A Theological Course Correction For Worship Leaders And Pastors
The following is, I submit, a theological course correction necessary for Worship Leaders and Pastors who lead in settings that intentionally welcome the Holy Spirit to be “manifest” as we engage in worship. It is for those who love when the presence of the Holy Spirit is experienced, at all levels, by a community who has gathered to worship.
First of all, let me affirm this: I love the Holy Spirit. I also love when the Holy Spirit is manifest in a room in a palpable way, and people are responding (aided by expressions of worship) to the invisible, yet overwhelming, presence of the living, loving, ever-present God.
But as pastors and worship leaders, we have a responsibility to think about the way we talk about that experience to our congregations. We may mean one thing theologically, but when we’re not careful with our words, we communicate another. Theological ideas can be helpful or unhelpful to the discipleship of Christians – what we believe about God and how He works – and the following addresses what I believe to be a theologically faulty way of talking about God’s presence in any given worship environment.
Do We Bring The Presence Of God When We Lead Worship?
Here is my answer: We don’t “bring” the Presence of God by our music, worship, messages, or prayers.
I believe such language is theologically faulty, and confuses Christians when we use it. It suggests that we ourselves are the primary actors in the worship story, and that our actions precipitate whether or not the omnipresent God is “there” or not.
My hands were folded over my throat as I sat in the chair, quietly praying, and waiting for the doctor to enter. I was scheduled to have surgery the next week, and this was my pre-procedure scope. As the scope descended into my larynx and the ENT and I watched the screen, neither of us was prepared for what we would see next.
[Listen To The Full Audio Sermon below]
An Unforeseen Honk
I’ve been working my voice hard for over 25 years. As a songwriter, speaker, worship leader, radio communicator, and voiceover artist, I’ve made a living from my voice for decades. However, the winter previous, I pushed my voice to its limits – and the result left me with a damaged voice.
A large cyst had formed on the left side of a my vocal cord, and a small node on the right.
In Mark 11:1-11, Jesus is entering the Great Jerusalem, meaning “City of Shalom, City of completeness, wholeness, of God’s all-permeating Peace.” But as the Prince of Peace enters – the Prince of Shalom Himself – a holy mess is about to be made.
Jesus marks the beginning of His Passion week, as crowds before Him, crowds behind Him, and crowds all around Him voice a singular cry: “Hosanna!” – a cry of triumphant praise, that means “Save, now!” But no one is prepared for the kind of saving, the kind of rescue operation, the kind of deliverance mission about to be initiated by the One whose very name, Y’shua, means “The Lord saves.”
The year is 1984, and George Orwell’s dystopian future has not come to pass. A 50-year old musician’s career has reached an all-time low. A song he is about to write, rooted in a word that is thousands of years old, will rise like a phoenix from his creative ashes – flying right into the popular consciousness of a generation.
He is sitting on the floor of his hotel room in New York City, clad in only his underwear, with numerous lyric-filled notebooks strewn around him. He is banging his head on the floor as he struggles to complete a song for which he has 80 draft verses; a song that has been stuck inside him for at least two years.
No Meme, Post, Lyric, Or Teaching Will Change A Destiny.
If we believe a Gospel of words will change our culture, we are misguided. It is a Gospel of power that changes lives. Lives changed by the power of God, in turn, create a culture that has the power to change culture.
Words convey powerful ideas, but no meme, post, lyric, or teaching will change a destiny. It is the Spirit’s power working through words, or perhaps more accurately, words formed by and articulating the leading Gospel of power, that will bring transformation.