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Following The River In Worship
After 30 years of song leading, I grew tired of the routine, and to be honest, the results were less than satisfying. It has taken me a long time, but I think I’ve finally come up with a solution that makes an incredible difference to the Sunday morning worship service. The difference is this - we appoint the Holy Spirit as our song leader, and let Him run the song service. If the songleader is sensitive to the Holy Spirit, then at some point he will be lead into spontaneous worship.
At Pursuit ( Auckland, NZ ) we conduct our worship services a little differently now from what we used to. I still come with a prepared song list ( of sorts ) but I don’t come with the program so structured that the Holy Spirit can’t take the service off on a tangent for which I am totally unprepared. Of course I prepare my heart, and the songs are well rehearsed, but the structure is very loose. I may be aware of some basic leading before the service, but I come to the meeting with only one objective – to find the River. When I find it, I jump in, and go wherever the River goes. That means trusting the Holy spirit totally for what song comes next, how to play and minister to Him, and how to involve the congregation. I may start with a few warm up songs just to gather the people, but at some point I must hand the meeting over to God and wait for His direction. We are at the mercy of the River, the ebb and flow of the anointing, God moving amongst His people in worship.
What follows is an incredible journey of creative spontaneity and worship from the heart that springs from such freshness that no single worship service is like any other. It takes total reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit to flow in this way, with an ability to hear His voice and courage to follow. It’s scary, quite frankly, and every service is a challenging and exhilarating experience. Having tasted the difference, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There are times when I don’t know what to do, and feel quite inadequate. I am tempted to plug the gap with some congregational favorite, just to rescue my sense of security. But I know the sense of loss and the knowledge that we are going back into the “ordinary” again will be acutely felt, so that is scary too! I’m afraid of doing nothing, but I hesitate to do just anything. I must wait.
During these times I am totally reliant on the Lord to tap me on the shoulder and tell me what to do. If He doesn’t tap me on the shoulder then I don’t do anything. The flesh doesn’t like that of course, and most people would rather just not wait for God and go anyway – like Saul, who couldn’t wait for Samuel because he feared the people. You can’t make an acceptable sacrifice of worship without involving God.
The flesh will always provide an alternative, but in the process wars against the Spirit. It seems to be some sort of spiritual law that the “arm of the flesh” will usually be the first to present its case. Before every Isaac there is an Ishmael. When David tried to restore the ark to Jerusalem he placed it on a man-made ox cart. The latest worldly trends and worship “programs” are not going to restore the Presence of God to our meetings. Only God can bring Himself to a meeting, and He prefers to do it His way. His ways are not our ways, so when He shows up and starts to do things a little differently from our preconceived ideas, we usually resist Him. God is unpredictable, and we like to feel safe, which is why our flesh desires control. Yielding to the River is an essential ingredient to worshiping “in spirit and in truth.” That is the essential nature of worship - yielding ourselves to Him.
When we try to resist the flow of the River we grieve the Spirit and we are left to worship with our man-made efforts, which never lead us to the throne. Most worship services are controlled by men, and we wonder why we cannot find the presence of God. We find it too hard to let go, and trust the River. Our fears and insecurities demand we know what is happening and why, and we must have control. That was Uzzah’s problem. When things looked like they were going out of control Uzzah tried to steady the ark – you can’t do that. The Holy Ghost is God. You must let Him do His thing.
Don’t steady it with your thoughts, bring your thoughts under control. The presence of God is a holy thing and the Spirit is as unpredictable as the wind. Most of our worship services are too safe and our song leaders too controlled or too controlling to involve God. But I would rather follow Samuel than Saul. I would rather wait for God than go without Him.
We must resist the temptation to steady the ark of God’s presence in our worship services. Until every Uzzah is dead and every man-made ox cart replaced with the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will not find ourselves in the Holy City of His Presence. We must follow the River. Wherever the River goes, there is Life. As for me and my house… I choose life!
Experience the Prophetic Song of the Lord
These songs are an example of what can happen when you follow the river in worship.