Worship, contemporary vs charismatic

What is charismatic worship?
I think there is a slight misunderstanding of what charismatic worship is today in the sense that often I believe that charismatics would think of worship where there is a contemporary style, mixed in with a lot of passion and devotion and perhaps some lifted hands as charismatic worship, even though it might be completely led from the front and there is no sense of community interaction and indeed no presence of the gifts of the spirit, ie the charismatic.
I do not despise contemporary worship, nor passionate or devotional worship music, but I don’t think it is automatically charismatic because of these traits. Rather I am longing for a truly biblical charismatic worship to be restored in the church today. What is the Bible teaching us:

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.
28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent.
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,
32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,
1 Cor 14:26-33

What is charismatic worship?

It is a grace thing! Grace has been given to all, each one who believe! Gifts of grace is an evidence of God’s grace within a church community. I don’t believe it’s enough with a central worship team or few selected individuals who have permission to share prophetic words 0r similar. Let the grace of God give freedom to people to share what the Holy Spirit distributes as He wills. There should be evidence of Gods grace among you and one way is by evidence of grace gifts in the body.

It is a leadership thing! Rather than hindering people to share because they are not mature enough, we should know that gifts are not given by maturity but by grace. I believe in order, but it is not the order that creates freedom, rather in an atmosphere of freedom there should be mature biblical leadership present to create security and uphold order. Lets honour the Bible by encouraging people and give room to share but also by correcting, guiding through, help to understand what is happening, call for response to what God is saying, wait for interpretation of tongues and so forth. In Corinth instructions about order did not come first. There was an overflow of gifts first. Paul did not try to quench this but rather called for biblical leaders to create order and security within this. We do not create an atmosphere of gifts of the spirit by order but we do maintain and keep it biblical through it.

It is a gospel thing! There has been a strong tendency within contemporary to be  seeker friendly and even in charismatic churches to downplay the charismatic expressions in order not to offend any unbelievers. Personally I believe that charismatic gifts of the Spirit are closely linked to the proclamation of the gospel in the sense that it carries the power of God to heal, reveal hearts of men and the heart of God and make the power of God evident. In 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 Paul seem to be arguing that tongues is a sign of the power of God for unbelievers and prophecy will lead unbelievers to a conviction of the reality of God’s presence.

Lets press on to more than contemporary worship. Lets contend for charismatic worship where the presence of God through His word and Spirit is at the center of it all.

Interview with Terry Virgo about worship

Terry Virgo is being interviewed about practicing charismatic worship during the US based “Reformed, Charismatic and Missional” conference.

Worship, Word & Spirit

In two blogposts I have looked at the only two texts referring to the phrase “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19) clearly referring to corporaye singing worship to God. This is of course not the only teaching to find regarding worship or singing worship in the Bible but these are two passages very clearly teaching us about worship music and corporate singing of worship. For this reason it is very interesting to note what these two different passages emphasize.
First of all one of these passages are clearly going hand in hand with a strong exhortation to let God’s word dwell among us, to let His words affect us and draw us into worship of the living God.
The other passage is strongly exhorting believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit and let the Holy Spirit draw us into worship.

May I suggest that the biblical nature of corporate worship music is a place where biblical truth hold a high place, where lyrics matter because songs ought to play a huge part in letting God’s word dwell among us, where truths of God are proclaimed through singing truth, where worship leaders are hungry to understand the sound teaching of Scripture because their ministry is not only about leading people into God’s presence but also about leading people into understand truths about God through singing.

May I suggest that the biblical nature of corporate worship is a place where the Holy Spirit is given freedom to work through the whole body, where gifts of the Spirit are manifested, where the Holy Spirit is infusing a passion for God’s glory and drawing people into an intimate and even emotional relationship to our heavenly Father, where worship leaders are passionate about intimacy with God because they are not only teaching truths about God but leading people into His presence.

May I suggest that worship, empowered by the Word of God and the Spirit of God, worship in Spirit and truth, is leading people into living worship, where worship becomes more than singing, where every decision I make is intended to worship my creator.

Worship and being filled with the Spirit

In Ephesians 5:18-20 the Bible says:

be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This is the second passage in the New Testament containing the exhortation to address one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We looked at the other one from Colossians where Paul exhorted people to let the Word of God dwell among them leading to worship. Here Paul instead encourage people to be filled with the Spirit leading to a life of worship.

It is my deep conviction that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and being continuosly filled by the Holy Spirit will fuel a worshipping lifestyle. In Acts baptisms in the Holy Spirit were always followed with different tangible signs and one of these where that people started to praise God. A new or renewed joy in worship is a direct result of the work of the Holy Spirit in a christian’s life. The Holy Spirit is also the one revealing God as our Father, giving us assurance of salvation and drawing us into a more intimate relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit and worship mix well together and I do believe that worship should always give room for the Holy Spirit to act. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is teaching the church about gifts of the Spirit. The context is a wider teaching on what church life should be like when we “come together” and Paul is basically saying that whenever we meet together the Holy Spirit is there willing to distribute gifts to anyone as he wills for the benefit of the whole body.
The context is not to teach the individual christian about how to find what is my personal spiritual gift but rather that the Holy Spirit wants to pour out a wide array of gifts over different people in different times in the context of corporate worship.

