Worship Renewal … the work of the Spirit

“Worship renewal is something that can only come through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is something for which we pray, not something we can achieve, or toward which we strive on our own.”

 If I spoke those words once I must have said them forty times over the course of the last few days during the Worship Renewal through Congregational Singing Weekend at Unity Baptist Church in Allardt.  What a precious people.  Names on church signs do not always aptly describe the people who meet in the building that the sign identifies.  I did not have to spend ten minutes inside the church house on Wednesday evening to recognize that the church sign at Unity was a sure revelation of the spirit of the congregation that met within these walls.  I could not help but think of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn 17:21)  Through the course of the following hours of the event which concluded Sunday night my heart was blessed as these loving people allowed me to participate in that sweet spirit of oneness that was Unity Baptist Church.

 Motivated by my firm conviction that worship renewal could only occur through the work of the Holy Spirit, I prayed earnestly for the Lord’s work and His timing in our experiences together during my time at the church which was not large in number, but unbounded in heart.  During the rainy drive back to middle Tennessee late last night I was faced with the faith steps that follow such ministry activity.  I had told the people of Unity that the “success” or value of these hours together would not be known until next Sunday when they re-gathered on a new Lord’s Day to sing their psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Though there were many of these sweet people who spoke words of affirmation, and invited me to “come back when you are in this part of the state,” the fact is that my immediate ministry in Allardt has been completed.  The Lord worked through our time together, and I am now trusting that He will continue to help these people to sing with head and heart in a renewed passion and understanding. 

 I have to admit that there is a strange tension that develops in me when I know I will not be present with those among whom I have ministered to observe what may be the result of that  ministry.  At least a part of the reason for such tension I believe to be the musician in me that is trained to prepare people to sing or play (through rehearsals), and then gets to guide them through the resultant musical presentation.  The work of the Spirit is obviously not like that.  A core principal of these Worship Renewal events is that they are ultimately not about music, but rather about singing our worship in a manner that is pleasing to God, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, and biblically sound.  It is not like at the closing of the last service I can say, “Ok, and now let’s all sing a worship song in the Spirit.  Ready? A one, and a two, and a.”

Your work in music as ministry most likely stretches you at this same point.  Music in whatever application is an artform that is performative, and as such capable of some evaluation as to its “goodness,” whether judged by entertainment value, musicality, emotional effectiveness, or sheer volume.  It is always tempting to rely on our musical ears to determine our ministry effect.  Using such measure we might determine, “They are all singing correctly with smiles on their faces, and toes tapping, therefore it must be good.”  On the negative side we may conclude, “People do not appear to be enthusiastic or even glad in their singing, therefore the singing is of no effect.”  Noting the work of the Holy Spirit of God in and through the singing of the church is a very different assessment.  It calls upon that most difficult exercise of our spiritual selves, faith.  We may not see or hear change in musical expression in the short term.  Thank God he is longsuffering.  Singing in the Spirit, however, is precisely the need of our worship through music.

Henry Blackaby states, “How desperate is the need in our world for churches that hear and follow what the Spirit is telling them!  The world in our day wants to see God at work through His people, but unless we hear and obey in the things He assigns us (things that only God can accomplish), the world will not experience Him; they will see only ‘religion’ and be turned away.” (What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches, Multinomah Press, 2003).

            We’ll join the everylasting song

            And crown Him Lord of all!

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