To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Rigidity

My traversing of different churches earlier in the year has led me to ponder upon the issues related to order, rigidity, familiarity and informality. When I use these terms I am thinking of the general structure of our services.

I am left wondering whether our churches at the more conservative end of the evangelical spectrum, have not adopted an overly rigid form. We have justified under the guise of being orderly and reverent.

We have seen the excesses of the charismatic movement and deemed that anything that smells of the charismatic approach to worship needs to be rejected. So as soon as someone lifts their hands or claps or moves their body in worship, we conclude, with pharisaical like undertones, that they are “going charismatic”. This, of course, alternatively, means they are “going-off-the-rails.”

We instead stick with our rigid formality and comfort ourselves on being faithful and reverent whilst all the time having no sense of God.

Now I am not arguing for chaos. But I am arguing that we need to think about how we reflect the working of God in our services. I know that some people (and some cultures) are more demonstrative in worship than others and perhaps we. anglo-saxon Brits. are less so. But surely there can be more room for the showing of emotion and expressing that in different ways in our worship services. In this context I have written previous;y here about David and Michal.

Let us also be thoughtful of those from those more demonstrative cultures who come among our churches. I feel we have lost many over the years from our church, Feltham Evangelical, because they could not accommodate themselves to our church culture. Many, I feel, we could have led into a better understanding of God’s way, but alas they moved on from us. There were things they liked about our church, but we expected them to adjust too much. In the end they went somewhere they were more comfortable with. It all makes me wonder whether we could have done more to prevent this.

 

 

Saturday Nights Are Alright For……………………………….

Well what are Saturday nights alright for?  How you answer that probably all depends on what your thoughts are about Sunday. If you have got no thoughts about Sunday then Saturday night is probably OK for just about anything that takes your fancy. In fact the Saturday night will flow into the Sunday, so it is all just one Saturday night until you emerge from your slumbers mid afternoon on the Sunday.

But if Sunday means something to you then your Saturday night will be affected. This is particularly so for Christians. So fellow Christian what do you think about your Saturday evenings?

The first thing to have in mind on a Saturday evening is that you have got church tomorrow, and therefore you need to remember that you are committed to being with the Lord’s people in the church of which you are a member, in order to worship the Lord with them. Everything you do and think on Saturday evening is permeated by this awareness.

The second thing to do which builds on the first is to prepare for Sunday. If you have filled your mind with junk on a Saturday evening don’t be surprised if church is an empty experience on the Sunday morning.  Perhaps set aside sometime to meditate on Scripture and seek the LORD confessing your sins and getting your soul in good order. And pray over the services of the Lord’s Day ahead; pray for the preacher and all those taking part. Pray that you would be in the right place at the right time to say the right thing and act the right way.  So that you will be a blessing to others.

The third thing to be aware of on a Saturday evening is the impact that you have upon others. This particularly applies if you have got children and even more so when the children are younger. And I cannot emphasize too much the importance of Christian fathers taking the lead here. Christian parents you should be expecting and anticipating that the whole family is going to be in church. So you will arrange everything around this. You will make sure that the kids are in bed in decent time. You will make sure they know what time they need to get up on Sunday. Your whole schedule operates on Saturday night around knowing that you will be in church by the time the service is arranged to start.

And when we see God’s people getting their Saturday nights sorted out, then we will see the whole experience of the Lord’s Day transformed.  What do you think?

(This is an adaptation of a post Originally published at Venabling on 1st June 2015)

David / Michal

I have a great fear that form trumps passion, rather than form being a conduit for passion, in our churches. Form is right and proper we need to do everything decently and in order. And our God is the God who brings order out of chaos. He does not glory in chaos and neither should we.

Yes the prescriptions for how we arranges our worship are very limited. The focus is upon the heart that we are to have and be worshiping in spirit and in truth.

Can I bring  a test for us in this light then. How would do you respond to the account of David and Michal in 2 Samuel 8:13-16.

When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

and 2 Samuel 6 :20-22a

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’

David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.

