David leads people in worship at his church. He writes in and asks:
“How can we create an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to move?”
David, I grew up around churches and many pastors who actually believed that the job of music and its leaders was to prepare pastors for their upcoming sermon presentation; Somewhat of a John the Baptist, “prepare ye the way”.
I am sorrowful to tell you that this has not only not changed, it has escalated. And now the preacher has added the Holy Spirit to the equation. He is in such a weak state before the sermon that it has become a trinitarian job–that of preparing him. Music-Musician-Holy Spirit. In his insecurity, he wants/needs the people whipped up before he stands up, as if public worship is a sales meeting, reality game show or a Truck Bog!
You and I must decide if being a servant to God includes deceit and manipulations—a loss of integrity.
The first effort is to understand why such an endeavor is futile and contrary to truth. The Holy Spirit is desiring to create discernment within each of us–a discernment that spots and rejects all efforts at supposing we try to be “atmospheric-engineers”.
Can I discern by God’s Spirit within me when I am abusing the truth and quenching the Spirit, by pretending to do his work for him?
Today, our “modern” or “contemporary” music-driven services are too often heavy laden with emotional appeal and bone-dry of balanced, theological content. It’s leaders often demand an atmosphere be replicated (copied from a “successful” church) as demonstration and proof of God’s presence via the Holy Spirit. And yes, imposters are allowed. In fact, imposters are required to pull off carnal and deception.
If we could whip up a Holy-Spirit-moving atmosphere, we do a seance of sorts in which we:
1-Turn the house lights down—stage lights up–Stand for 20 minutes and sway to the rhythms and offerings of the band.
2-Repeat phrases over and over as if doing so will make me mean what I am saying more.
3-Enter a quasi, hypnotic state of being in which feelings justify the presentation. Attribute this to God’s Spirit.
4-Get more touchy-feely shallowness, with a hint and a nod to the scriptures from the pulpit to make it all seem legit.
4-Leave the way we came in.
5-Come back next week and repeat.
6-Do this for years until it is just as deadening as our forefathers singing the same 25 hymns in their rote-emotionless, robotic liturgy of sameness.
7- Watch as the next generation overthrows the system (including worship-wars) with their updated version of “true” worship and pray it goes 180 to a balance (truth and spirit) and not 360 to a B version of A.
Such versions of experience within Christianity are identical to any other deception we can experience in a fallen world.
Psychology Today (June 2014) Preston Ni comments: “Psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense.”
“There are those whose primary ability is to spin wheels of manipulation. It is their second skin and without these spinning wheels, they simply do not know how to function.” C. Joy Bell
Congregational members will become victims and or mere customers to a manipulator. Television evangelists who claim to heal are there to steal. Local churches are not immune to such deception in Christ’s name. If the “minister” can be verbose, effervescent, loud and a bit on the angry side, this is often enough to convince the weak believer of such a shyster being real. Wolves can even look quite stylish in sheep’s clothing. Even formerly sound Evangelical churches now have leadership who prefer cultural conformity over doctrinal soundness.
Remember: “An empty waggon can make a lot of noise”.
Remember: “We must stop acting like children. We must not let deceitful people trick us by their false teachings, which are like winds that toss us around from place to place. Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love.” Ephesians 4:14-16
So then, the new question for the leader of people in worship is this:
How can we become an open vessel to the Spirits desire to move in each of us—without pretension, without prescription, absent of my talent or skill set being a prerequisite?
Start with leadership that is not CEO-driven.–money–power–larger crowds–more money–more power–more control–more deception…
And if you are really interested in knowing the truth about personal motives and manipulations, try going out into public without any “make-up”. Have services void of support from the Actors Guild.
–Try having no music, no light show, no front man pretentiously selling the gospel and none of the other “essentials” that God must have in order to be worshipped.
–Deny anyone the opportunity to “strategize” anything or “atmosphere” the building.
–Send the “worship leader” and musicians out into the audience.
NOTE: This audience will now be asked to once again become a congregation. Expect great discomfort initially.
–Send the clock watchers and program directors to a vacation in the prayer room.
–Read the scriptures together. Have them read to each other by people who believe them and live them.
–Pray and read some more. Start with I Peter 5—qualifications for your minister’s character and motives.
–Do this long enough that all the show-time “worship” can be seen for what it really is.
We have been under its influence so long that if real worship came along, we wouldn’t recognize it or desire it. When someone goes on a sugar or salt fast, they discover just how demanding their cravings became. Then, sensitivity to truth happens. Then, upon the first taste of a coke or a nacho-fest, they have a choice to make about their health.
Let’s face it. We are addicted to American Idol Worship and Talent before Giftedness. We, (including our leaders) are hooked on performance-driven, emotionally tricked meetings that have been cleverly introduced as the real thing. Ironically, the world can spot our fakery, even when we refuse to. The show must go on.
In our carnality, our emotional and ego cravings can be more powerful than our inner spirit and biblical directives. We started out just trying to hook the outsider and reel him in, now we’re stuck. We feel obligated to keep up the show and even to escalate its WOW and Pizazz factor on a regular basis. (Did I mention we also ran off the old faithful crowd and their money in the process?)
Worship in Spirit and in Truth is never in need of a strategy or a carefully moderated “experience” generated by sensationalists needing a weekly fix of sorts. If this describes those in charge of your church and its worship, then your church is in the American majority and you must pray to become a minority while working at it.
We are in the world of arrogance to think that we can make the Holy Spirit “Move”. We can quickly become like Simon, the witchcraft peddler. (Acts 8)
“Simon noticed that the Spirit was given only when the apostles placed their hands on the people. So, he brought money and said to Peter and John, ‘Let me have this power too!’”
Has not the gospel been reduced to this on the television airwaves and in the “contemporary” churches of America?
What was Peter’s reply to Simon? “You and your money will both end up in hell if you think you can buy God’s gift!”
Consider this powerful statement from God’s Word,
“At first, I was weak and trembling with fear. When I talked with you or preached, I didn’t try to prove anything by sounding wise. I simply let God’s Spirit show his power. That way you would have faith because of God’s power and not because of human wisdom.” (I Corinthians 2:3-5)
David, we aren’t invited to create atmosphere for the Holy Spirit.
Not our job. We would only make a mess of things.
The church—especially its leaders, must do a lot of soul searching on a regular basis. They must be willing to face a congregation that has been fed pablum and phony so long that a fight will likely ensue if wisdom and love are not applied while seeking to change their diets. Go slowly but be deliberate and decisive.
“Because of your great mercy, (not great praise band, choir or preacher) I come to your house, Lord, and I am filled with wonder, (not just doughnuts, coffee and showmanship) as I bow down to worship at (now in) your holy temple.” Psalm 5:7
Ravi Zacharias speaks great wisdom to our imbalance and wayward culture of supposed worship.
Please listen to this appeal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tRi2skdTDc&list=PLTaWAxiUwh_Jx-hALZfSJcbeg-sjog7zp