The opening moments of a worship gathering often set the pace and direction for the entire service. Worship leaders and pastors have a solemn obligation to focus the initial moments on the best things, guiding the congregation in real New Testament worship.
Too often, music pastors seem to feel an obligation to get the crowd motivated to experience the Holy Spirit through the energy of the songs. Such an effort is likely sincere but actually a confusion of New Testament teaching.
Professor Ed Steele comments, “C.S. Lewis spoke about how dogs generally won’t look to what you point at with your finger, instead, they go sniff the finger, missing your intentions. Worship, for many, is like that. They begin to focus on worship itself, rather than the God to whom all worship belongs.”[i] In our intentions and implementation of singing we would be wise to point back to the finished work of Christ that has provided the indwelling presence of the Spirit. We should also point forward to the goal of the glory of Jesus in every service, as the purpose of the Spirit’s work in us.
The Indwelling Person of the Holy Spirit
I believe we could experience a transformation in our worship services by pausing in the opening moments to clearly acknowledge the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit resident in the heart of every believer. (The same is true of our personal worship on a daily basis.) This clarification does not seem to be an emphasis in our modern worship experience. Rather, we tend to welcome people to the building, speaking as if it is a holy temple. Then we sing songs about the Holy Spirit coming from some other location, as if He is somehow absent.
If congregants were led to consciously recognize then fully surrender to the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit, several important outcomes would occur:
- The Spirit would guide our hearts to Christ and His glory, which is His purpose in all things (John 16:14).
- Every believer would feel empowered and even obligated to actually participate in personal ministry via their gifts, manifesting His life to others as taught in 1 Corinthians 12:6-7.
- The Spirit would produce deep worship expressed in song as He works in, through and among us.
These benefits are taught in depth in my new book, but in this devotional let’s focus on the third.
The Spirit of Truth Who Produces Song
We do not sing in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Holy Spirit so that we might sing. Ephesians 5:18–19 commands us to “be filled with the Spirit” with the result of “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Colossians 3:16 tells us that the gospel and biblical truth in our minds and heart likewise overflow in song: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Writer Bob Kaufflin makes an insightful observation: “For those of us who think of worship primarily in terms of musically driven emotional experiences, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman would be eye-opening. Jesus is talking about ‘true worshipers’ and he doesn’t reference music once. Not a whisper of bands, organs, keyboards, choirs, drum sets, guitars, or even lutes, lyres and timbrels. Period. Music is part of worshiping God, but it was never meant to be the heart of it.”[ii]