: Are we calling things "spiritual" that are not of God? Is it God telling us to meet for one and a half hours each week, and churn out this liturgical offering to Him? God, who's imagination designed both the flea and the elephant, the buttercup and the Oak, but can only think up this ritualistic, predictable singing of songs, week after week, around the globe? Or have we perhaps, become victims of Pentecostal/Charismatic culture? Are we perhaps simply doing what was done before us?

The Second Sign: Prayerlessness:
I regularly ask congregations where I minister, "how many of you struggle with your prayer lives?". In most churches, in the dozen or more countries I have visited, 95% of the members slip up their hands and admit, "I struggle to pray."

This presents us with a problem. If Brother Cho and every other revivalist is correct, and prayer really is the key to revival, then there is an issue that needs addressing. What are we doing, or not doing, that is making prayer so difficult? We have endless books and conferences on prayer, but is there something more foundational that we have overlooked?

The Third Sign: Worship Leader dependency:
On my travels, many pastors tell me that the worship at their church is great. Being slightly mischievous, I'm tempted to ask "take away your music group and ask your people to worship. That's how good your worship really is." I usually give in to the temptation!

Many churches lose a few talented musicians and suddenly realize how worshipless their congregation really is. Behind the façade of singing faces, most were actually just singing along to the music, rather than interacting with God.

I know it's easy so easy to sit and point out blemishes in our churches. We could all do it. And if this article were to stop here, I would have done no one any favours. I have brought us to this place of questioning in the hope that I can now recount my own story of frustration and learning, from what we have seen above to, perhaps, something a little more.

The Miss-use of the Music Ministry:
In 1993 I was a worship leader and elder at a church of a hundred or so people in East Yorkshire. Seeing the weaknesses above in our own congregation, my pastor and I discussed at length possible solutions. My response was simple, if a little radical. I believed the problem lay with our use of the music ministry. We had to remove the musicians for a time and learn to be church without them.

I remember like it was yesterday, teaching for the very first time on the Miss-use of the Music Ministry. I presented to our church all the signs of weakness listed above and went on to establish that when the following things happen, we are at risk of missing God's plan for local church:

When Ritual Replaces Relationship:
When we have replaced following the Spirit and listening to God's voice (as Jesus ministered) with ritualistic meetings, we sink into powerless religion. God is alive and wants to lead our meetings by the guidance of His Holy Spirit!

When Songs Replace Prayer:
When we replace the New Testament dynamic of corporate prayer with the singing of songs, we turn our local churches from powerhouses to theatre houses! Only spectators go to theatres! Songs are great and biblical, but they have so overwhelmed the God ordained centrality of prayer, that our churches loose the ability to pray
.
When we hide prayer in a side room meeting and give out specialist tags to intercessors, we take prayer out of the Church an make it the tool of just a few. That's why most Christians can't pray at home. They never do in church what they can do at home. All they do in church is sing songs and listen to sermons!

When Entertainment Replaces Cost:
Some leaders worry about making our main church services too challenging for most of the church. But Jesus didn't worry about being "seeker friendly"! He spat, made mud packs, got angry and preached sermons many people didn't understand! His Spirit's outpouring was marked by people looking drunk and babbling in tongues! His early Church featured almost accusatory preaching, power that brought fear to cities and prayer that was loud and passionate!

Maybe if we took prayer and other such less palatable activities right into the centre of our church lives, we'd see the results that Jesus and the early church saw!

Desert Island Worshippers:
So we stopped all music and began a journey, discovering what prayer and corporate worship may have been like for the early church. We said we were looking for desert Island Worshippers, posing the question: If you were on a desert island, and had no CD player, no worship leader or bible reading plan, would you still worship, pray and meet with God easily? If not, why not?

For three months it was hell. We taught and taught: How to meet God, how to come into the throne room, how to pray fervently, how to hear God's voice, sing in tongues, overcome the feelings of the flesh and how to be an initiator, instead of a spectator, in worship.

After three months of painful growth we arrived at our first mountaintop! We could now pray in the Spirit, crying out, for half an hour at a time on a Sunday morning. I remember seeing children weeping, crying out to God for the lost. At times we had to shout out to stop the enthusiastic prayers they got so excited! I saw people saved right in the middle of our praying in tongues. I recall seeing a visiting leaders wife refuse to come into our building, kneeling in the entrance saying "the holiness of God is too strong in there, I can't go in!". I remember the congregation (kids included) singing in tongues for up to an hour at a time without musical backing. I remember a service when God said "no meeting; just fellowship together", so we did. As far as we knew how, we let God lead our services. You never knew what could happen next; prayer, listening to God, team ministry, preaching, prophetic action, quietness, spontaneous song, teaching, dancing. We made many mistakes, but that was covered in love and the fruit was worth it.

After three months we added music back to our new "worship". It was like petrol to a fire! The music ministry had become what I believe God intended it for: To enhance the worship of a powerful, self-initiating, body of believers. Please do not read that I believe everyone should remove their musicians. That was simply our method for that time. I am not against music ministry in any way. Indeed I am a worship leader and recording artist myself! But I do believe we have so over emphasized the music ministry that it has weakened the local church, making us entertainment centered and selfish. Music can be powerful, but it can also be a crutch, birthing high maintenance Christians, to whom revival would be alien, as revival is neither entertaining nor comfortable.

To conclude let's ask ourselves three questions that could turn our churches upside down: Are we really following the Spirit and hearing God or are we simply repeating a ritual each week? Is there is a healthy, fervent prayer dynamic in the main church service or do we hide it on a weeknight,   because prayer is too challenging? Do we truly reflect the creativity of our God, who is surely the source of all imagination, or are we imitating and regurgitating meaningless liturgy?

If we truly desire the cloud of His glory in the temple of the church, we must build the temple as He has designed it. I believe we are perhaps missing that design with the over use of the music ministry in the local church.

Jarrod Cooper is the author of well-loved worship song King of Kings, Majesty and leader of the New Life Church, Kingston upon Hull. His book “Glory in the Church – a fresh blueprint for worship in the 21st Century” and his new album “King of Kings, Majesty” are both published by Authentic Media and available in all Christian retailers. For further information about Jarrod Cooper and worship resources for you and your team, visit: www.daysofwonder.org.uk

Or write to: Days of Wonder Trust, New Life Christian Centre, Bridlington Avenue, Kingston upon Hull, HU2 0DU.