I think I will mostly be repeating things I’ve already written here, but the reality of what I will say is fresh in my mind because of a book I finished reading a couple of weeks ago. I won’t mention the author, because I have a lot of respect for him and don’t want to diminish the value of his other work for someone who may choose to read him.
This particular book was on the subject of worship. It contained a lot of useful information about how to work well with a worship team and conduct a smooth service with opportunity for the Holy Spirit to lead. I have never been a worship leader, so my opinion isn’t worth much, but it appeared to me to contain much good advice. If you are a worship leader in the Charismatic tradition, it would probably help you. That is, if I would identify it.
Here’s the problem. The author made a lot of assumptions about how worship should be conducted based more on the tradition of which he is a part than on scriptural foundation. A smattering of Biblical references is to be found, but the underlying assumptions are not really supported. They cannot be, because in fact they are nothing more than embellishment of our own traditions salted with a few pinches of scripture to legitimize them. I am sure this is not an intentional deception. We are all influenced to some degree by our culture and upbringing. I think it likely that I will learn over time that some of my beliefs have no better foundation.
God is gracious and merciful. When people genuinely to see to connect with Him, He often responds. Sometimes He does something entirely new. The danger for us is that when this happens we set about trying to reproduce the conditions as they were the first time and try to get a repeat performance. We shift from seeking a genuine experience with God to seeking whatever particular manifestation we saw before. Though we may do it in ignorance, I am not sure how much better we are than dabblers in the occult who perform rituals in the hope that they will elicit a parlor trick from some unseen force.
I am not bashing the charismatic or Pentecostal worship experience. In fact I believe that other traditions could benefit from the freedom it offers. Over the years some of that has slowly leaked across denominational boundaries. I have been in some beautiful worship services where the presence of God was evident. On the other hand, I have been in services where at best the participants were emotionally charged and at worse the spirit in evidence had nothing holy about it.
As we seek to know and worship Yahweh, let us turn away from our templates and formulas from whatever tradition they may come. Let us allow Him to guide us into an intimacy free of false expectation so that we may learn to worship Him as He ought to be worshiped. This will take us beyond the mere singing of songs and holding our hands in the air. Worship is a lifestyle of which that may be a beautiful part, but there is so much more.