Tag Archives: worship

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 5) — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship

church worshipMy pastor often said God’s desire for the local church is that we be a house of prayer, which thereby becomes a house of His presence, which results in us becoming a house of power.

Isaiah 56:7, 8 is often used to describe the house of prayer function of the local church: “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD Who gathers the outcasts of Israel says, ‘Yet will I gather others to Him [the Messiah, Jesus] besides those who are gathered to Him.'”

In context, these verses are about the temple in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ millennial reign upon the earth. They speak of God joining Jew and Gentile together in united adoration of Jesus.

Communion with God through prayer and worship, both individually and corporately, is one of the central themes throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul said we are to rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, [and] in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The early church took corporate prayer quite seriously. One hundred twenty disciples gathered together in the upper room, waiting according to Jesus’ instructions for the coming of the Holy Spirit. What did they do while they waited? “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).

In Acts 4:24-31, with the threat of persecution hanging over them, together they cried out for the Lord to give them boldness to preach the Gospel with healing, signs, and wonders following. Their prayer was answered. The Lord responded by physically shaking the place where they were gathered, filling them all afresh with the Holy Spirit, and giving them the boldness they had desired of Him.

When Peter was in prison awaiting execution, his situation looked hopeless, “but prayer was made without ceasing by the church to God for him” (Acts 12:5). In response to their prayers, Peter was supernaturally released from prison by an angel. We know that this was not only individual prayer going on, because Peter then went to one of the homes “where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12).

Jesus gave us an encouraging glimpse into what can be accomplished through group prayer in Matthew 18:19, 20: “…If two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father Who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Worship is a vital function of any house of prayer. In John 4:23, 24, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

True worship is not an activity we engage in just because it is part of the “order of service.” It is not a preliminary to get through so we can move on to the sermon. It is not a set of songs calculated to stir our souls because of the catchy beat or the excellent abilities of the worship team. Many churches engage in praise at that soul level, never getting to true worship, which brings heart intimacy with the Lord. But if we do focus on the Lord, worshiping Him from the heart, it draws Him to manifest His presence among us in ways wherein we know we have touched God. Indeed, those of us who have tasted of His presence find it hard to be content with anything less thereafter.

While prayer and heartfelt worship are not the only things which the Church is meant to do, if we are to be the people God intended, we must shift worship away from being an entertainment activity back to that true worship of the heart in our gatherings. And, we must turn prayer from a lukewarm, obligatory part of our services to something we look forward to with expectancy, having faith that God will answer us. I am so encouraged that this change is already beginning to take place in many church gatherings around the world. I believe the momentum will continue to build, and as a result, God will release powerful miracles through His people. House of prayer > house of presence > house of power.

Keep in mind that prayer and worship don’t have to happen only in a Sunday morning service, either. They can be accomplished by meeting at other times during the week, even in homes. A prayer movement is arising throughout the world. Some of these gatherings are connected with particular local churches, but many are not. They don’t have to be. The Church is not confined to official buildings. It is present in power wherever God’s people gather, formally or informally. Perhaps God is even calling you to lead a home prayer group. If so, my book, House of Prayer ~ House of Power, can help you get started.

Next time, we’ll talk about the local church as a healing center.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Next: Part 6 — We Are a Healing Center

________________________________________

start a prayer group

 

 

House of Prayer ~ House of Power,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

A Dream About Worship in the Church

I love how God speaks in dreams — especially symbolic dreams. They are parables which would not be understandable without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The following is a very encouraging dream about how the Lord wants to restore worship in the church back to what it is meant to be:

The Dream:

I saw a man, about forty years old, who was the owner of a music store. There were guitars positioned here and there throughout his shop. The front side of the building had no wall, so that it was completely open to the sidewalk.

Behind the store, on the other side of the back wall, was the municipal waterworks building. I saw open water there, like a river, contained in a canal-like structure.

There was a small opening in the wall between the music store and the waterworks, at floor level. It was about 6 inches wide and 4 inches high. The owner of the shop temporarily removed a metal device from the hole, which in some way opened and closed access between the two buildings. He set it aside in a box.

The scene shifted, to where a pleasant-looking woman, about the same age as the man, was in the music store. She was the manager of the waterworks. Even though their workplaces were right next door, it seemed that they did not normally have contact with one another. The man conversed with her about how they had been sweethearts in their youth. He had fond memories of that time.

