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Much of our modern worship philosophy centers around promoting one particular sound or style of musical expression.
Usually it is either the "happening" thing, or our favorite. This approach limits our experience of God. Rather He has made us
all unique creations and gifted each of us with a different way of expressing our love for Him. He intends our diversity to be a
blessing -- a way to understand the richness of who He is.
The real issue in worship is not style, cultural expression, or "beat," but rather "heartbeat." Jesus' teaching on the river of living water flowing from within us paints a beautiful picture of worship:
"Whoever takes a drink of the water I shall give him will never, no never, be thirsty anymore. But the water that I give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life." (Jn 4:14, Amplified)
The fountain, or River that never runs dry is not a style or sound but rather a flow of the Holy Spirit Himself welling up within us in an expression of worship to God. In practice it shouldn't matter which style of music you like or with which segment of the Body you choose to hang out. What matters is that you're truly loving God from your heart. Only you and God know where you stand in that regard.
The Bible also admonishes us to be all things to all men. With the many streams that are flowing together in the current renewal/revival that is sweeping the world, we get an opportunity to do just that. Whether we lead worship, or participate in a congregational setting, we have an opportunity to cross cultures or "jump streams" just like Jesus did when he offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus wasn't intimidated by difference and neither should we be. Regardless of the expression of worship, unity in diversity occurs when we recognize that we all embrace salvation in Christ, and all are worshipping the same God.
Here are a few insights God has given me to help me as I lead worship among believers whose expression of worship differs from mine and vice versa.
1) Love people out of the abundance of love God has given you.
Worship is about love. It's about our love flowing to the Father, and His love flowing back toward us, blessing, healing and wrapping us in His presence.
We read in Scripture that if we say we love God and hate our brother, we are liars (1 Jn 4:20). We also read that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pt 4:8).
I've sometimes found that other peoples' expressions of worship can seem almost as grating as someone's sin against me. But we can change our perception (and reactions) by focusing on loving them. This means cultivating an intimate relationship with our Father that lets His love flow from us to others. The more that God's love flows from us to others, the less we will tend to think that if they do things differently from us, their difference is automatically wrong, or perhaps, not "anointed."
Unfortunately, if we entertain these thoughts we might be the ones sinning by judging another man's freedom or expression of freedom.
I remember once, while leading worship in England, God gave me a prophetic word: "I'm healing my Church," He said. As I spoke this word, I heard audible amens and groans of agreement. As we began to worship, everyone began shouting, dancing and laughing. I immediately took on a religious mindset thinking, "How inappropriate. If God is healing us we should be sad and mourning and sensitive." Then God whispered to me, "This is appropriate. I'm healing them and the joy of the Lord is their strength."
I had completely misjudged their response. The Holy Spirit seemed to say to me, "Move among them and embrace what I'm doing." As I stepped into this praising crowd and prayed for them, God reminded me that He is love poured out of my heart toward them. God is love, and the differences in our manner of expression of our love toward Him need not block the flow of His love through us.
2) Don't compromise what God has invested in you.
Each of us is unique before the Lord, and has our own unique manner of expressing love to Him. When we love Him for all the ways He shows His greatness, He reveals to us who we are and how we are to respond to Him.
With this attitude we can be genuine. In a new worship environment we must take a step of faith whether we are leading worship or participating in it. We can say in our hearts, "This isn't an expression of worship with which I'm familiar, but we are worshipping the same God, so I'll join in and tell Him how much I love Him." Suddenly we see the unity in the Spirit.
3) Cultivate humility as your greatest act of worship.
We are instructed in God's Word to esteem others more highly than we do ourselves (Phil 2:3), and this affects our attitudes and actions.
I have found that when I'm either leading or participating in a worship style different from my own, pride may try to take over and cause me to draw a comparison. I think: "I'm sure glad we do things differently at our church." Or "Boy, these people sure need to learn more about worship."
That kind of response sets us up for failure in our ability to move in God's stream. The response of a humble heart might be: "I'm here to serve these people." Or, "God can teach me something through them."
For many years now we've been experiencing a growing tide of worship all over the world. We are coming closer to seeing God's purpose for humankind culminate in an amazing expression of multi-facetted worship flowing from all nations, kindreds, and tribes in adoration of the King of Kings.
God is preparing us for an awesome gathering of all the streams of worship into one river of praise. Though we have many expressions, styles and methodologies, there is but one theme -- to express love from our hearts to Him. Go ahead -- jump streams! Tell Him you love Him in a new language of worship!
Bob Fitts is a recording artist and songwriter. He is the featured singer and worship leader on four of Integrity Hosanna's music albums. Fitts, who also pioneered the School of Worship, is based at YWAM's University of the Nations, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Practising What You Preach
Several years ago I faced a unique test of my openness in worship. I was ministering at a music school that encouraged young musicians in their gifts and in serving God. I had already taught a few sessions on being able to "jump streams." In other words, I urged them to have hearts so trained on being in God's river (Is 49) that they would not be bothered by the many different streams, or styles of worship, that flow together to form that river.
On the morning of my third session, as I entered the lecture hall, the school leader informed me that a special guest praise band would lead the pre-class worship. I watched as several, uh, rather "interestingly" dressed individuals walked up to the microphones.
Let me interject that I consider myself pretty open but what happened tested my attitudes. When they began to sing, my heart froze.
As best as I can remember, the noise sounded like the song "Our God is an awesome God." Any similarity ended with the title. Vocally and musically contorted, post-heavy metal sounds violated my eardrums with a sort of "grunge-style" worship. I actually felt embarrassed for the team. The harder they tried to involve everyone in the long, laboured refrain, the more painful the situation grew.
How was I going to get past this one? My immediate response was to shut my eyes very hard. I forced myself to exercise what I had been teaching: to "jump streams" and begin worshipping God. I kept my eyes closed and started singing the words of this great worship chorus. The more I let words pour from my heart, the more I sensed a bonding with the band. I just made a point of keeping my eyes closed. If I peeked, it was all over.
As the song waned, I sensed the room was unusually quiet -- in fact, a little tense. I peeked from one eye and noticed all the students in the room had turned to look at me! Giggles and smiles broke across their faces as they said, almost in one accord, "It's a joke, Bob!" The music team then revealed who they really were and began to lead out in much more familiar praise and worship. Deep in my heart I found myself saying, "Passed that test!"
Bob Fitts, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Recording artist & songwriter
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