Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exercises 16-25 for Worship Groups

Here are some more exercises groups can do that will help in cell group worship or large group worship.

16. Give an explanation of the difference between praise and worship. (Refer to Vivian Hibbert’s book Prophetic Worship.) Simply put, praise is acknowledging the aspects of God that are praiseworthy verbally. It is expressions of the greatness of God and the nothingness of me. Here is a list of sample praise statements:
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
You are worthy of praise.
You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
You are my strong tower, my Deliverer and Redeemer
I glorify your name
Jesus is Lord
You are the Way, the Truth, and the Light. In you is life and salvation.
You are the Rock. (Gate, Door, Rose of Sharon, Bright and Morning Star, Good Shepherd, Great Physician, Creator, Author of our Salvation, Living Water, Bread of Life)
You are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You are the God of David, Elijah, and the prophets. You are the God of the disciples and the God us today.
You never change, you are constant, everlasting, the Alpha and the Omega.
You are the God of Love, Joy, Peace, and Grace.
I am nothing and you are everything, Lord
Worship is slightly different. Worship is our response to the praiseworthy aspects of God. Worship has an aspect of soaking in the presence of God. The following are samples (not exhaustive) of worship statements:
Father, I love you, and need you in my life.
All I need is you Lord.
I receive your love, Father.
Father I want you inside of me, to change every part of me.
Father I invite your healing work inside of me.
Help me Father. I can’t live without you. I need you to work in my life.
I am your, Lord. Take me to the place you want me to be.
Father, you are better than Blue Bell ice cream.
Holy Spirit, fill me with your presence, place in me your gifts, let your light shine in me.
Thank you, Lord for.....
Jesus, fill me with your compassion and love.
Father, God of Love fill me with your love.
Spirit I ask you to fill me with Wisdom and discernment.
As a deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you oh Lord.

17. At the beginning of each session, verbally invite the Holy Spirit to the meeting. Say something along the lines of, "Father we invite you here tonight, you are our honored guest. Father, we are here for you, to praise your name and devote ourselves to. Lord fill this room with your presence." It’s like inviting Him to the celebration where he is the guest of honor. If you start with no agenda other than allowing God to work through you, He will bless your coming together and His agenda will be done.

18. The Holy Spirit is caught, not taught. Trying to convince someone that they need something they think they already have is beating your head against a concrete wall. Instead, demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit to the group. Lay hands on people and pray with authority. Go ‘all out’ in praise and worship. Show people the Holy Spirit. Create teachable moments within your meetings.
Be patient. "Holy Spirit Arrogance" will make most people run screaming into the night away from the presence of God. Be gentle. Be real. Demonstrate the presence and people will be drawn to God. If you build it, people who are genuinely seeking the presence will come.

19. Every meeting, give people homework/experiments to try during the week. Most people, once they have a genuine taste of the Holy Spirit, they will want more. Have people practice at home what they have tried during the praise, worship, prayer session. Have them practice their spiritual gifts (practice makes competent) regularly. Give those on fire for Jesus and the presence of God something to do, something to risk, something to try and see how well they respond. This gives the leader a good indication of the spiritual maturity of the group and how to start slow and simple with them.

20. There are so few leaders who are willing to help people find themselves spiritually. To gently instruct on the Holy Spirit and create a safe place to practice gives people the latitude to try and fail and try again. If people know they can try and process what they experience, they will take chances and push themselves...exactly what the Lord wants from them, for him to begin his work in their lives.
The space created must allow people to take risks, make mistakes and listen for God’s direction for the meeting time at any time during the week. God gets excited when we come together to worship and praise Him with all our hearts.

21. Sing a simple tune like ‘Jesus is Lord,’ but just repeat those three words. Then, as the song is repeated several times, allow new words to be sung and new melodies to layer on top of the main melody. If you tell people what you want to do, then let an organic worship experience develop and grow.

22. During praise, worship, and prayer session, let different people lead (training others to do the leaders job) and give them feedback. Each session together should have a feedback time to find how people responded and what could be improved or done differently.

23. Scripture says that as a group comes together, that every person has a word, a tongue, a prophecy, song, hymn or spiritual song (prophetic song). Tell people that you want them to take chances and speak what is on their hearts, sing that melody that is placed in their mind, pray for individuals God lays on their hearts, read scripture or whatever God is urging them to do. The parameters are that it agrees with scripture and encourages or exhorts growth in the individuals attending.

24. During each session, after the worship period, there should be a time of quiet reflection and listening. Three to five minutes of silence feels like an eternity to a leader, but the time is necessary for God to minister to people in His way. Allow it may be OK for soft instrumental music to be played, usually silence brings a clearer "hearing" of what the Lord is saying.

25. There are percussion instruments available in each meeting we hold including tambourines, drums, shakers, bells, sticks and triangles. I think each person should be responsible for the execution of the music and singing.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spiritual Exercises 1-15

These exercises are processes we tried and found that they helped us grow closer together as a group of men and, more importantly, grow closer to God. As the leader, I didn’t plan an agenda for meetings, rather, I asked God to direct the meetings as He saw fit. These are not a definitive list of things to do; most of these exercises were a result of a couple hours of praise and a worship then being led by God to ‘try something new.’ These are some examples of where the Spirit of God led us and that we were willing to follow.