Let us encourage corporate worship fueled by the Holy Spirit and open for God to act through His Spirit through whom he pleases, through one with a tongue, another gets an interpretation, prophesy from one, and a word of knowledge from another. This is worship that will build the church!

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Cor 14:26

The normal christian church life.

Worship and the Word of God

In Colossians 3:12-17 it says:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This blog series is about worship in spirit and truth and I would like to start up with some reflections on worship rooted in the word of God.

The first thing I would mention has to do with worship being more than singing songs to God. Worship is first and foremost a life that is lived for the glory of God. When you and I put on as the text says, the kind of character that flows out of God’s being we are living worship living in unity with eachother, having patience, forgiving eachother, love, compassion, humility. The heart of worship is displayed in your character, how you act towards people around you and the kind of life that is a life of worship is built on the word of God.

In most of the New Testament letter/epistles there is a pattern for how Paul, for example, is teaching the different churches. In the beginning or first half of the letters Paul is often teaching truth, about God, about the nature of the church, identity in Christ, salvation, the doctrine of grace etc. The latter part of the letter is often used to then apply these truths and show what kind of life that should be lived, how we should treat eachother, what to avoid as a follower of Christ and so on. The pattern to see here is that teaching in the New Testament starts with truth, because that is the foundation upon which you can build a godly life. Only preaching application, how to live etc would be to miss the point that without a foundation of godly doctrine, understanding or having a revelation of truth you cant build a godly life or to put it in the other way around, good doctrine/teaching lead to a good/godly life.

So what has this to do with worship? It lead us to the latter half of the Scripture quoted, to teach and admonish eachother with worship songs. Worship should be filled with the word of God declaring truth and thus teaching people right doctrine, leading people into the right life that is in itself a worship to God. Content matters!

I would like to finish with a quote from worship leader Stuart Townend:

“I think content is vitally important to our corporate worship,” Townend shares. “Sometimes great melodies are let down by indifferent or clichéd words. It’s the writer’s job to dig deep into the meaning of Scripture and express in poetic and memorable ways the truth he or she finds there. Knowing the truth about God and who we are in Him is central to our lives as believers. Songs remain in the mind in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role and a huge responsibility.”

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Worship has always been an “interesting” part of church history, probably because music is so connected to culture and therefore to our identity. Many have been part of the pipe organ debate in many churches at the entrance of more contemporary worship music styles. A friend of mine once told me that when organs where first introduced to church life they were considered the devil’s instrument replacing the beauty of the orchestra.

I will not start a debate about music style in worship but would rather want to share some reflections of the biblical style of worship. Jesus said: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In a few coming blogposts I will reflect on what worship in spirit and truth should look like. If you have found your way to this blog then I would welcome you to join with your reflections and comments.

Prosperity gospel

I don’t know what you think about the so called prosperity gospel. It seems to exist in so many shapes all from people who say that if you only do certain things God will prosper you and give you health, wealth and security to those who hold the same theological position but seem to say that God will give you all of these things just because he loves you.

On the other end of the scale we find those who rather would endorse self-chosen poverty or perhaps shared ownership as the Christian ideal.

Personally I do believe we need a theology that gives room for the rich and the poor together as one, where principles such as generosity and contentment reign as well as allowing ourselves to hold a theology that gives room for suffering.

I’ll share a video of John Piper sharing his view on this subject. It is very well worth listening to. What do you think about this?

Reformed theology in Scandinavia – reflections part 3

Today I will continue my reflections on Reformed theology in Scandinavia and the theological stream that I will reflect on today is what I call Reformed charismatics. It’s a quite broad group, but what holds it together is the combined emphasis on solid biblical teaching together with a charismatic church life. Some people that would fit into this theological stream would be CJ Mahaney, Terry Virgo, Rob Rufus and RT Kendall to name a few together with songwriters such as Stuart Townend and Matt Redman. These would all come from different church movements and have different ways to apply their theological understanding practically in church life but underneith there would be a similar reformed theological framework.

There is a common understanding of grace and a celebration in our justification by grace, rather similar to how “the grace teaching” would emphasize this and hand in hand with the charismatic church life there would be a rejoicing in grace. However, at the same time there would be an even stronger emphasis on the whole word of God than I have seen in the grace teaching. If grace teaching would emphasize “grace and faith”, reformed charismatics would rather emphasize “the word of God and the Spirit of God” and as a part of understanding the word is to rightly we need to understand law and grace but also biblical teaching on the sovereignty of God, the church, New Testament teaching on works and reward, biblical leadership etc. Thus there would be a stronger emphasis on preaching the word of God and not uncommonly preaching through books of the bible. Reformed charismatics generally are theologically very close to some non-charismatic reformed preachers and teachers such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and would not only quote them, but actually read their books.

