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Worshiping like a Witch

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  • Worshiping like a Witch

    I came to a recent realization that as a worship leader, there are times when I treat musical worship like the musical incantations of a witch who tries to draw upon God's spiritual power. When I think He hasn't "shown up", I feel disappointed and wonder what went wrong. I feel like a failure.

    Then, I realized that my disappointment was set up by my expectation that I could influence God to do certain things. I realized that I was treating God like a witch would treat her "familiar spirits". I had been singing to God to persuade or influence Him to bring spiritual manifestations for my (and my church's) benefit. This was no different than a shamanistic rite - e.g., doing the rain dance to please the gods to send rain. The cause of my worship began, and ended, with me and God was simply the spiritual vending machine. I felt like a failure because I had made everything depend on me and be about me ("If I believe God is faithful to bless us, then the problem must be my pushing of the faithful-God button!").

    After repenting about this realization, I tried to discern what I am supposed to be doing as a worship leader. What is it that I'm trying to accomplish if it is not trying to "call down" God's presence or "usher Him in" with singing?

    When I think about the times when God did "show up", I think the difference was this: God showed up when I sang the truth with faith and I was being moved by it, rather than attempting to move God. I remember I wasn't thinking at all about God showing this or doing that as a result of the singing, all I was thinking about was proclaiming the truth with all my strength, believing what I was singing with all my heart. Rather than thinking about how to move God, I was the one who was being more convinced with each verse as to the truth contained in the song. I was the one being more driven to repent for my unbelief. I was the one realizing what an amazing love was there for me. I was the one who moved. Then, God came. He came so powerfully that the few gathered with me at the time could barely sing. We were all crying like children.

    My repentance is ongoing. I still desire to stay where I am, sing, then move God to "show up." I still tend to evaluate my role on whether I convinced God to show up. Rather, I must be the one who is moving and running towards God. Then, it so happens that I find that God is also running towards me. The impact of our encounter is like two people running towards each other into an embrace - the harder we run toward each other, the more impactful the embrace.

    I wanted to check my thoughts with others on this forum to see if I am on the right track. I hope the distinction I'm trying to make isn't confusing.

  • #2
    I've always had a real problem with the idea of God "showing up." I clearly read in His word that His Spirit indwells us, He is with us always, where a few of us are gathered He is there, etc. I can't read anywhere in the New Testament that tells me that God's presence comes and goes, or that His presence is dependent on anything that you or I can do.

    When I received Christ as my savior, I got all of God that I'm ever going to get. He loved me then the same that He is going to love me when I see Him face to face, His grace was as powerful then as it will be the day I die, His power is within me now no more or less than the moment I believed and received His Spirit. His blessings are always available to me. The only thing I don't have with me now on earth is an actual physical God, which is why He has given us the Holy Spirit...again, His presence with us always.

    I think you're definitely moving in the right direction, and I believe that anyone who can move away from this idea that God's presence is dependent on anything other than His ability to keep His promises is going to be moving in the right direction as well.

    Practical Worship

    Please Pray For My Wife


    • #3
      You are on the right track. God is not at our beck and call to make us look good.

      He's not a snake that can be charmed out of a basket with seductive music. He's not a superhero that we shine a big cross in the sky and he comes in to save the day.

      Hebrews 12:28 also describes protocol we must have when we worship- "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,..."

      This verse is one that explains the 'acceptable' way to worship God- meaning there is an unacceptable way. Thankfulness, awe and reverence are three of the major things we must have when we worship if it is to be accepted. Gos is the focus- not us.

      Think of what Samuel told Saul when Saul didn't follow instructions-

      22 But Samuel replied:

      “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
      as much as in obeying the LORD?
      To obey is better than sacrifice,
      and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
      23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
      and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
      Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
      he has rejected you as king.”

      God doesn't delight in our songs, our productions, our music. He delights in our obedience. He delights in our heartfelt reverence, awe, and thanksgiving.

      What you are trying to do as a worship leader is lead people to God, not bring God to them. You are there to lead in reverence and awe, and to show others to do the same. You are not there to make music- you are not there to please the congregation.

      A good example to follow is to read how the prophets worshiped. People like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Moses, and Daniel, among others (even Jesus), came before the Lord with a protocol of thanksgiving and reverence. That sets the basic idea of what worship means. Even the Lord's prayer- Our father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom, your will, etc.