He asked her, hesitantly, if she had been in any relationships since they had parted company years before. She did not have time to answer him before he continued talking, but I got the impression that there had been no one else in her life. He longingly asked, “Will you marry me?” It was obvious that they both still cared very much for each other.

The scene abruptly shifted to what was happening back at the waterworks. There had been a sudden surge of flooding. The employees did not seem to know what had caused it; they just knew that it had happened. I saw a car nearly submerged in the water there. And I knew that the man in the music shop, being preoccupied with his renewed love relationship, would have forgotten to put the metal device in the hole between his shop and the waterworks, so that his shop might get flooded as a result.

In the dream, I had the feeling that what I was watching was somewhat like a soap opera, in the sense that the story was unfolding gradually, over time. Even the last scene of the flooding in the waterworks department did not have an ending — as though I would need to tune in for the next episode to find out what happened.

Interpretation:

The man in the music shop represents worship leaders, and possibly pastors, to the extent that their preferences rule how worship goes in the local church.

The front of the music shop was completely open, indicating that this is talking about public worship, not personal, private worship.

The woman who was the head of the waterworks department represents the Holy Spirit. Water represents the activity of the Spirit. (See John 7:37-39, where Jesus talks about “rivers of living water” supplied by the Holy Spirit.) Normally, the Holy Spirit would not be portrayed as a woman, but it is important to the rest of the parable, because it is a love story.

The dream is about God’s desire for our worship leaders to reunite with the Holy Spirit in their leading of worship. The man had once had a love relationship with the woman. They had enjoyed one another and done things together. But separation had taken place and had continued for a long time (as revealed by the age of the two lovers). That is what has happened over time for many worship leaders (and for the congregations they serve, as a result). What was once a free-flowing, joyous, give-and-take dance between the Lord and His people has declined, in many churches, into routine man-orchestrated events, which follow a set pattern allowing for little deviation. There is no room for the Holy Spirit to move, because there is no longer the intimate relationship with Him which was once enjoyed. And this has gone on for a long time.

The woman having had no other relationship in all those years indicates to me that the Holy Spirit has been waiting in the wings, longing for this one marriage which was always meant to be — true communion between God and His people, carried out in part through the expression of worship.

It is noteworthy that before any of the other scenes happened, the music shop owner had removed the device in the wall which governed access between his store and the waterworks. Only after that did the relationship come back together and the surging of the waters take place. It is up to worship leaders (and their pastors) to be willing to allow access to the waters of the Spirit in their worship services. They have to take this step before the rest can happen.

Even the 6″ X 4″ dimensions of the hole have significance: six is the number of man, and four represents rule. (Genesis 1:14-18 tells us that the sun and moon were created on the fourth day to rule the day and night.) So, it was the man’s responsibility to make access to his shop available.

The dream is open-ended. We don’t know whether water will seep into the music shop from the waterworks, or whether flooding might even happen there — but there is a good chance it will, because the man is preoccupied with his restored love, and has forgotten in that moment to put the device which could shut off access back in the hole. (Let’s hope he keeps forgetting, and leaves it open. What if the whole wall between the waterworks of the Spirit and the shop came down entirely?)

Summary application:

God would like to bring in the flood of Holy Spirit’s Presence upon His Church once again. This is wonderful! The Spirit’s activity and worship really belong together. There is a true love relationship between them, but they have been separated in the Church for a long time. They need to come back together. But whether they will or not is conditional on willingness.

If you are a worship leader or pastor, will you give access to the Holy Spirit in your church once again? Will you allow Him the space and time to do what He desires to do? Will you yield yourself and your congregation to experience the love relationship with the Holy Spirit which was always meant to be? You can determine how the story will end.

dream interpretation

 

 

The Dream Book: A Practical Guide to Christian Dream Interpretation,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Christian dream interpretation workshop

 

Hearing God Through Your Dreams (Workshop, CD set or mp3 )
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 5) — For Worship Leaders

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann RubsamWorship leading has got to be one of the most difficult ministry functions on the face of the planet. It is impossible to please everyone, from the senior pastor to the people in the pew. What if your pastor is telling you that he wants more Presence-oriented worship, or that he wants you to “flow with the Spirit” in worship, but you don’t have a clue how? There are some simple things you can do to get yourself there.

