Not only is it helpful to understand why and how we worship God, it is also helpful to understand what happens when we worship God. In the Vineyard we see five basic phases of worship, phases through which leaders attempt to lead the congregation. Understanding these phases is helpful in our experience of God. Keep in mind that as we pass through these phases we are headed toward one goal: intimacy with God. I define intimacy as belonging to or revealing one’s deepest nature to another (in this case to God), and it is marked by close association, presence, and contact. The first phase (of worship) is the call to worship, which is a message directed toward the people. It is an invitation to worship. This might be accomplished through a song like, “Come Let us Worship and Bow Down.” Or it may be jubilant, such as through the song, “Don’t You Know It’s Time to Praise the Lord?” The underlying thought of the call to worship is “Let’s do it, let’s worship now.” Song selection for the call to worship is quite important, for this sets the tone for the gathering and directs people to God. Is it the first night of a conference when many people may be unfamiliar with the songs and with others in attendance? Or is it the last night, after momentum has been building all week? If this is a Sunday morning worship time, has the church been doing the works of God all week? Or has the church been in the doldrums? If the church has been doing well, Sunday worship rides on the crest of a wave. All these thoughts are reflected in the call to worship. The ideal is that each member of the congregation be conscious of these concerns, and pray that the appropriate tone be set in the call to worship. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON WORSHIP.
One of the real benefits from being around a guy like John Wimber was the fact that he not only was a passionate worshipper of God, but he also had an amazing ability to take very holy moments with Jesus and assist others in accessing those powerful experiences as well.
As I see it, it wasn’t good enough for John to have a spiritual experience with God by himself or with just a few close friends. John, a pastor who always seemed to be thinking about others, made a career out of finding practical ways the larger body of Christ could access those same holy moments he was experiencing. Thus, the expression that became so popular in the Vineyard: “Everybody can play.”
Case in point?
John’s intriguing list of the five phases of worship. I like to call it five steps in the fine art of worship-making:
- The Call to Worship.
- Engagement in Worship.
- Expressing Our Love.
- Visitation of God.
- Generosity Toward God.
Once the folks in the early days of the Vineyard began experiencing God in powerful ways through worship (see our last blog where Carol Wimber shares her story), John Wimber set out to help others find their way into God’s presence as well. For him, it just wasn’t good enough for the Yorba Linda church to be experiencing God in worship. He wanted all of his other pastoral friends in other churches to be experiencing God as well. Thus, he wrote down for us his thoughts on how worship leaders might re-arrange their worship times so that it best accomplished our actual goal in worship: positioning God’s people in God’s loving presence.
So step one, as he called it, is the Call to Worship.
I find it intriguing that so many worship leaders, even today, seem oblivious to the way we do worship in many of our churches. With all the power point graphics, choreographed staging, and multi-colored floodlights, we so often forget that worship is not about entertainment, but coming into the presence of God. And if we’d ever stop long enough to think about it, coming into the presence of God is a holy thing. And since it’s a holy moment, pastors and worship leaders might want to consider how we, as God’s people, might want to choose more carefully the way we are entering into his presence. Sadly, so many worship leaders just throw out a “get-the-butts-in-the-seats” kind of song for an opener, while never really giving much thought to what this opening song is all about! What might change in our worship experiences in many of our churches, if we’d spend more time, preparing more carefully in choosing the songs that might best serve our church community in getting ourselves ready to worship the Lord? Songs of invitation. Songs of encouragement. Songs combined with scriptural readings or other visual presentations that actually invite God’s people to begin the trek into his presence.
And what about this challenging thought? Why do so many church leaders in contemporary settings today believe that the “worship” of God begins and ends with our music set? Certainly when we are exploring the importance of calling God’s people into his presence, we should never be so limited in our perspective that we believe that it’s only by music that people can enter into a time of worshipping God.
Think for a moment how we see this pattern in the Scriptures.
The Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) come to mind as scriptural evidence that the ancient psalmists gave great thought to ways that best prepared God’s people as they came closer toward their creator/king. And what about Jesus? In the gospels, we don’t see the Master pounding out deep spiritual truths with his followers without first being very careful in inviting them to “come, follow me.” Maybe it’s time for pastors and worship leaders to get our heads together before each Sunday morning service and ask God how he might want to call his people into worship today?
Hmm. What a concept!
Seeking God on how we might do church versus just doing it out of our own strength. Thanks, John. I needed that!
Father God, as I see it, the fine art of worship-making needs to be restored in your church once again. Thank you for John Wimber’s thoughts on how your people might best approach such a holy thing as worship. May you teach us once more how to respect the acts of worship, so that each step we take toward you is well-thought-out and done with great honor and respect. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How have I allowed the act of worship to become sloppy in my life?
- Have I become so familiar with the standardized approach to corporate worship in the American church that I’ve lost the fine art of worship-making?
- What needs to change in my approach toward worship in my church so that I’m more aware of the great need for the “call to worship” as we begin our time together?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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