Today, we continue our search for great movements of God. In our first installment we defined a “God Movement” as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a specific time and place, sent by God the Father and focused on Jesus Christ that produces all or some of eight characteristics.
Last time we looked at the first two which involve the internal preparations necessary for a God Movement to occur in an individual, a church, or a nation. First, we indicated that true God movements produce strong commitments by Christians to prayer and genuine reliance on God’s power for spiritual living. Second, we stated that God movements result in sincere expressions of personal confession of sin, repentance, and accountability by Christians indicating a deep desire to walk closer with Christ.
Now we turn to the outward manifestations of authentic movements of God in lives of individuals, churches, and society. In this installment we examine numbers three and four out of eight.
3. Visible increases in local church attendance and renewed interest in vital worship experiences.
One of the most significant develops in evangelical Christianity over the last two or three decades was the radical transformation of worship styles in many churches. In past generations, most evangelical congregations followed fairly traditional patterns for worship services.
Most church worship included several congregational hymns from a denominational hymnbook, one or two anthems sang by a multi-voice choir, a solo musical number, a Bible reading, and one or two congregational prayers led by the pastor, another minister or layman. The central event, of course, was a 30-40 minute sermon delivered by the pastor on a specific subject, often determined by the church calendar.
Now, while many churches still follow that pattern, increasing numbers of congregations are incorporating what is known as “contemporary worship styles”. These may range from simply adding an orchestra or praise band to hard rock and roll. Other churches may adapt other culturally conditioned worship styles. For examples, a few years ago I saw a “Cowboy Church” meeting in a parking lot. I also had some friends who started a “Country Music Church”.
The style of worship, in my opinion, is irrelevant to the authenticity of the worship of the people. True worship comes from the heart as Christian people express their love and honor to God. That expression transcends culture, music styles, or language. Some of the most meaningful worship experiences I have known were in places where I did not understand a word that was spoken. I could just look on the faces of the people (in Russia, for instance) and see the love for God and Jesus they were expressing.
The danger in any worship style, whether traditional, contemporary, or what have you, is that it can become contrived or counterfeit. Too many times I have seen worship services where the ministers and the people simply go through the motions with little or no sense of the Spirit’s presence. Things are done the same way, and in the same order, as they always have been. These churches tend to be of the more traditional sort. It is said that evangelical churches don’t have rituals, they have rut-uals.
On the other hand, though, I have also witnessed contemporary services that were totally contrived with the music so loud and overbearing that it was difficult to hear oneself think, much-less hear the voice of God. I even recall one occasion when I had to leave a service because I nearly became physically ill.
Another danger in worship is that it can be too emotionally charged. Feelings are important in worship, but they can be easily manipulated if the environment is sufficiently controlled. Just think how many people come out of movie theaters with tears in their eyes. That has happened to me only once, the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan. Hyper-emotional worship can lead to counterfeit spiritual experiences that may be exploited by fraudulent leaders.
In any case, when a God movement exists, worship is authentic. It is often followed by increasing numbers of people who attend church regularly. Of course, sometimes, due to circumstances in certain communities, numerical growth may not be possible. Nonetheless, God can still move in their midst, and worship will be from the heart, regardless of the style.
4. Demonstrable increases of generous giving to authentic Christian causes and ministries as well as other expressions of Christian stewardship.
Jesus talked a lot about Man’s relation to the material world. In a word, he said that we are the stewards of God’s creation charged with managing the material world for His glory. Most people think that stewardship is only concerned with giving money and tithing. That’s an unfortunate misunderstanding of what Jesus meant.
Generous giving is, of course, a key aspect of Christian stewardship and is indicative of a true movement of God. But stewardship really involves all of our relationships with material possessions. It also determines how we make our living, how we spend our money, how we save and invest our money, and even how we dispose of our material possessions after we die.
Again, however, discerning Christians should carefully evaluate where they entrust God’s money and resources. Sad to say, many charlatans fill the airways and cable TV, duping sincere believers to send them donations often with ridiculous promises of healing and wealth. Too many times the gifts only support their lavish lifestyles and go toward little, if any, real ministry. Have you ever thought how many missionaries could be supported on fields around the world with all the millions of dollars required to keep just one television ministry afloat?
Nonetheless, when and where there is an authentic movement of God, it is usually accompanied by God’s people desiring to share their material possessions. They will invest the resources God has provided for them to support their local churches as well as worthy Christian ministries and denominational mission programs.
© Tal Davis 2011