Lifting hands, singing in tongues, dancing and shouting ‘Hallelujah!’ is a common sight in Pentecostal churches. Are we crazy? What really is worship?
In his book ‘Exploring Worship: A Practical Guide to Praise & Worship’, Bob Sorge gives us several very good definitions of worship. Here are a few excerpts:
- Worship is our affirmative response to the self-revelation of the Triune God. For the Christian, each act of life is an act of worship when it is done with love that responds to the Father’s love. Living should be constant worshiping, since worship may be said to provide the metabolism for spiritual life.
- Worship was the outcome of the fellowship of love between the Creator and Man and is the highest point Man can reach in response to the love of God. It is the first and principal purpose of Man’s eternal calling.
- True worship and praise are awesome wonder and overpowering love in the presence of our God. Worship is the ability to magnify God with our whole being—body, soul, and spirit. The heart of true worship is the unashamed pouring out of our inner self upon the Lord Jesus Christ in affectionate devotion.
- Worship is the response of God’s Spirit in us to that Spirit in Him whereby we answer, “Abba, Father,” deep calling unto deep.
We see that worship in itself does not have anything to do with music or songs. Music and songs are means to for us to express worship to God.
There are many aspects of worship but in this discussion, the focus is on the corporate worship in a Pentecostal Church.
Why do we worship the way we do in a Pentecostal Worship Service? In order to answer that question, we have to ask what takes place in a Pentecostal worship service.
I had the privilege of growing up in a Pentecostal church. My father was the Senior Pastor and he loved to worship. Whenever he took over the service from the worship leader or called for an altar call, he would encourage the congregation to press on a few more minutes in free worship. He would model it by singing and worshiping in tongues.
There were many times where prophetic utterances would be heard and people would be encouraged by the prophetic words inspired by the Holy Spirit. Several testified to seeing visions, experiencing healing or feeling raindrops during these times of worship. Hence the kind of worship I am used to involved a lot of outward expressions—the raising of hands, clapping, dancing,singing, shaking and other expressions.
The worship leaders raised in my church were encouraged to be ‘led by the Spirit’, give time for free worship and encourage the congregation to express worship to the Lord in tongues. This did not mean that the worship leaders did not prepare their song set and rehearse with the worship team prior to the service. It was more that they were open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and flexible to abandon their song-set and ‘flow’ with the direction that the Holy Spirit was taking in the worship service.
I was raised leading worship this way as well and in every worship session, I would encourage singing in the Spirit and give time for the Holy Spirit to speak to the congregation. I must say that I not only enjoyed each worship experience but I encountered God in a real way as we worshiped and sang in the Spirit.
Later on, as I learned more about worship, I personally defined this type of “Spirit-led free worship” as “Spirit-empowered worship”. It was electrifying. To me:
- Spirit-empowered worship is the kind of worship characterized by the active participation of ardent worshippers gathered together, giving freedom for the Holy Spirit to move, with signs and wonders evident in the service.
- Spirit-empowered worship goes beyond just plain singing, polished transitions and a well-planned order of songs.
- Spirit-empowered worship unlocks the supernatural and changes lives. Pentecostals are more “Spirit-led” in the worship services, which tends to be misunderstood as emotional, hyped-up and or even chaotic and confusing by those who are more used to a structured worship service that is practiced by other denominations.
When the Holy Spirit fell on the believers on the Day of Pentecost, their lives were completely changed. The Holy Spirit brought about a fresh revelation of God to them, changing the dynamics of their worship. Although the worship in the early church was conducted in believers’ homes and simplicity marked the house-church worship services, it was powerful. The worship consisted, for the most part, of praise (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), prayer, reading from the Scriptures, exposition, prophesying and tongues, and other spiritual gifts.
But the emphasis throughout would be on the Spirit and the inner love and devotion of the heart. The worship was so vibrant and electrifying as we see chains literally broken and lives set free in the “Pentecostal-type” worship of the early days.
That is our model for Pentecostal worship! Worship in Pentecostal Churches must be vibrant and electrifying. It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to worship and gives us the added language in our worship as well. I believe that the Holy Spirit is the one that fuels worship.
Let us as Pentecostals continue to desire more of the Holy Spirit in our worship services and give Him time to minister to the people. In wanting to be “professional and prepared” in our worship services, let us not lose our Pentecostal heritage of Spirit-empowered worship.
About Pastor Daphne Lau
Pastor Daphne resigned from her teaching profession in 1998 to answer God’s call to full-time ministry. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Music from North Central University in Minnesota, USA. There, she pioneered the music ministry at All Nations Christian Assembly.
Upon returning to Singapore in 2003, she became active in full- time ministry, serving in the areas of Worship and Creative Arts, both in her own church and nationwide. She also served as the AG Singapore’s Worship Coordinator from 2004 to 2010. Daphne currently teaches a two-week block course, ‘Fundamentals of Worship’ at Immanuel Bible College in Cebu, the Philippines. A passionate singer, musician and songwriter, she released her first single, Hold My Faith Strong in 2008, co-produced the ‘I Love the Lord’ worship album in 2010 and most recently released her first album, ‘A New Day’, in 2013, distributed by Integrity Music Asia. Daphne is currently on staff at Eternal Life Assembly, serving as the Worship Base Pastor there.