By Jimmy Orr
“As worship leaders, how do you balance between allowing the spirit to lead, while maintaining a structure during a service?”
This tweet frustrated me.
The theology of worship implicit in this soundbite is thinly veiled; Spirit led worship is always spontaneous, chaotic and surprising. Spirit led worship is when we abandon the carefully prepared setlist and ad-lib, because the Spirit told us to, til our hearts have had their fill of the warm fuzzy confusion.
To imply that carefully prepared and planned worship cannot by definition be Spirit-led because it is essentially too planned and structured seems to be missing the point somewhat. The suggestion from such a theology is that the Holy Spirit is temperamental unpredictableness, totally unprepared, intent on causing chaos and happy to disregard any plans we may have spent time working on.
However, this doesn’t sound like God the Holy Spirit I see working in the Bible; the God Spirit who, in Creation, brought order and structure out of shapeless chaos; the Spirit who, at Pentecost, systematically included and engaged everyone present in taking the message of Christ to the masses; the Spirit who empowers and partners with human beings to build the kingdom of God in any number of creative ways.
So, my response to the aforementioned tweet was, 'Does the Spirit not inspire the writing of songs, prayers and the order of service? Does he not partner with us?' and in terms of our worship being Spirit-led
, 'He leads our worship long before the service starts and more than just the spontaneous bits we give him credit for!'
If we truly sit down and prayerfully plan our worship times, using material that has been inspired and crafted with the Spirit’s inspiration and guidance, and if we lead with sensitivity and a desire to see people encounter God together (whatever that may look like at any given occasion or setting) then the whole process is Spirit-led... and therefore the outcome cannot be anything but Spirit-led.
Jimmy Orr has a passion for worship and for the Church and for nurturing creatively indigenous expressions of worship, reflecting the nuances and character of life within the local community. He is married to Kathryn, and in 2014 the couple will take up new roles as Pastors of Leigh Park Baptist Church, Havant. He writes at www.JimmyJamesOrr.com where this article was originally published