David was so thrilled about the ark of God, emblematic of God’s presence, coming back among the people of God. He demonstrated this passionately in his uninhibited dancing. Much energy seemed to be going into it. He was just overwhelmed with delight and that was demonstrated in his bodily movements. His reputation was not paramount, but his delight in the Lord was.

His wife, Michal, had no affinity with David in this. She despised him for his exuberance and thought he was just unnecessarily making a fool of himself.

I fear that I and many of us in our churches are very Michal-like. We rightly covet reverence and decorum, but in our emphasis thereupon have we squeezed out of our services anything that might be David-like.

And if there was anything David-like happening in our services would be despising that person for their unseemly irreverence.

Everything points  to the fact that the Lord was on David’s side of the matter and not Michal’s. In fact the next chapter of scripture gives us one of the mega-promises of the Bible. And it was to…… David of course. The man who had just disgraced himself in Michal’s eyes was to be the one upon whom an eternal kingdom would be bestowed.

David not Michal was on the right side of history. Which side are we on? Of course we say, as good evangelicals, that we must be with David. But in reality are we really?

 

Breakage to Services

Given my differing church experience so far this year, I was led to ponder upon how being led into the worship of God and sensing God, can be hindered by certain happenings. I have already written here about how the introducing of hymns is important for assisting the flow of worship. Two further things I wnat to mention here are:

Interviews

I experienced two instances of this. One was where a couple who were being welcomed into membership were interviewed. This worked well. The recognizing of fellowship which was being displayed in this seemed to be fully appropriate for appreciating the ways and grace of God together.

The other instance of this was where there was an impromptu interview of a lady who had just got engaged. This was somewhat tiresome. And as she was questioned about the gory details of how her beloved (now) fiance had done this and taht, you could feel the fuel of worship draining away from the service.

Movements of People

There are three aspects of this:

  • People arriving late. In a service recently I felt myself subconsciously looking to discover how many people had arrived at different pasts of the service. This distraction personally disturbed the appreciation of the service. I know that sometimes circumstances dictate that we are late for church, but why are so many people late?
  • Too many people leading at the front. Too many switches of personnel at the front can lead to a breakage in the service flow. Sometimes this is simply through switches of microphones; with certain ones phased in and out for different people. Otherwise it can be the need to adjust to so many different people leading which can be distracting. I would hasten to add that I think it good to involve different people in the services, but this must be done carefully.
  • The Mass Exodus I have written here about the mass exodus associated with the children leaving the church service and how this breaks up the flow of the service. In one church we were asked to talk together whilst this happened. After that it seemed as though we were starting a completely new service.

Will There Be Power Tomorrow?

Why are our services so often so mundane and routine and lacking in impact? Why is there a lack of power? The danger is that when we diagnose that there is a problem, along the lines described we go for the wrong solution; we go for men’s wisdom.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. Paul was doing everything to makes sure that men’s wisdom did not prevail in his ministry. A human wisdom approach means to look to arrangements, to look to impressiveness, to look for the charismatic, to look for lights and loudness. These have their place in the proper arrangement of things and they all need to be properly considered. However, we can get everything re-packaged in our services and still be mundane, routine and lacking impact even though all is spruced up a bit.

What we need though is the Spirit’s power; we need the power of God. We, like Paul, need to labour to make sure the power of God is known in our services. So how will we get it? We need godliness and prayerfulness. To be godly means there is a sin-rejecting, God inclining direction in our lives which moves us into and keeps us in the presence of God. Prayerfulness means we will be in touch with God as the source of all power. We will be pleading with Him to work and be known.

Oh let us then commit ourselves into godly and praying ways. Overnight tonight let that be our soul’s desire. And might it be tomorrow that we will be experiencing the power God. To have no desire for godliness and no commitment to prayerfulness are the recipe for a powerless church.

So yes we need the services arranged well and the preaching done well, but all will be to no avail without the power of God.