Each meeting had a personality of its own. Each meeting developed a theme of what God wanted from us and we just tried to be faithful. That is my hope for anyone who wants to lead a Worship Group or want to have a more active presence of the Spirit involved in worship...to approach God and ask what He wants to you to do and do it; ask what He wants to hear and say or sing it.

1. Ask participants to try something new each and every group. Have them ask God what He wants them to do different and ask them to be faithful. If they aren’t used to raising their hands, have them raise their hands for at least one song. Tell them that when they do something different, it is natural to feel uncomfortable. Other things they can do different is worshiping on their knees, praying for someone, sing prophetically, dance before the Lord, speak what God is laying on their heart.

2. Say ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Scripture says we can only say ‘Jesus is Lord’ by the Holy Spirit. When one feels disconnected, has intrusive thoughts, is in the presence, or having trouble connecting to Christ, ‘Jesus is Lord’ acknowledges that I can’t do it myself and need the Lord to do it for me.

3. Ask participants to take a body position that best represents ‘praise’ and ask them to hold the
position. Have them pray from this position then sing a praise song from that position. Ask them to experiment with different positions to find one that fits best for them. During worship time, ask participants to experiment with different positions to get a feel to which position seems most congruent with the words being sung.

4. Have participants ask God for the words to praise him. There are certain things God wants to hear from each of us, words God created us to say. We want to give God what he wants, not what we think he wants or that we feel comfortable with saying. God wants our hearts engaged when we say what he wants to hear. Jewish teachers ask their students to repeat scripture 3 or 4 times (or more) until the Rabbi hears their heart engage into the words. Say the statement several times until your heart gets into it.

5. Ask someone to play a simple melody (3 or 4 chords, repeated) on an instrument that is easy to follow. Members of the group ask God for words to sing with the music or ask God for a scripture to put to music. One member may start singing the words and others join in as they hear the words (or add new words). Keeps the words simple and repeatable. The song may sound like a round, or may have other words or melodies woven into it as the main melody is sung. Or a new melody and new words may overpower the old melody, just allow there to be a flow of the Spirit as the music and words are sung. Let this exercise go at least 5 to 45 minutes.

6. Have participants do a ‘Go God’ cheer with the same exuberance you would give your favorite sports team scoring a game winning shot right before the buzzer. Have them clap and whoop and holler and cheer for God.

7. Have a mini prophetic workshop that takes 5 minutes. After praise and worship, have participants declare ‘Jesus is Lord’ then ask God "Father do you love me?" Have them listen with their heart and see if they can sense God’s ‘yes.’ Some may have to repeat this exercise several times. Make it OK not to hear but encourage those to keep trying. Once someone can sense a movement of the Spirit, have them ask other ‘yes/no’ questions just to get used to hearing and sensing God.

8. Only play one new song per worship session if you play one at all. Why? New songs break the flow as people have to engage their brains to learn and remember the melodies and words instead of engaging their spirits. Play a new song at the beginning to learn then bring it back up during worship. This way the flow of worship continues.

9. How to start:
A. Ask each person to introduce themselves to someone.
B. Explain the purpose of the meeting.
C. Ask one of these questions: "What brings you here? What do you want to happen during this meeting? What do you need from God during this time together?
D. Invite them to participate. Even if they don’t know the words to songs, invite them to
make up words to sing and sing along.
E. Explain why we pray out loud. Verbal prayers help us to get outside our thinking and
engages our hearts. Encourage them to pray out loud during prayers times, to
tolerate the chaos of everyone praying to together.

10. Be patient. Don’t rush. Keep it simple. Allow there to be times of silence during the breaks between songs and prayers. Give God an opportunity to speak and work.

11. Singing the psalms is a great way of engaging with God and each other. Have someone choose a number between 1 and 150...they choose a number...turn to that psalm. Pray as a group, "Jesus is Lord...Father give us a melody to sing to you." Have a musician play a simple melody then go around the circle and each member sing a verse, in order. The person can either sing the verse as it is written or paraphrase the verse.

12. Say praise statements from revelations several times. I figure if God has the heavenly creatures and angels saying and singing these statements for eternity, then these statements have meaning and importance to him. Plus, we don’t have to make up statements that he wants from us, they are already written down.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.
You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor, and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Just and true are all your ways, King of the Ages.

For you alone are holy.

Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.

All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God
forever and ever.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be all praise and honor and glory and
power for ever and ever.

13. Tell participants to not wait their turn but to pray as the Spirit moves them. Tell them it is okay to talk over, sing, praise, shout during the praise and worship period. Have them verbalize their prayers instead of thinking their prayers. Practice praying with everyone speaking at the same time, and agreeing with others’ prayers around them. Scripture says that if two or more agree on what they are praying for, it shall be done. Read that scripture and encourage vocal agreement during prayer and worship time.