1.)  It starts with having a consistent prayer and Bible reading time. I know, I know. This is too basic, right? But we have bazillions of worship leaders across the nation who aren’t praying and absorbing the Scriptures every day — or, they do a quick five or ten minutes with Jesus. That’s not going to cut it, if you want to be tuned in to the Lord on Sunday morning.

As you pray and fill yourself with the Word, God communes with your spirit. You set yourself up to hear His voice — especially if you ask Him what He wants to say and then force yourself to be quiet before Him. You might not get immediate results, but over time, God will honor your faithfulness to listen for His voice. You will become more sensitive to Him.

2.)  Listen to Presence-oriented worship music. I have personally known worship leaders who listened to a little dab of worship music — just enough to come up with some songs for Sunday mornings. The majority of their listening was secular. You cannot fill your ears with music which does not have the Lord at its center, and then expect to catch the flow of heaven’s sound on Sunday morning.

Furthermore, while the contemporary Christian music on the radio is not at cross-purposes with worshiping the Lord, neither is a lot of it geared toward God manifesting His Presence in church services. Contemporary Christian music tends to be fairly us-oriented, talking about our struggles and weaknesses, with a little bit of “but God and His grace …” thrown in.

So, you’re going to have to fill your spirit up with worship music which not only touches your heart, but God’s heart, too. Do you need suggestions? There is so much available out there! Some great places to start are United Pursuit, Bethel Worship, Gateway, Jesus Culture, Vineyard, International House of Prayer (IHOP-KC), Robin Mark, Lindell Cooley, and Housefires.

3.)  Decide who your audience is going to be — God or man. Years ago, one of our church’s worship leaders decided to drill home to his team the importance of making God their audience. They were a very professional-sounding bunch, but although technical excellence was important to him, having their focus in the right place was even more of a priority.

Twice a month they spent an hour together simply worshiping the Lord with abandon, with no one else in the sanctuary except the Lord. God came down in there! (I know, because I snuck in to experience the Glory!)

If you want God to show up on Sunday mornings, make Him the focus of your worship, instead of how many or few people are there to hear you. Resist the temptation to let the size of the crowd influence your level of worship. Have a passion to pursue God together with the congregation, rather than putting on a performance for them.

4.)  It’s not about style … but it is about style. While people can connect with God through many different varieties of music, some songs are so busy and complicated that the congregation has a hard time taking hold of the Lord with them. It doesn’t all have to be slow and majestic, but it does have to be simple enough so people can sing with you.

One reason I love United Pursuit’s music is because the key concepts in each song are repetitive. Repetitive music with words which extol the Lord’s greatness and our love for Him tend to lead the congregation into a continuing upward spiral of devotion — which He then responds to.

Make sure the words have substance, but still make sense without having to search hard for their meaning. If the lyrics are too cryptic, they distract from focusing on the Lord.

If you can include in your lineup some songs which allow people to close their eyes, raise their hands, and just meditate on the Lord, that’s a good thing, too.

5.)  It’s not about energy or volume. I have heard worship leaders say that God likes it loud, and the louder it is, the more likely He is to manifest Himself. Music which is too soft can make people feel like they’re at a funeral parlor, but while that isn’t going to help them engage, neither will breaking their eardrums. Furthermore, God doesn’t suddenly wake up from a holy coma exclaiming, “Hey! They just cranked it up to where I can hear it way up here. I am impressed! I think I’ll go visit that congregation!” It sounds silly — but we sometimes act like that’s the way it is.

I have also watched worship leaders work themselves and their congregations into a lather of excitement and then announce that “God is really moving!” No, He wasn’t. There is a vast difference between being pumped up in your emotions and sensing the Lord’s Presence with your spirit. Being able to discern the difference comes through relationship with the Lord (see Point 1) and immersing yourself in true worship music (Point 2).

6.)  Prepare for the service during the week by asking God what music He would like to hear when the congregation comes together. He will be pleased that you invited Him into the decision-making process, and He will be faithful to answer — maybe by speaking directly to you, maybe through more subtle means. The Lord has specific plans for what He would like to do in any given service, and when we ask for His input into the choice of songs, we partner with His purposes. That is an exciting place to be!

