When I went back to the U.S., almost everyone asked me what I missed most while in Romania. Although I would usually answer with a list of food (cheddar cheese, milk, Pizza Hut…), those were all secondary (or even “thirdary”). The one thing I have missed most while living in Romania is passionate and free worship.
At Biserica Piatra Vie, we are trying to develop a church of worshipers.
What will that look like? Well, as God is the one in charge of building the church (Matthew 16:18) and as he is the one looking hardest for worshipers (John 4:23) and as he is the one who draws men to himself (John 12:32), I’m not entirely sure just what we’ll end up like. With that said, though, here is some of what we’re envisioning:
1. Laughing, crying, and expressing other emotions are given their natural place in worship. Imagine you’re a parent, and your son has been asking you for a new bike for Christmas. He’s been asking since July. One day in December, you head to the bike shop. You find the perfect bike, so you bring it home, cover it in a bed sheet, and place it under the Christmas tree. Every morning, your son asks you if he can open it yet; and every morning you say, “Not yet. Soon.” Finally, it’s Christmas Day! The bike is unveiled! Your son turns to you with an emotionless stare… and quietly but politely says, “Thank you” with no hint of a smile. Oh, how bizarre it is for a son to speak to his kind and good father without emotion displayed on his face. We are not guided by emotions, but emotions are an integral part to any real relationship, even our relationship with our heavenly Father. Just read through the Psalms, and this is obvious.
2. I long for those times of deep and reverent stillness. I’m not sure what the right word is… Annoying? Unsettling? Bizarre? It’s the same word you’d use to describe Cristiano Ronaldo in this video where he hides chewing gum in his pocket while receiving an award from Queen Sofia of Spain; it just doesn’t fit the situation. Anyhow, that’s the same feeling I get when I see someone checking his cell phone during worship or turning aside to tell his friend some news during the “slow” times or leaving half-way through the preaching so he can check on his kids. I know things come up, but I’m longing to build a body committed to deep times with the Holy Spirit, to times of waiting, to times of boredom even, to times of stillness and awe.
3. Loud praise and unreserved celebration is considered normal. Would you believe some churches here teach that to sing loudly and passionately is to be full of pride? And others teach that to show joy is to be worldly? You know, there’s nothing so strange as watching a man shout and dance over a soccer game on Saturday then seeing him go to church on Sunday and sit still as if movement were a sin. If Jesus rejoiced greatly (honestly, a more accurate translation of this word is “danced”) (Luke 10:21), so should I! If Miriam and the Hebrew women danced in celebration of their Exodus (Exodus 15:20), so should I in celebration of mine! We are designed to shout our praises (Psalm 98:4).
4. We praise with guitars, drums, keyboards, bagpipes, voices, clapping… you name it! If the devil is worshiped with awesome and creative music, how much more ought we to worship the Lord and Creator of All with any and all instruments. David called for trumpets and harps and lyres (guitars); loud cymbals and pipes (Psalm 150:3-6). (Personally, I can’t wait to do some dubstep worship nights! It’s gonna happen! Just search around on SoundCloud.com if you don’t believe me.)
5. There is order to the service, but not to control the Spirit, rather to guide us into righteousness. I have sat in too many services where there’s no room for the Holy Spirit to move even if he wants to. But I have also been to far too many services where anyone can do anything at any time, and nobody–neither the Holy Spirit, the Pastor, nor anyone else–is in charge. That’s chaos, and it does more harm than good. We’re definitely not after that. If Paul, a man who walked in immense power and anointing, desired order in the service, then I ought to as well (1 Corinthians 14:26-40).
6. People are receiving and sharing prophetic words, singing in tongues, praying with boldness and passion but also at the proper times. We are seeking to build a service that walks in that intricate balance between stifling the Spirit and giving voice to every spirit. My simple rule of thumb is this: if it’s distracting or directing the flow of the service and you haven’t been set in place as a leader, then you need to talk to a leader before following the leading. Right now, though, we don’t have a problem with chaos; we have the opposite problem.
7. The sick and demon-possessed are getting healed, some through laying on hands and some simply spontaneously as the faith in their hearts encounters the glory of God. Yeah, that’s what we all want when we gather to worship, isn’t it? Oh, I love it when the glory and presence of God is palpable. You know, there’s something about authentic worship that attracts God’s attention. When we gather together to worship and honor him, he really likes it. In fact, his eyes are searching throughout the earth for those whose hearts are completely his (2 Chronicles 16:9), and he is seeking out worshipers (John 4:23).
Well, there you have it, a sort of “wish list” for our worship service. We’re teaching, preaching, and praying for these aspects to be present in our worship. Now, it’s up to God to make us into the worshipers he wants us to be.