The Ways of the Holy Spirit: in Public Worship
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21-24 NIV
The Adventure of Spirit-led, Spirit-Empowered Worship
It is intended to be a partnership of pulpit, platform, and pew. What do I mean? I mean it cannot be done by just the pastor or even by only the singers and instrumentalists on the platform. This worship takes place in the whole house. It is not a spectator event. The people in the pews are essential. If you decide not to worship God, you won’t have a worship service. It will be something else—a concert, a lecture, a ritual, but not an encounter with the King of Kings.
This kind of worship is not something that a worship leader drives people to do. I can’t make anything good happen. All I can do is plan what I believe to be the will of God for that service and then worship God in front of you. I can keep it from happening just like you can. But I cannot make it happen.
When we enter into the partnership, that is, when we mutually agree to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, then we can worship. WE can encounter the King. WE can be changed. WE can be healed and delivered and informed and inspired and rebuked and admonished and corrected and edified, made better, improved—because we have been with Jesus.
In this article I want to explore the role of the Holy Spirit in all of this. What are His goals? How does He lead us to prepare for worship? How does He lead us as we worship? How does He empower our worship to accomplish the supernatural?
Goals of the Holy Spirit in a Public Worship Service
We can see from Scripture, the Holy Spirit has certain goals for each service of worship.
(1) He wants to exalt the Lord Jesus,
(2) The Holy Spirit wants to edify the church, and
(3) The Holy Spirit wants to move in a fitting and orderly way.
Exalting the Lord
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26).
When Pentecostals get excited about the Holy Spirit, we are really getting excited about Jesus. Why? Because the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus real to us. Along the way other marvelous things happen: we are filled with joy; healing flows among us, words of knowledge and wisdom pass through us, gifts of faith operate and we see miracles, but this is all because Jesus is among us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Edifying the Church
By the Holy Spirit we know we are part of the family of God.
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this Ihave spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:22-26)
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:7-16)
He comes among us to strengthen us.
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Cor 14:26)
The Holy Spirit wants to empower us for witness and service.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Moving in a fitting and orderly way
The Holy Spirit is not wild fire, a destructive force than destroys at random. He is more like a torch, a concentrated fire than burns for a constructive purpose, or a lamp, a gentle flame that warms our darkness. Paul describes the fire this way:
“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor 14:40).
How Does He Lead Us to Prepare for Worship?
We must prepare ourselves to worship just as the Old Testament priests did. We must purify ourselves through repentance and focus our hearts on God. As a Worship Leader I must also prepare my own heart with humility and a sequence of songs (the liturgy) we will use to minister to God. I must find the “fitting and orderly way” the Holy Spirit wants us to Worship God. This theme-for-the-day is the “Truth” the Spirit wants to emphasize and the liturgy is a list of songs that expresses the theme.
Some traditional worshipers chafe at the idea of planning the sequence of songs we use. Isn’t it more spiritual to just start in singing and see where the Lord takes us? This can be powerful, of course, and is the exact course I recommend for worship at the altar. But for worship before the sermon, I believe the Lord wants us to prepare ahead of time. This is not difficult for the Holy Spirit. We are the ones who have trouble managing time. God is the master of time! This is prophetic nature of leading worship—going into the future by the power of the Holy Spirit and sensing what the Lord will want in that service. This is what we expect the preacher to do and it should also be expected of the one who chooses the liturgy (songs).
Planning Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered worship requires both pre-planning and flexibility. I find the better I plan before the service, the more flexible I can be in the service. For me this means gathering the repertoire of the church before me. I have lists of every song we have sung and those we plan to sing as well as those we have purchased music for. When I plan I want to be ready to go anywhere the Lord wants me to go in song selection: new songs we are learning or can learn that day, old songs we knew as children, great songs from the history of the church and scripture songs from the Bible itself. Knowing the theme for the day (the Truth the Spirit wants) allows me to draw from the tremendous wealth of new and old music so that all generations of the family can be engaged in worship.
How Does He Lead Us As We Worship God?
The Holy Spirit leads us from within. We have “ears to hear” what the Spirit in saying to the church.(Revelation 2:7) Just as in the Book of Acts and in 1 Corinthians, this is the duty of all the worshipers, not just the leaders.(Acts 15:28; 1 Cor 14:29) In my experience there is a sense of correctness when we are being led of the Spirit and a sense of incorrectness when we are not.
Here are two ways the Holy Spirit helps us worship:
(1) The Holy Spirit purifies the heart of the worshiper and the offering we present to the Lord. (Malachi 3:1,2)Jesus is the one who makes our sacrifice of praise and worship worthy. As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 )
This means that we worship by faith in the finished work of Christ just as we are saved by faith in the finished work of Christ. He makes out paltry songs sound majestic in the ears of God. He delivers to the Father our imperfect praise made perfect by His blood. There are many wonderful reasons for making the best music we can unto the Lord, but He does not reject or accept our worship based on our musicality, but upon the sincerity and purity of our hearts.
(2) He empowers our words.(James 5:16) There is a powerful flow of the Holy Spirit when we lift our voices to the
Lord in praise and prayer from sincere and pure hearts. When we reach down deep into the depths of the well of our spirit and bring up a song of adoration, the Holy Spirit empowers our words. They ring out on earth, reach up heaven and even reverberate in hell, making demons tremble. No wonder Paul says,
“So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (1 Cor 14:15)
We worship by the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus empowers our praise, our worship and our prayers.
How Does He Impact the World Through Worship?
The Holy Spirit moves in public worship through the Gifts of the Spirit. Paul makes it clear in his letter of instruction to the church at Corinth:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom,
to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,
to another miraculous powers,
to another prophecy,
to another distinguishing between spirits,
to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,
and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Cor 12:7-11)
The world is hungry for the supernatural. This is seen in the entertainment industry but people need more than fantasy and special effects. They need the real, healing presence of the Lord. This has always been the gift Pentecost offers to the world. I believe that the scriptural operation of the Gifts of the Spirit is essential to the evangelistic impact of our churches. By these gifts the Holy Spirit brings God’s power to bear on issues in our lives and in our world.
The Classical Spirit-Led, Spirit-Empowered Worship Structure
The following graphic illustrates how Spirit-led Worship works to bless God, build the church and bridge the gap between God and mankind.
· Through WORSHIP the congregation reaches out to God, ministering to Him–The church worships God!
· Through the WORD, God speaks to those assembled, ministering to us–God speaks to the church!
· At the ALTAR everyone responds Worship and Word and we minister to the world–The church prays together!
Behold the adventure of Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered worship: We are led by the Holy Spirit to encounter Jesus; touched by the Holy Spirit to be changed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world! Why would you want any other kind of worship?
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved