An Open Letter to Vineyard Worship Leaders.


Introducing Quiet Fire: Tools of Spiritual Formation in Worship.

Probably the most significant lesson that (we) and the early Vineyard Fellowship learned was that worship is the act of freely giving love to God. Indeed, in Psalm 18:1 we read, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Worship is also an expression of awe, submission, and respect toward God. Our heart’s desire should be to worship God; we have been designed by God for this purpose. If we don’t worship God, we’ll worship something or someone else. John Wimber

As many of you know, worship, or as John Wimber called it, “the act of freely giving love to God,” has always played a major role in the life of Vineyard churches. In truth, since our earliest days back in 1977, Vineyard worship leaders have often found themselves on the cutting edge of contemporary worship. When the Holy Spirit broke out in great power on Mother’s Day 1980, it thrust John & Carol Wimber and the entire Vineyard family front and center, with worship right at the centerpiece of all God was doing. Anointed pioneers in worship, such as Carl Tuttle, Eddie Espinosa, and others, were right there, leading the people of God into the sweet presence of Jesus. A decade or so later, as the Holy Spirit moved powerfully in Toronto, Brownsville, and other cities across North America, Vineyard worship leaders such as Andy Park, Brian Doerksen, David Ruis, and others were there, as well, offering a musical soundtrack to all God seemed to be doing in our midst.

As I see it, the Vineyard is standing on the edge of yet another in-breaking work of the Spirit that is just beginning to sweep across the larger church of North America. This move of God is not as visible to the human eye as previous outpourings of the Spirit, but powerful, none the less. I’m beginning to call this unique move of God, Quiet Fire, and as a Vineyard pastor/worship leader for much of the last 30+ years, I must tell you that I’ve not seen this much Kingdom power moving in God’s people since my earliest days with the Vineyard.

Like previous moves of the Holy Spirit, at its very core, Quiet Fire is a powerful invitation from Jesus, beckoning His church to return to ancient biblical truths and principles. As with most awakenings and renewals of God’s people, Jesus is simply inviting us to stop, look, and listen, allowing the Spirit to gently restore us and our busy lives to a slower-paced, simpler and more sustainable faith where we intentionally make more open space in our lives for Kingdom activity. Over the last four years, I’ve seen and experienced, first hand, this Quiet Fire of the Holy Spirit as I’ve been working alongside people, training them in tools of spiritual formation through Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. In nearly every student I’ve been around, young and old, I’ve noted some amazing transformation in the life of individuals, growth in Christian discipleship I’ve rarely seen before.

Change is when you take on something new, but transformation is when something old gets removed from your life while something new is being birthed…and you are not the one who is initiating it! Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back To You

It’s my sense that Jesus is inviting Vineyard worship leaders to step into the waters of transformation, a Quiet Fire, allowing Him to show us how we might, once again, compliment a move of God through the worship we lead in both small-group and corporate settings. So, if indeed, this invitation to renewal is legit, how might we Vineyard worship leaders respond?



TIP ONE: Begin by introducing the concepts of God inviting a fast-paced, stressed-out people to Slowing Down & Being Silent.

Psalm 46:10  Be still, and know that I am God.

1st Kings 19:11-12  Then (Elijah) was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

Matthew 11:28-30 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Might I suggest that you introduce the God-concepts of slowing down & silence in worship by placing more spaces of quiet throughout a worship set. Look at your song set. Is there proper pacing in the set with some space to breathe, or is it a bang-bang-bang proposition? Overall, I’d suggest you try simply slowing down the pace of your set, leaving a bit of breathing room between songs. Next, you might begin reminding folks that silence is an act of worship, placing an occasional 30-45 second segment of silence within your set, making room for a “resting” place where no one talks or plays an instrument. Invite the congregation into the silence, encouraging them to meet with God, via the presence of the Holy Spirit, along the way.


TIP TWO: Invite your people to learn to rest in the Presence and Power of God’s Word.

Many pastors and church-leaders are re-discovering the power of the ancient spiritual discipline of Bible reading called Lectio Divina. This fancy Latin word simply means a slow, repetitive reading of short sections of Scripture. Worship leaders can easily introduce the themes of Lectio Divina by inserting an occasional text from God’s Word within the song set. Invite the congregation to close their eyes and listen with their heart as you, or one of the worship team, reads a short text, slowly once or twice. Instrumental music behind these Lectio Divina readings can be helpful as well. You might even form a short question at the end of the reading, inviting the Holy Spirit to speak truth to each person as you continue in worship.

For those who are song-writers, I encourage you to write more worship songs that might incorporate the ancient discipline of Lectio Divina. Again, many times, less is more and the idea of repeating a text works well when the words are formed into a song stanza or chorus.


TIP THREE:  Be sure your worship experience touches the mind, the body, the spirit, and soul.

It’s very normal over time for worshippers to go into a worship routine that becomes, in a sense, a mindless experience. We stand, we sing three songs, we sit down. All the while our minds and bodies are simply going through motions. I suggest that you look carefully at your worship experience, re-evaluating everything you do, making sure our worship is a ‘whole-body’ experience. Are we inviting folks to engage fully into worship? Are we as interested in body, soul, and spirit, as we are the intellect behind the songs we are singing?

One of the biggest breakthroughs in the early days of Vineyard worship was our growing awareness that God wants access to all of who we are. We want to move our pursuit of God from being just in our head to also including our heart. I suggest you begin experimenting with varying ways in which we worship. There are a multitude of scriptures, for example, inviting God’s people to stand, kneel, raise hands, lay prostrate before the Lord, etc. Many of our songs actually sing about kneeling or the raising of hands, etc., but I’ve found that most people need our permission to do such things in corporate worship. Without making a spectacle of it, slowly introduce concepts of kneeling, or bowing, or the raising of hands during times of worship. Make these practices into common things the people do, not badges of Christian maturity or superiority.

Another way to expand our worship experience is to include other icons of creation into our worship set using things such as artwork, poetry, dance, and drama to spark people’s imagination and creativity. Tie these creative ideas into scripture and you’ll have a tool belt of varying disciplines which, when used wisely, can help your congregation enter more fully into the presence and power of God.


TIP FOUR: As you continue introducing spiritual formation tools to your congregation, I encourage you to move yourself from being the “worship leader” to the “worship facilitator.”

In truth, Jesus is the true worship leader in your church and you, as a follower of Him, are simply there to mid-wife, or companion the Master as He invites His people to worship. Facilitating the work of the Holy Spirit in worship will require good planning, yet flexibility with that plan, combined with better listening & responding to all Jesus, the true worship leader of your church, is directing you to facilitate.

John Wimber once met with a team of Vineyard worship leaders, giving them a good reminder of this lesson. “Guys and gals,” John quipped, “your job as worship leaders is not to lead people into your presence! Your work is to bring God’s people into the presence of God and then get the hell off the stage as fast as you can!” In other words, allow the Holy Spirit to equip you as facilitator of worship, giving Him the leadership role in the worship set you’ve developed.


TIP FIVE:  Making changes in the way we lead worship are not things to be hurried. As a matter of fact, this Quiet Fire, this slowing down, quieting ourselves move of God cannot be rushed without defeating it at its very core.

Go slow with instituting any changes we might discuss here. This is the slow-work of God we’re experiencing. Unlike the “big-bang” of past Holy Spirit renewals, my sense is that we are seeing God’s power but in smaller, more hidden ways. One good rule to remember in all this is: Less is More. Keep in mind, as well, that you can’t give away something you aren’t experiencing, first-hand, yourself. I encourage you to step out of the busy traffic of day-to-day ministry, taking plenty of time to soak your soul in God’s presence on a regular basis.

And, oh yes…one final thing. Be prepared for resistance. Change is hard. Reformation is not popular. Pray, seek the Lord’s direction in all this, discern His timing, and then hold firm to this new work of God going on in our midst.

…and enjoy the journey with Jesus!

Our desire, as spiritual directors trained through Sustainable Faith, is to network Vineyard worship leaders (and pastors) who are interested in sharing thoughts and ideas as we all respond to INTRODUCING QUIET FIRE: TOOLS OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION IN WORSHIP. Please drop us an email (click on pics) and let us know your thoughts. We want to hear from you!

martyb-heyyou  Marty Boller, Pastor @ Vineyard-at-Home, Cedar Rapids, IA

Justin (1) Justin Law, Pastor/Worship Leader @ River Heights Vineyard, Inver Grove Heights, MN

sarahcook Sarah Cook, Worship Leader/Spiritual Director @ Vineyard Church, Overland Park, KS

amber Amber Gunstream, Pastor of Spiritual Formation/Worship Leader @ Vineyard Church, Boise, ID

rod Rod Dugan, Worship Leader/Spiritual Director @ Vineyard-at-Home, Cedar Rapids, IA

READ MORE about the early days of Vineyard worship.