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Saturday, September 3, 2011

How Is Your Worship Working Out for You?

I enjoy worship. I look forward to Sundays. I like singing with a congregation because I can blend in so that most people don't know how bad I am. I enjoy both contemporary Christian music and the hymns which represent the heritage of our faith. I would probably come to both of the worship services we have on Sunday mornings even if I wasn't the pastor.

But something else has been going on in my heart lately and I wondered if I am the only one. While I am not displeased with the current worship design, I am sensing that there is more that could be had in a different way.

Current worship is completely directed. The leaders tell the congregants when to stand, sit, sing, pray and listen. It has a pattern and is very predictable. People who have never been to church see it as fresh but I often see it as a template which can be used every week without much effort. Just plug in different songs and a couple of different people and you have a new worship service. Therefore, if you have been to one; you have been to all.

You can cruise through a worship service without having one thought about God. There has to be something wrong with this.

So, I have been talking to God about it. I asked what I could do to change worship without ripping it out by its roots. I am sensing that He wants me to start something new rather than change what we already have. He wants me to listen to Him rather than copy what someone else is doing.

I have wondered if there are others to whom God is speaking to in the same way. God often speaks to several when He wants to do something new. This is why revivals have a tendency to break out in different parts of the world simultaneously. He is all over the world at the same time bringing hearts to Himself.

I simply  don't want to worship God with my lips while my heart can be far from Him. So, I am thinking:

What if worship didn't involve so many bands and instruments but was merely recorded music that could either be used to help focus meditation on the word and contemplation of someone's relationship with God?

What if worship involved spontaneous prayer, Bible reading and giving?

What if worship wasn't always on Sundays' traditional times?

What if worship was interactive rather than one directional?

I have been praying and sensing a worship that would go something like this:

Worshipers would enter the sanctuary and be given the instructions of what is going on. They are told that there will be music playing and the words will be on the screens. They are told that they may sing if they want or they can do a list of other things. They may want to read their Bibles or the one in the pew. They may want to pray. They may even want to come forward to pray for someone or even for themselves.

They are told that they should greet a couple of people and will be asked to repeat their names at the end of the worship time. They will introduce themselves to these others who will define who they are at the moment.

Each person is given plenty of time to sit still if he or she wants. Each person is given the time to stop the madness of their schedules and seek God. The message that is given is not long but it seeks to apply a scriptural truth rather than merely define it. Those who come will be given an opportunity to implement a piece of  this message before they leave.

I love worship but I am sensing there needs to be more. I would love to hear from others. I would love for them to express their frustrations and what they love about worship.

How is your worship working out for you? I'd love to know.

Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.


Jaime said...

I don't like to sing, but I like to listen.

shean roxanne said...

There are times when I went to church and worship God without my heart on it, I do it because I am oblige to do it and everybody is doing the same. That is why when I go to church I ask God to give me His grace to really worship Him in Spirit and Truth. I love your idea of going to church and all of you will just gather and listen to the music, and do whatever you wants to do to worship God. I can see people do different things at the same time but they all have the same purpose, and that is worshipping our Lord.

Anthony Chia said...

Hi Prentis,

The followings are some thoughts you can think about:

1. Do NOT free up too much at one go. It is NOT wise to allow people to be free to do too big an array of things. There is nothing wrong with the list of the items you mentioned, however, a corporate worship is a corporate worship, in other words, it is NOT exactly, each individual do what he wants, even though he or she is free to do any of those things in his or her private worship time with the Lord. The point is that you do NOT want it to spiral out of control. This I am referring to the worship part of the liturgy of the service, for I am NOT very clear if you are referring to the entire service as the worship (you indicated short message/sermon) or you are merely talking about the praise and worship part of service.
2. Still referring to the worship portion of service, I believe typically of any service, there will be people who may NOT sing along, some preferred to pray, and if they could, and some could, read their scriptures silently. There is no need of encouragement in these, and I would NOT encourage it, rather my stance would be that we are accommodative of them (for their particular seasons might have influenced them to be NOT flowing along with the corporate or body).
3. I believe a good general guide of what can be added or encouraged should satisfy these:
a. It portrays worship of God. Since it is a worship segment, the flow should be same – praise and worship of God.
b. While it fulfills (a), it edifies the congregation. For example, in one’s private worship, if one disrobes, that is his or her business, but in a corporate setting and culture, it may NOT be edifying.
c. Consideration must be given for private space, meaning whatever you allow the people to do, what they do must NOT encroach into the private space of another. For example, there is just NOT enough space in the pews to dance, people cannot insist they want to dance and their movements hitting the people on either side of him/her. Dancing can be accommodated if there is a stage space or a space in front of the sanctuary which can be used by dancers. And you got to screen and pre-qualify who can or cannot dance before everybody; and you still have to monitor, and if necessary revoke the “license” to dance there. Prequalified people are allowed to be spontaneous, meaning if they want, they are allowed to do what they want to do – dance.

