After being worship missionaries for over ten years, we thought it good to share what God has shown us about worship. While traveling to over 20 countries, we have seen that worship is much more than singing songs. We have seen people worshipping by raising of hands, clapping of hands, waving of banners, dancing, bowing, prostrating before the Lord, prophesying on instruments, just to name a few. We have seen that one of the main purposes of worship is to attract the heavy presence of God into the situation. The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people and that He seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. So, from God’s side, He wants to come.
The Lord has taught us that there is a progression in worship services. This progression is analogous to the Old Testament temple. The first stage in the progression is where the congregation comes in from the street, so to speak, and prepares to enter into worship. This is like the outer court in the temple. During this phase, the musicians generally lead with songs of thanksgiving and praise. These are songs about the goodness of the Lord; they may be fast paced, and many of the congregation will be led to dance and clap their hands. The second phase is when the congregation begins to worship. Here the songs may become quieter and are like love songs to the Lord. During this phase, the congregation begins to respond to the Lord from their hearts; loving Him for all that He has done for them. This phase is like the Holy Place in the temple. The third phase is when the glory comes – this is God’s heavy presence. During this phase, there may be little or no singing at all; some of the musicians may be led to prophesy on their instruments. It is during this phase that worshippers might receive prophecy, intercession, healing, deliverance, revelation, and participate in communion. We have come to see that this is the result of God’s presence in the place. As He draws near, the worshippers begin to sense what is on His heart and they speak it out as prophecy or as intercession. This is like the Holy of Holies in the old temple. Once the congregation reaches this phase, they should stay in it, until they have received all that God wants to impart. Once in this phase, it is best not to go back to an earlier phase. Once the glory comes, stand in it as long as possible!
We have come to see that the job of the musicians who are leading the worship service is to bring the congregation along, through each of the phases, until the glory comes. Once the glory comes, the musicians can transition into a more prophetic style of worship. The Bible speaks of the musicians’ prophesying on their instruments (including voice), and the glory phase is a good time to do that. The job of the congregation is to come into worship and the glory as soon as possible. If anyone finds that singing the songs is distracting from worship, then they should just commune quietly with God or sing in the Spirit. It can be distracting to try to read lyrics to songs; it puts the focus on the songs, rather than on Jesus. One option is to just listen to the music and worship God. It is also helpful to have simple, familiar songs for people to enter in more easily, with only one or two new ones to bring a fresh flow. We learned a great deal from Ruth Heflin, in entering into the Glory. As we spend time there, the Lord brings revelation that we may never receive any other way. With our focus on God, we bring delight to Him and He, in turn, gives us new manna for new growth.