14. There are several references in scripture of God requiring people to take off their shoes when they came into God’s presence. What if God was serious about ditching your shoes when you come into his presence? Ask participants to worship with their shoes off...see if it makes a difference in their quality of worship.

15. Sometimes in group, some will "sit back and observe" instead of engaging their hearts in praise, worship and prayer. At the beginning, I gently encourage each person to express and actively participate. Refusing to express during praise and worship time, in my experience, seems to shut off the flow of the Spirit to that person. It is important to have an upbeat praise song at the beginning that encourages everyone to clap, raise their hands, dance, etc. to get them more engaged right off. Encourage them to vocalize, sing or say, to help them engage.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Church Unscripted

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we didn't script our worship services?

A core principle of our praise and worship group is allowing God to lead the group. The only agenda of the group leader is to allow God the freedom to take us where He wants us. During worship, the leader is asking God what He wants next; what song he wants to hear, what to say, pray or maybe sit in silence because that is what He wants. The leader's only job is to please Him, follow Him where He is leading on that particular day. Unscripted, I want to jump into the flow of the Spirit and go where He leads me. There is a freedom to follow without hurrying from one activity to the next, and in the process, unexpected things happen. I have seen people get healed. I have seen badly damaged relationships become whole. I have seen addictions stop and hardened hearts soften.

An agenda is made up of what worked in the past to connect with God. An agenda is like having the same conversation with my wife over and over again, or doing the same thing over and over again to please her. Her needs change and so does God's. He wants to tell us what He wants so we can give Him what He wants.

When we allow God to lead, we experience the presence of something greater, a deep love and warmth of knowing what we cannot know, of changing what we, ourselves, can not change. As control slips from our hands, we fall into the hands of the creator.

Sometimes, religious agendas are a path to manage what we can handle while ignoring what we can't. Some use church like a tourist on a bus, visiting, but never being a part of that which they are observing. Detached, they watch from their double-decker bus window, observing that which they can not comprehend . Some become spiritual window shoppers, moving on to the next window when they find the price is too high.

Do our religious agendas keeping us from having our souls touched, without feeding our starving spirit? Are our agendas like drinking whiskey, instead of Living Water, to numb our senses instead of facing our fragility with humility and courage? What is the price we pay for following our own agenda?

Experiencing God

This blog is for people who want to experience more of God's Spirit in their life. Are you ready?

We live in a time where knowing about something is more important than experiencing it. Many media outlets feed us tons of staged and rehearsed life experiences that we, like zombies, sit and watch without experiencing those things for ourselves. It's like watching the Bowflex commercial and expecting that (not working out or exercising) is going to change your out-of-shape body. We watch someone else climb mountains or have great adventures but we, ourselves, never leave the comfort of our living room. Unfortunately, in many cases, church is also one of those media outlets.

Most people are content with a media presentation about God without experiencing Him for themselves. Think of the millions of Christians in tens of thousands of churches who never experience the manifest presence of God for themselves. They never have experienced miraculous healing. They never have experienced miracles. They have never have experienced the working of the Spirit. They have never heard the voice of God or the stirring of the Spirit. They sit and are passively entertained. Many Christians don't even know to expect more or have been told to want more is 'emotional hype' or heresy. So, they are content with listening to a sermon and music but in their spirit, they are hungry for more. But do they know what they hunger for? What they are eating is junk food with no substance. What they are wanting is a feast of nutritious food that will make them strong and healthy.

I must admit I have never been a very good 'passive audience member.' So a few years ago, I asked God for more. I was weary of hiding behind flimsy definitions of who God is and how I thought He does (or doesn't) work in the present day. I wanted out of the box but had no way of knowing what to do to other than pray that God would give me more of Himself. I had no idea of what was going to happen. Then, God placed people and experiences in front of me that have changed my spiritual life and have blessed the people around me.

I would rather experience the Holy Spirit than know about the Holy Spirit. I would rather experience the arms of God sheltering me form the storm than know He did that back in the Old Testament. I would rather prophesy or receive a word from God through a brother or sister than watch the most entertaining sermon being performed that is not a word from the Lord. I want to hear the voice of God guide me than others telling me what I need to do. I would rather sing three words that God gives me than sit through an energetic but uninspired worship service that leaves me empty inside and hungry for the presence of Christ. I am to the point that I will not drink of anything but Living Water or eat anything that is not the Bread of Life.

For me, I stopped blaming church and began the process of changing myself. I stopped depending on the church to feed me and turned to God for guidance. My journey began with asking God for more of Him. It began by declaring that 'Jesus is Lord' and allowed God to change me.

Jesus, I want to know you and be known by you. You are the desire of my heart and the longing of my spirit. Father, I want to experience the Holy Spirit as you want me to, no smoke and mirrors. Touch me Father, change my hardened heart to experience your love and goodness. Lord, I am ready to drink the Living Water and eat of the Bread of Life. Jesus is Lord.