7.)  Set the mood before the service. Have background worship music playing on CD which sets the tone for what you desire to accomplish once the service starts. Choose music which will make for a smooth transition into your first live song. A little thing like appropriate pre-service music prepares the soil of the congregation’s heart to enter in immediately when you and your team begin to sing.

8.)  Don’t just assume God will show up. Ask Him to. The Lord loves to be invited to manifest His Presence among us. We must maintain a holy awe of Him, where we never take Him for granted. Entreating Him to pour out His Spirit in the corporate gathering builds expectancy in us, too.

You can’t make God show up. That is entirely up to Him. If you try to develop a formula for how to bring in the Lord’s Presence you will offend Him. The song which brings worship to a deeper level one week may fall flat the next, if you’re depending on a method to manipulate God into moving among you.

The key is to make yourself and your church a prepared container, ready for the Lord to pour into. He is eager to fill our congregational gatherings with Himself, if we will make ourselves available to Him.

Previous: Part 4

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 4)

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann RubsamLast time I spoke mainly to pastors about making a place for God’s Presence in church services. In this post, I’ll share some simple, practical ways we can invite God into our gatherings — whether church services, home fellowships, or prayer groups.

Develop a habit of expecting God to meet with you. God loves expectant hearts! He might still visit His Presence in your group if you are not expecting Him to, but if you aren’t looking for Him, you might not notice when He first starts manifesting Himself. You could unintentionally shut down the worship right when it’s beginning to cook — because you aren’t paying attention.

Prepare a place for God to show up. Most of the time, it doesn’t just happen. God likes to be entreated to come. We let Him know that He is valued above all else. My husband and I lead a couple of prayer groups in our home, and we definitely feel the responsibility of preparing the way in prayer and worship before people ever get there. We’ve done the same when we led prayer groups in church settings. Here are some ways we prepare a place for the Lord:

1. We fast.

2. We minimize distractions and appointments on days when our prayer gatherings are happening, so that our minds are fixed on the Lord.

3. We plan the worship music for the gathering ahead of time. We don’t have the luxury of a worship leader, so we use music from CDs. This really can work well! But we don’t just throw something together, or play whatever we feel like hearing. We ask the Lord, “What would you like to hear tonight?” I put together a playlist which has been thought out and prayed into. It is worth the time and effort.

4. We begin to prepare an atmosphere of the Lord’s Presence before the other people arrive. Usually, we spend a half hour or more worshiping and praying together, just the two of us. We entreat the Lord to be among us, to make everyone’s heart sensitive to Him, to move among us in the gifts of the Spirit, and to help us be of one heart and mind with Him and with each other. In a church setting, this time of preparing the way for the Lord could be accomplished by church staff joining in prayer and worship together, or an intercessor team, or both.

Preparing for His Presence to come down in the corporate gathering is a lot like a farmer getting his field ready for planting. If he doesn’t do the preliminary plowing and harrowing, sowing the seed will not produce much of a crop.

Teach the people you lead to expect God to show up. Encourage them to prepare a place in their hearts ahead of time to meet God in worship. Creating expectancy in your congregation or group is huge. We encourage our group to fast and pray ahead of time, if possible.

We suggest that, prior to coming, they ask God to give them something to contribute to our meeting. If He does, fine. If He doesn’t give them anything, He probably will sometime during our evening together, because they have prepared their hearts to receive from Him.

We encourage them to spend the ride to our gathering focusing on the Lord, so that they come with reverent hearts, ready to encounter Him. When people thoughtlessly blow into a meeting, it takes longer for them to attune their hearts to the Lord. It affects the ability of the whole group to focus on worship when some of us are distracted and unprepared.

Keep worship as the priority. It is not a preliminary to the sermon or prayer meeting. It is the most important part of the gathering — because honoring God comes above all else. Derek Prince once said, “Worship is not an appendix to the Christian life; it is not a little addition to services. It is the culmination.”

We have had people join our group who were impatient to get past worship and dive right into prayer. They wanted to immediately get to the “doing” of intercession, without taking time “being” in their relationship with the Lord. We have always resisted that, and we always will. We’ve taught them that honoring God is more important than petitioning Him, and that when we do intercede, our prayers will be much more Spirit-targeted (and therefore more effective) if we worship first.

