As we move further in the engagement phase (of worship), we move more and more into loving and intimate language. Being in God’s presence excites our hearts and minds and we want to praise him for the deeds he has done, for how he has moved in history, for his character and attributes. Jubilation is that heart swell within us in which we want to exalt him. The heart of worship is to be united with our Creator and with the church universal and historic. Remember, worship is going on all the time in heaven, and when we worship we are joining that which is already happening, what has been called the communion of saints. Thus there is a powerful corporate dynamic. Often this intimacy causes us to meditate, even as we are singing, on our relationship with the Lord. Sometimes we recall vows we have made before our God. God might call to our mind disharmony or failure in our life, thus confession of sin is involved. Tears may flow as we see our disharmony but his harmony; our limitations but his unlimited possibilities. This phase in which we have been awakened to his presence is called expression. Physical and emotional expression in worship can result in dance and body movement. This is an appropriate response to God if the church is on that crest. It is inappropriate if it is whipped up or if the focal point is on the dance rather than on true jubilation in the Lord. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON WORSHIP.
Back in the day, John and Carol Wimber shepherded a small group of people who had come to the end of themselves. Many had been involved in church life for years, serving diligently, giving their very best efforts to keep the church they attended alive and well. Over time, their energies waned. Business-as-usual had become the status quo. The vibrant church life they had once known and enjoyed had grown into a dry, stale routine. Hungry for God but tired in body, mind and spirit, this group of worn-out Christ-followers decided to lay down their ministries and simply spend time sitting in God’s presence, waiting on him to come to them rather than continuing to work hard at doing church for God.
Over time, during their seasons of waiting on God, the Holy Spirit began teaching these burned-out, dry-as-a-cracker Christians a pattern of corporate worship that brought them new life. Over the years, as God began blessing their broken and worn-out lives with his presence once more, John and Carol began to note a pattern to their worship experiences. This pattern of worship, when practiced faithfully by men and women who truly wanted God’s presence more than a typical church experience, became what John eventually called the five phases of worship.
As we’ve discussed thus far in this section of our blog series, the first step in the fine art of worship-making is the simple call to worship, followed, second, by our intentional engagement with God in worship. The third phase is where you and I intentionally choose to abandon ourselves and our fleshly interests, allowing ourselves and others to freely express our feelings toward God, which is, quite honestly, a place most Christians in our culture rarely allow ourselves to go.
As I see it, most human beings are conditioned by society on what behavior is appropriate in public and what is not. For example, most Christians grow up in church environments where the word worship is just another way of defining the typical Sunday morning service we hold in our church buildings. Sadly, so few Christians today realize that the word worship, as found in the Scriptures, is actually referring to a bodily expression!
Did you realize, for example, that the first time the word worship appears in the Bible (the Hebrew word is shachah) is when father Abraham is found trekking up the mountain, responding in obedience to God’s outrageous instructions to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, as a love offering to God? It’s here in Genesis 22,we find these words:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
In this passage of Scripture, worship is defined, not as a song to be sung toward God, but as an act of extravagant obedience. Here, Abraham has 1) heard God’s invitation to worship, 2) engaged himself by actively moving forward on those things God has invited him to, and now 3) is ready to express his love back to God in extreme ways that, quite honestly, go far beyond any of our comfort zones.
Fortunately, in our day and time, God is not asking us to sacrifice any of our children on his holy altar. Praise God, that act of obedience was accomplished, once and for all, by God, himself, when he took that job on by asking his own Son, Jesus of Nazareth, to die for our sins!
But here’s the rub.
While God is no longer looking for any earth-dweller to die for our sins, he is still looking for those who love and trust him to physically engage ourselves in acts of extravagant love, which express our hearts of gratification to a Holy God who loves us so much that he sent his own Son to die for us!
So the next time you and I find ourselves in corporate worship, might I suggest that we practice John Wimber’s third phase of worship in full, going far beyond our traditional ways of worship; where opening up a songbook and singing a song or two to God is about as radical as it gets?
How about if we actually tried worshipping like the Hebrew word for worship calls us to? In Genesis 22, the word worship (shachah) actually means to lay prostrate before God, which could include humbly laying down our fleshly dreams, while expressing our deep, deep love and appreciation for a God who has done so much to restore us back into right relationship with himself! Let’s remember that “Worship is human response to a gracious God, and it needs to be placed in this context if it is to be properly understood.”
Now that kind of worship, when expressed on Sunday mornings, might look a bit different than most of us are used to, don’t you think? But hold on to your hats, folks. Wait till you see what Wimber expected phases four and five of our corporate worship to look like. Join us next time.
God, I confess that my expression of worship seems pretty lame when compared to the worship of father Abraham found in Genesis 22. For him, expressing his love to you was, indeed, a costly investment! I am thankful that you are no longer looking for that act of radical obedience, but I do believe that now Jesus has accomplished that sacrificial act of worship on my behalf, I can certainly go a lot further in my expression of love to you, my saving grace. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How have I allowed my worship of God to be tamed down because of my fears of what others might say or what the established church might call extreme?
- Am I truly “worshipping,” expressing my love freely to my God, or am I holding back, trying to stay in comfort zones that have been determined by others as appropriate?
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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