by: Maryann LeVine
‘Be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord always giving thanks for all things …’ Paul encouraged the Ephesians.’ 'When you assemble each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, and has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification,’ he told the Corinthians. These directions from Paul indicate all are invited to join in; all are welcome to present their offering before God. We must no longer be spectators. For too long our culture has raised us to require entertainment. We go to sports arenas and watch the pros play ball. We go to movie theatres and watch the most popular actors of the day or stay at home in our home theatres with HD TV and see the latest episode of ‘American Idol’. We have TV in our cars as if radio, satellite radio, CDs, and cell phones aren’t enough. Our culture is driven by entertainment. The church must not become a group of entertainment seekers when we are told that we all can participate. We must shake off the spectator mentality.
I grew in worship in the Vineyard. I believe it was there, among some other churches as well, that the style of worship, prevailing in most charismatic churches today, was born. At the time, there was a raw hunger for God, a new expression of worship using contemporary music, and a new freedom of physical expression during the musical time of worship. The songs being written were more complex than those of the Jesus Movement, but easily memorized when sung a few times and could be performed by even novice musicians. That style is recognized by the use of a worship band, the choice of contemporary worship songs usually starting out with high praise and ending in contemplative worship. The musicians and singers perform the music; the words to the music are projected for the congregation to see and use. The worship team moves from song to song somewhat fluidly with perhaps only short pauses between songs. The songs are performed the same way from week to week although the set of songs may vary.
One reason I was compelled to keep returning to the Vineyard in those days was to participate in worship. I was not satisfied to sit in my seat during the worship time, and frequently I was found in the front of the church along with almost everyone else with hearts turned toward God. As this worship style has evolved over the years, the music has become even more complex, and the musicians must be approaching professional ability in order to perform it. The words are not easily memorized. Essentially there is a performance from week to week in order to keep up with pop culture. This has put undo pressure on the worship leaders to become star performers in order to satisfy the cravings of the church goers and to please their pastors. This has grieved me greatly, because what I see is an encroaching spectator mindset, a congregation whose hunger is for a good performance mingled with a sense of the presence of God.
In the midst of all this, a new style of worship has been born. It’s called ‘Prophetic Worship,’ although that name tends to create an over-mystical concept of something that is really just heartfelt free-form worship. It can be raw and sound unprofessional. It can be repetitive. It has the possibility of going off on tangents. It can be deep, overwhelming and intimate filled with weighty glory. It can be rapturous and cause the people to soar on lofty heights. It can create an atmosphere where Holy Spirit is allowed to move without the intervention of men. Healing, deliverance and salvations can occur by the sovereign hand of God. Furthermore, all can and are given the choice to participate and influence the direction of the meeting.
The musicians and singers will start with a song known to the people. As the song is performed, it may start as everyone has heard it before, but the musicians are allowed to stay with the chorus as long as they like, repeat a verse more than once, or move to just instruments with the same chord progression. I call this instrumental time a ‘Selah Time.’ This gives everyone the opportunity to meditate or sing to the Lord the thing that song has opened in their hearts. In some worship settings there may be an open microphone for those gathered to use as they feel compelled by Holy Spirit. The song is like a greeting card to God that opens a thought or idea before Him; the ‘Selah Time’ allows the participants to write the letter that goes along with the card. During this time, the singers may sing something that they are thinking to God. It won’t be the same words or musical embellishments week after week. The song will not sound like it did on the CD on which it was first heard, and God will be allowed to move in ways an organized song set doesn’t have the capacity to provide. Finally, all the people have a chance to worship God with the words of their own heart yet in a corporate expression that is not chaotic, and the corporate level of participation will influence the depth of worship, because all can have a role in how the worship time unfolds.
The entire Bible is about a loving God who wants a people to go after His Heart and to love Him above everything else. He wants a people who desire to be called by His name, which are easily turned to the left or the right when He whispers. We can’t be that people when we expect the pastor to go to God for us and the worship leader to perform for us the latest hits from this month’s worship CD. We cannot allow a spectator mindset to infiltrate our thoughts, our habits, our church life, and our expression of worship. God will not share His Glory with another; not another pastor, not another worship leader, not anyone! He will not share!
The purpose of a corporate gathering is to seek God together and to participate together in honoring Him. During Solomon’s reign, he had the ark brought into the new temple. The scripture says the trumpeters and the singers joined ‘in unison as with one voice,’ to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Then the temple was filled with a cloud as the glory of the Lord filled the temple. (2Chronicles 5) We must shake off the spectator mindset as propagated by our pop culture! We must come ready to express ourselves with heartfelt passion to Him! We must become a people after His Heart! We must become a people of His Presence, allowing Him to move and live and breathe among us! Let’s worship Him together as with one voice allowing His Glorious Throne to be established among us!