And how will we know that God’s power is among us? Sin will be confessed and rejected; Christ will be magnified in all His saving and keeping majesty and God will be extolled and glorified.

Spirit/Bible: The Order.

In Revelation 1:10 we read of the experience of John on the Isle of Patmos as follows: On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. What I want to muse upon what happened to John. In particular I want to note how he had the right state of heart to receive the Word.

We sometimes might think that when we receive the Word we will be brought into the right spiritual state. There is much truth in such a postulation. However, the experience of John gives us a balancing perspective. His experience was that he was in the Spirit and then the Word came. When he had the right attitude of heart then he received the Word.

This makes me start to think about the parable of the sower, or to be more accurate, the parable of the soils. In explaining the parable the Lord clearly declares that the seed is the Word of God (Luke 8:11b). He then recounts three attitudes of heart which lead to fruitless reception of the Word until he finally comes to the good soil which represents the good heart. The Word only is received and fruitful in the heart which is suitably prepared.

And so it is with John. The fact that his heart is right is shown by the fact that he is “in the Spirit”. His heart has been properly prepared by the Lord to be for the Lord. All the preparatory ground work has been done and the heart is ready to receive the Word.

This leads us on to ponder about how we have an “in the Spirit” heart. If we return to the parable of the soils we can establish what the “in the Spirit” heart is not. It is not:

  • the compacted ground of the path that allows nothing of God in.
  • the infertile ground of the rocky soil which allows no Word from God to take root.
  • the chaotic ground of the thorns which snuffs out any establishing of the Word.

We generate a soft heart; a heart worked over by the Spirit when we:

  • do not allow the ways of the world just to walk over our hearts relentlessly, continually and without interruption. This compacts our hearts to make them impermeable to God.
  • allow the boulders of wrong attitudes to develop such as jealousy, bitterness, resentment, grudges, hatred etc.
  • do not allow life’s worries, riches and pleasures (Luke 8:14b), to dominate our lives.

So we return to John in his banishment to the Isle of Patmos, we find the Word comes and it comes loud and clear like a trumpet (Rev. 1:10b) we read. God is transmitting His Word and the reception in his servant is very good. There is no problem with clarity or audibility.

We learn then that the right heart leads to the receiving of the Word. John would then record it and “the rest is history”, In fact it is the book of Revelation and that tells us of eternity.

So how are you getting on preparing your heart for the Word? Are you getting ready for Sunday?

 

 

How We Sing

Ken Morey, a former pastor at Feltham Evangelical Church, used to say how he wished all had the privilege of seeing Timi Fayomi’s face when he was singing the Lords’ praise. Timi was so delighting in singing praise to God that it was reflected in his appearance.

And I memorably remember seeing Sue Legg’s demeanour when she was singing “Immortal Honours” at Feltham on April 13th 2006, and her evident total engagement with savouring the blessings of God into her life. In fact, I often remember this when I sing the hymn.

These are both reminders of the impact that can be made through how people sing. And surely there is an appropriateness here. Our faith should affect our emotions. When we are singing we should be engaging our emotions with great realities of our God and all that has been revealed to us of Him. And in the midst of it all, there is an awareness of what our LORD is to us and what he has done. Which all leads to the stirring to our beings.

It is interesting what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 concerning the manner of our singing: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Our singing should be having an impact in teaching and admonishing one another.

Moreover, whether we like it or not, we do have an impact on one another. If I am slovenly and give the impression of being bored whilst singing then I am negatively impacting those around me. On the contrary, when I am vigorously engaged in the worship of God through song then this can encourage those around me to fervency in their worship.

We must note, though, that the singing must be from the heart. It’s no good just seeking to act the part. Such thespian activity will soon be exposed for what it is; NOT genuine. We need hearts that are singing gratefully to the Lord because they have been moved by the Lord.

So when I am singing the Lords’s praise and engaging in song with Him concerning His ways and concerning my way before Him and others, is there an obvious  impact in my being? And is this impact being demonstrated through my singing?

Originally published at Venabling on November 21 2014

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