      Nate is right- we do receive the Holy Spirit who is with us always- but the level of how the Holy Spirit will manifest and move in your life is related to your level of obedience and doing God's will. Moses was one example of a relationship where Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock instead of speaking to it, and this changed the relationship they had. Moses could no longer enter the promised land- the reigns were given to Joshua.

      So you are headed in the right direction. Keep praying and seeking- it will be revealed to you.

      If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


      • #4
        I also have trouble with the idea of God "showing up." If God is all-present, as scripture teaches, then He is already present inside whatever place we are located. And as Nate pointed out, the Holy Spirit lives within believers, so God is present in that way, too.

        We have a tendency, I think, to confuse emotion with God's presence. When our emotions get stirred, we believe we have heard from God. I genuinely believe that when we do hear from God, it should affect our emotions, but just because my emotions are stirred, doesn't necessarily mean I have heard from God.

        Having said that, I have been in worship settings where the sense of God's presence was thick enough to cut with a figurative knife, and lives were changed. But that doesn't mean that God is not present in those times when I leave feeling nothing. If I missed out on God, it is my fault, not God's.

        I am genuinely glad that you are coming to understand that worship is not about manipulating God, and I encourage you to immerse yourself in scripture and learn the whole counsel of God and how we relate to him. It looks like you are off to a good start.


        • #5
          Subscribed for later.


          • #6
            Great thoughts from everyone in this thread. I enjoyed reading what all of you had to say about this issue. I also have been concerned by our attempts as a team to 1. manipulate God, and 2. manipulate others. Proclaiming the truth of God allows God to do His work.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Sambekzx View Post
              When I think about the times when God did "show up", I think the difference was this: God showed up when I sang the truth with faith and I was being moved by it, rather than attempting to move God.
              Great stuff in this thread. This is something I've been thinking about lately, as well. It seems that sometimes we approach certain songs or other elements as if they can pull God closer to us than He already is, when in reality it is US that need to be affected and changed if we are to experience His presence in a greater way.
              Eric Frisch


              • #8
                This is a great topic. Not much for me to add, save a few scattered ideas.

                1. We are indeed instructed to be expectant, in that we KNOW God is moving in His people. It's a faith thing. It is when He doesn't do what we think He should that we get all bent outta shape. Once again, a good Scriptural perspective is our best defense.

                2. Wanting to experience more of the presence of God is not even close to anti-Scriptural. Wanting a dramatic increase of that experience only in corporate time while forgetting our private time with God is very much anti-Scriptural. Corporate gatherings should be an extension of what is already going on in our personal lives with God. If you are unhealthy in your prayer closet, you will be unhealthy on the stage. And the real change happens in that closet.


                • #9
                  This is a great post and thank you for being so open to share it.

                  I know what you mean about "conjuring" something. We have to prepare the way for the Word to go forth but have to be careful we don't try and do Holy Spirit's job. We can not make Him move, Isaiah 40:13 "Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?" However, I agree with hitchface that we are to desire Holy Spirit and His presence in our services. Also certainly music can help the Spirit move, 2 Ki 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.

                  Also, there definitely is a "showing up" that He does in worship. Our goal should be 1 Chr 5 13 "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;

                  v14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

                  I'm looking forward to the day we get out of His way and I end up prostrate on the ground from His glory!


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the replies, all.

                    As for the "showing up" topic, I don't want to stir too much debate about what it means for God to "show up." Whether this means that God is "more (specially) present than before" or we are "more aware that He is (already) present" I think both are reasonable interpretations because, in the end, we perceive more of God in a beneficial way. Whether God is more present, or I am more aware, I've been reduced to a mess of tears, have suddenly lost the ability to stand or sit up, have desired to pray fervently, felt a rush of heat or a sweet, tingling fresh wind (but not a movement of physical air) among other things during times that I can only describe as "God showing up." I love those moments and they have increased my faith.

                    However, I do admit that I think my post can be extended into a critique of some parts of the charismatic church who emphasize this type of "conjuring" in their worship services as a method or system of releasing God's healing and manifestations of power. Just to peel another layer of the onion of why I posted, I am from a charismatic background, but am cautious about the "name it and claim it" approach to worship that I see in some schools of thought because it can easily lead to the mindset that I became convicted about in my original post. Then instead of being God's agents, God becomes our agent!