I spoke with my buddy, John Hudgins, earlier this week. John pitches for the Padres in their minor league system. Unfortunately, he developed some arm problems and had to have Tommy John surgery a little over a year ago. While he was recovering, we got to hang out together at the Life Church quite a bit. He actually played electric guitar in the praise team.
More than anyone I know, John desires to personally and corporately worship God. He grew up in a Vineyard Church where his dad pastors. John had some awesome experiences growing up such as being there when Marie Barnett (his worship pastor) wrote the popular song "Breathe." Vineyard churches do things a lot differently than most mainline denominations. They don't have a fixed worship segment. They simply worship until they're done. Even after the service, people hang out and worship until the last person decides to leave. Now God has placed John in a Baptist church where we sing four songs and we're done. Needless to say, God has used John in my life to challenge me.
So back to our conversation. The gist of it was that in an attempt to not offend American sensibilities about time and keeping a schedule, might we be offending the Holy Spirit who does not want to be bound by a schedule or even our sensibilities for that matter? By bowing to the god of time in our worship, are we programming His work right out of the event? This is an important question. We all would say that we want God to move in our churches. We all talk about revival. But are we allowing God to send it when we sing 2 verses of "Just As I Am" for the invitation because we have to get out at a set time?
John 3:8 says, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." So then why are we worship leaders placing the Holy Spirit in time slots in our worship sets? Perhaps we've formulated something for which there is no formula.
Before I run too far off the beaten path, let me acknowledge that we all minister in different contexts. If our worship time was completely spontaneous and our pastor got up to preach at an undetermined point in the service, our church would shrink. Wouldn't that be a bad thing? Aren't we here to reach people for Jesus and grow His church? I'd rather disciple 1000 people in worship than have 300 "super worshippers" that don't mind hanging out in God's presence for an hour. Besides, even if I change our format from structure to controlled chaos, I can't tell the wind when and where to blow.
The bottom line is that we all must repent and come to Him in humility. How our indifference to God in corporate worship must grieve the Holy Spirit! It's going to take the wind of the Spirit to get us to budge. We need it, Lord!
P.S. Just a disclaimer to say that this blog entry is directed to mainline denominational churches across America. Not exclusively to the wonderful church in which I am privileged to serve.