Personally this would be the theological stream that I would feel most identified with myself. That also makes it difficult to reflect on this theological stream because I personally agree with most things. What attracts me in this theological stream would be the solid approach to the word of God. It’s not the doctrinal system that is important but the heart to understand truth and preach in a way that unpacks the truth in God’s word. At the same time the Christian faith is not only about having the right doctrine, but also about a life in the Spirit where the relationship to God becomes a relationship of passion and feelings at the same time as there is depth and understanding.

The critics would probably say that emphasizing charismatic life, gifts of the spirit, passionate worship, hearing God’s voice in more ways than through the Bible will take focus off from the word of God and place it on human experience in an unhealthy way. Altough true in many cases and something we always need to be aware of, I simply can’t get around the fact that experiencing God through our emotions, supernatural prophecy, physical healings, signs and wonders, tongues and other charismatic expressions are in the Bible and seem to be a part of church life taken for granted in the New Testament. For this reason I have a very difficult time to see how taking these things away from our church life would make us more biblical.

Please get involved in the discussion. Agree or disagree. Fill the gaps and point out the weaknesses that I can’t see. Take care.

An interview with Michael Eaton

My next blogpost on reflections on Reformed theology in Scandinavia will be a few more days, but meanwhile I’d like to share this interview with Michael Eaton. He is a reformed theologian originally from Westminster Chapel in London, but is now since many years back leading a church in Kenya that has seen many churches being planted.

In the interview Michael Eaton is sharing his perspective on many issues such as justification, grace, works, sanctification, the warnings in scripture and the sermon on the mount. I believe that his thoughts feed very well into the discussions that has taken place on my earlier reformed theology posts.

The interview is 25 minutes long but is well worth the time.

Reformed theology in Scandinavia – reflections part 2

In this blogpost I’d like to reflect on yet another theological stream that I can see in Scandinavia, often referred to as grace teaching. I have seen a number of examples especially in Norway and Sweden, and some of the influences would be for example Joseph Prince from Singapore and Åge Åleskär from Norway. Some might object to call this stream reformed and I’m not sure if they would themselves, but I’ve heard for example Joseph Prince quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones to back up his theology, and he is undoubtedly reformed, so whether “the grace teaching” is reformed or not is not the topic, they are at least inspired by reformed theology and therefore belong in these reflections.

The theology of the grace preaching would emphasize that Jesus has lived and perfected the whole of the law and given the result (righteousness) to those who believe. Therefore we are not under the law and it doesn’t apply to us any longer. The focus would be to liberate people from all kind of legalism and musts that Christians so easily fall under. At least some preachers in this stream would put a strong border line at the cross basically saying that everything that takes place before the cross (including the life of Jesus) belong to the Old Covenant and therefore does not apply to the New Covenant established at the cross of Jesus. The critics would call this stream licensious (i.e. giving permission to “sin under grace”) and neglecting for example Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount.

My primary reflection is that there is actually very much in this theological stream that I appreciate. They are inspired by solid reformed theologians in their understanding of law and grace and they truly know how to rejoice in God’s gift of righteousness. This is not a bad thing in my perspective but something I believe they are right in doing!
My second reflection is a concern I have. In the 80′s the “faith movement” started because they felt that there was a need for teaching on faith in Sweden and everything was built around one topic in Scripture. Altough many things were very healthy with this faith teaching, some things did go wrong and that was partly, I believe, beause their theology was all focused around one area in the Scripture. The current grace teachers, many who have backgrounds in the faith movement, I believe are sometimes very close to do the same mistake all over again, but this time the theological focus is another issue lacking in Scandinavia, i.e. grace. The risk would be that longing to see the teaching of grace being restored to church they will start to build “grace churches” rather than “faith churches”. I strongly believe in the grace of God and the need for a biblical understanding of the grace of God to be restored to the Scandinavian churches, but my longing is first of all to build with “the whole counsel of the Lord” in order to see a biblical church, rather than just a grace church.
My third and final reflection is on the division of Old and New Covenant on the cross. I don’t want to claim that they are wrong because I would need to study the details of what they claim before I would like to make that kind of statement, and certainly the cross is very central to the Christian faith. However, sometimes I feel that it is a quick and unreflected way to get away from Jesus teaching. My perspective would rather be that Jesus came with grace and truth and when Jesus began his public ministry he proclaimed “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15. I believe there is a breaking in with the kingdom of God, which is part of the New Covenant which starts with Jesus coming to earth rather than with the cross. Jesus also certainly preached the good news, the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, and central for the New Covenant, so even if the death of Jesus at the cross is establishing the covenant in blood, it certainly comes to us through the life of Jesus.