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Anthony Chia said...

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4. Basing on point 3 above, the followings can possibly be included:
a. Dancing as explained above.
b. Worship with flags, along the same lines as outlined for dancing above.
c. Prophetic paintings (more explanation needed, if you want to do this)
d. Prophetic singing (in English, I need to explain if you want to do this)
e. Singing in tongues (if you and your congregation up to this one)
f. In general, I do NOT encourage passivity in corporate worship, like just putting a music on, with words on the screen, or recording of others singing and the congregation just listen on. Also, If you want a corporate praying or corporate seeking of God for the church or city etc, organize that separately. Now, remember that corporate worship is corporate worship. You can allow for sub-groups and even individual items only to the extent that it satisfies point 3 above, and it enhances the overall corporate worship.
g. There may be others, I am NOT even aware of, that can be incorporated. The general idea is to allow people to worship God with their God given talents, in thanksgiving, and in service.
h. Taking away instruments may NOT necessarily be the thing to do. Rather, you could embrace diversity, giving opportunities for individuals to worship God with their God given talents, so long they can be harmonized with the rest of the band, and they are willing to be subject to orderliness. No impromptu playing of instruments from the pew without being agreed beforehand, it is likely to get out of hand.
5. Others you can add to a typical church service could include the followings:
a. Hello-Hello before start of service
b. A ministry time at just after the praise and worship segment or at the end of service. I am personally involved in ministry time at just after praise and worship segment. I shall elaborate a little more:
i. For a spirit-filled church that does not stifle the move of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is possible that during praise and worship, some pastors and members of congregation can receive words of knowledge and prophecy from the Lord. So, for this, for some, during praise and worship, they will wait upon the Lord for such messages. They would probably in an attitude of worship and may worship along, and they would stop the moment they sense they are receiving.
ii. This must be done in a very controlled manner. If you are going into this, let me know, I can then express the cautions, etc.
iii. If you are doing it with such words of knowledge and prophecy, the words are released, immediately after the praise and worship, and when people response to the words by coming to the front of the sanctuary, pastors and ministers can then pray for them.
iv. After those with needs are ministered to, and had gone back to their seats, you can move on to the announcement, and sermon.
v. There is a good reason for doing it after the praise and worship, and NOT after the service ended, and that is the agreement of the congregation is there, where else, at the end of service, the congregation has dispersed.

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Anthony Chia said...

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c. An after service mingling at the hospitality corner. You can have a special team to take care of visitors, too.
d. I believe it is NOT practical to encourage people to be still and seek God in the middle of other items of liturgy of the service. You could have a separate liturgy item of “Be still and seek God”, but how long do you want to put it? It will also be too long and short for some people, where are you going to pitch it. Stopping people in the middle of it, is really NOT quite the nice thing to do. But if you have it too long, impatience will show up with some people chatting and fiddling with their gadgets like handphones etc. Frankly, if it is NOT a set item, you really would NOT want to encourage people to NOT do corporate praise and worship, listen to your important announcement or to your sermon, because they are still and seeking God, and therefore oblivious to what is going on. May I suggest that you open the sanctuary early enough, if you are NOT already doing so, so that those (and you can encourage more) who are wanting to be still to seek the Lord, could come early according to their length of time they preferred or accustomed to, into the sanctuary, way before the service begin. Be still and seeking the Lord, is NOT a time to be rushed through.

I do NOT know how your church is and how your service is like; nevertheless, I hope some of the above is useful to you. Anthony Chia, high.expressions