When people connect with the Lord through Presence-oriented worship, their bodies and emotions often get healed during that time of adoring Him. Worship tenderizes people’s hearts so that they can better hear what God wants to speak to them through preaching, teaching, and the prophetic gifts. Worship is the entrance into whatever genuine Kingdom activities any of us do.

United Pursuit has a song with the words, “We’re not in a hurry, when it comes to Your Presence, when it comes to Your Spirit, when it comes to Your Presence ….” That’s where we’re at, and that, I believe, is why we experience the Lord’s Presence, week after week.

Next time, I’d like to provide some practical ideas for worship leaders for how to bring the Presence of God into the gatherings they lead.


Previous — Part 3
Next — Part 5

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 3)

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann Rubsam

In the last two posts, I explained what is meant by the tangible Presence of God, why we need to experience Him in this way, and what that may look like. Today and in the next post, we’ll talk about simple ways we can invite the Lord to manifest His Presence in our Christian gatherings — prayer meetings, home fellowships, or church services, for instance. I particularly hope that pastors and other group leaders will find this post helpful.

The Lord truly desires to show up among His people. Has He not already said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20)? Why is it, then, that so many of our congregational gatherings are so dry? Why are people having difficulty connecting with God in the corporate setting?

It’s about attitudes and priorities. And, as with anything that goes on in the corporate gathering, the leaders — the ones who carry and implement the vision — are the place where change must start. If leaders don’t make God’s Presence top priority, it is unlikely to happen — at least on a consistent basis. I’m going to be speaking mainly to pastors for the rest of this post, but the following points can be applied by prayer and home fellowship leaders too:

If you want God to visit your service or gathering big-time, you will have to start with a major shift in what you value. Pastors face a tremendous amount of pressure to please people so that they keep coming. This is very real on a practical level, because if the people don’t come, the bills don’t get paid. It’s also real because in America, we’ve bought into the mentality that church numbers growth means we’re doing things right; we’re successful. It is definitely possible to grow a large church without the Presence of God. The people attending probably will be about as shallow spiritually as a layer of oil on water, but you can do it.

So, there’s a risk of losing people if you move toward a Presence-oriented church. You will have to decide, if push comes to shove, whether it is more important to make a place for natural-minded people to enjoy being entertained, or a place where God feels welcomed and honored. The two often don’t mix very well, so the Presence of God in your worship might mean taking heat from those who don’t want to grow deeper in the things of the Spirit. If you are willing to say, “God, I will do whatever it takes to make a place for Your Presence,” we can move on to the next point.

God’s agenda for any meeting must trump your plans. Going into any service or gathering with a plan is wisdom, but you must be willing to let God change the plan. That means, if your normal allotted time for praise and worship singing is twenty minutes, and you can see that the Holy Spirit is moving on people’s hearts, you won’t just shift into the next regularly scheduled segment of the service at the twenty-minute mark. If you do, you will grieve the Spirit. And, you will grieve the hearts of people who were beginning to be touched by Him.

Quite a few churches have adopted a separate service plan — one with a general social appeal and one for those who want to go deeper in the things of God. For instance, the Sunday morning service might feature lively praise music and a basic sermon, perhaps with an altar call. In most cases, the gifts of the Spirit won’t happen at this service, because it is thought they might scare away visitors and new or non-believers.

A service on another night of the week, once a month or more, is then provided. At these “encounter” services, more intimate worship is allowed, and at greater length. In a charismatic church, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are welcomed at this second service. Deeper preaching and teaching are presented, and prayer for healings and miracles is offered. The hope is that the Sunday morning crowd will eventually develop a deeper hunger for the Lord and begin adding the more Presence-oriented service into their church experience.

If the reasoning behind the two-service approach is to give the congregation a short period of time to adjust to more Presence-oriented services, this could help transition flow smoothly. But if the purpose is to appease both the spiritually hungry and the not-so-hungry, it is not going to work long-term. Why? Because we can’t push God from box to box, telling Him when to show up, and what He can and cannot do in a given service. It is an affront to Him. There may be exceptions, because God knows the heart behind why things are done the way they are, but eventually He will bring church leadership to the decision of who is Lord. If it is not THE Lord, the fire will die out.

I’ve probably lost some readers by now. But for those of you who want to go on, next time we will talk about practical ways we can invite God to pour out His Presence among us.

Previous: Part 2
Next: Part 4