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Title:  Looking at Spirit Ministry Afresh


Looking at Spirit Ministry Afresh

Part 3: The 'Mechanics' of a Spirit-led Service

A consideration of the practicalities of such a service




The question has been raised in the following form: “You produced an imaginary Sunday morning church service but what are the ‘mechanics' of such a morning? What are the things that make up such a morning and how do they work?”


Now first of all, I have used the word ‘morning' here but it could, of course, apply to any Service; I have used a morning because today many churches do not have an evening service as such and therefore Sunday mornings become the norm for the gathering of God's people.


There is a sense also that using the word ‘Service' is not helpful in that it brings with it historical connotations that do not help us think in new ways. Some of us are wed to liturgy and others to the evangelical ‘free' service which is usually as predictable and the same week by week. Nevertheless we are thinking about the gathering of God's people to meet with God on a Sunday morning.


To speak about the ‘mechanics' of such a service is really like saying, what can you do with this five litre pot of paint? The reason I say that will shortly become clear. Nevertheless the idea is before us, what may we expect when we talk about the coming together of God's people on a regular basis on a Sunday morning to meet with God? Our answers must be seen in the light of the New Testament, although I would prefer here not to have to justify every sentence by a Bible verse.


So here below are some of the things I believe we need to think about as we approach this subject: 


1. Meeting with God


Imagine if you will God being in your meeting place as an invisible figure. He is there but you only know Him when He speaks or makes His presence felt in some other way – but He is there, He is actually there in the room.


Now imagine the Queen being present in your meeting place. Imagine the person out front leading the gathering only making indirect references to her or speaking about her in an objective way. Now because she is the Queen we might think that approach is fitting because a) we do not have a relationship with her and b) she has not been the cause of a complete transformation of our lives and c) she would not presume to be the One who will be there whenever we meet and claim to be our Lord who will inspire and lead us at all times.


When it comes to God, I hope you will already see from this that we cannot, must not, treat Him in the same way. So locked into church service mode are most Christians that we must emphasise this again and again: He is a person and He is here with us in our meeting place and He is the Lord who has transformed our lives and goes on transforming our lives (that's sanctification) by teaching us, leading us, guiding us and inspiring us – and that does not change for that hour or two on a Sunday morning.


I suggest from the outset, therefore, that our thinking needs to be transformed from a structured, pre-planned, ordered 'service' into an encounter with God whereby He, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is a) acknowledged from the start and b) is invited to lead whatever happens.


Now this is not to deny the ‘leader' spending time in prayer beforehand seeking the Lord for a sense of purpose and direction but if He, the Lord, is to be the leader of this time, we must hold lightly whatever we believe we have received from Him.


Because we are talking here about the presence of the Holy Spirit (although I have sought to describe Him in other terms to free us from our fixed ways of thinking) we need to emphasise that this meeting is first and foremost a ‘spirit' meeting. If we are to sense and respond to the One who is the Holy Spirit, we need to tune ourselves in to Him from the outset.


I have used this concept of ‘tuning in' because the truth is that many of us often come to the Sunday gathering with our minds full of concerns and our spirits quivering with busyness, and therefore if we are to sense Him, we need to pause, be still and know that He is God, and He is there! Churches normally do this (consciously or otherwise) through the use of worship music but that means that many or most do not catch a sense of the Lord's actual presence until some way into the time together.

This is why in the imaginary Sunday morning that I wrote previously, I showed a church that had the habit of waiting quietly on the Lord from the outset. We often bound into God's presence with little forethought or preparation with the result that we fail to tune into His presence and fail to hear Him or receive His leading and subsequent blessing.


2. The Body of Christ


The apostle Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians presents us with the concept of the Church being the body of Christ and every born again believer is a member of that body, uniquely gifted. What we may suggest from the New Testament teaching is that each person may contribute something to the meeting. Put in the most simple way possible that may be

  • by sensing His presence and responding to Him in whatever way is appropriate,
  • by exercising whatever spiritual gift or ministry He has given us and leads us to use.

The only thing to be remembered here is that we are not alone but are part, just a part, of this body and therefore we seek to harmonise with the others in the body, submitting to one another and seeking to bless one another as He leads.


The role of the leader, when we fully understand this concept, is to encourage and release the body to be those who together sense Him, hear Him and respond to Him. It may also be to curb any over-enthusiastic indiscretions by the zealous people of God who may forget these things and move ahead of the Spirit! It is vital therefore that the leader be a born again, spirit filled, mature believe who has learned to be sensitive to the Lord.


To avoid the fear of expectations of perfection in the leader, we need to remind ourselves that all of this is faith activity and we are all less than perfect beings and are all prone to not getting it quite right sometimes. Loving acceptance of one another produces a security that imperfection does not produce guilt, shame or blame.


3. The Leader


The tendency is, in this context, to speak of the person out front as ‘the worship leader' but I have avoided doing that because they have a greater role than to manage 'worship' (which we so often associate only with music). I am not a natural out-front service leader but as I have watched, listened and done it over the years I think I would summarise the activity and role of this leader as follows:


•  They are someone who has spent time before hand preparing their heart to be open to the Lord and to catch a sense of the direction He may be wanting to move His people.

•  As music plays such an important part in modern day church life, then in accordance with what we have just said, he or she will no doubt have some songs that they are ready to use that they believe the Lord wants to use to draw and release the hearts of His people (This leader may or may not be the lead musician and if they are not then they need to communicate these songs to that musician with the freedom for them to use them – or not – when it comes to it (see later under Music).

•  Having been a notoriously bad out front leader, who has used too many words in my desire to get the people of God into the right place, my conclusion today is that the out-front leader should be ‘seen' as little as possible and should keep their speaking to a minimum.

•  So what do they do?

•  they may welcome the people,

•  they may pray and welcome the Lord and draw the people's attention to His presence,

•  they may explain any sense they have had from the Lord about the direction of the morning,

•  they release the musicians to take over

•  they may guide when there is a pause and direction appears to be needed or they sense it is time to move into prayer or whatever.

•  they may explain, for the sake of visitors, when gifts of the Spirit are manifest,

•  they may bring the Notices if that is part of that church's style of working,

•  and they may administer or steward the meeting in any other appropriate way they sense the Spirit leading them – all the while encouraging and looking for the body to express Him as He leads.

I would add that the role of the leader is never to jolly along the people of God. Brief encouragement is one thing but exhortation has to be so gentle otherwise the people of God are simply made to feel inadequate or even failures. The leader must let God be God and He is the God of comfort and the God of encouragement and He will do both in a variety of ways if we simply give Him the space and respond to Him.



4. Music and Musicians


This has been, historically, one of the most difficult areas of the gathering of God's people and so let me make three observations:


i) Some services are basically a string of songs and little more.
ii) Other services try to overcome that by breaking it up with set times of prayer, testimonies, notices, etc. but which has a stop-go artificial feel about it.
iii) In the Spirit-led service the music should be the channel for drawing people into God's presence (most important spiritually), then for providing a medium of response to God, and finally (and in practical terms most importantly) for releasing people in the Spirit with their giftings to be exercised. 

The call on the lead musician is to be sensitive to the Spirit and to the people which may mean

  • flowing on from one song into another
  • flowing on into singing in the Spirit
  • simply coming to a halt at what feels an appropriate time.


To be continued