Worship services that facilitates the Spirit’s transforming power

photo credit: YKThe presentations I had to do went well today and now I can pause to write before I continue working on my Sunday sermon and the post-campus assignment.

One of the interesting readings of this module is a  Christian Education Journal article (3.vol4, No.2) titled “Teaching Bible for Transformation” by Jackie L. Smallbones from Northwestern College.

Transformation inextricably linked to purpose of Bible

Smallbones’ big idea is that to teach in such a way that people’s lives are transformed we need to take seriously the primary purpose of the Bible. The Bible primary purpose is to reveal God, and only secondarily to show us how to live. The way the Bible is used popularly today,  both from the pulpit and in the small groups, the secondary purpose has supplanted the primary. Preachers and people move too swiftly into the applications that focus on what we should do and how we are to apply the truth in our life. Not sufficient time is given to let the text speak and reveal who God is and what He has done. The anthropocentric focus often deters a theocentric priority.

“Transformation is God’s business”

For Smallbones, transformation is a radical change that comes from deep within a person and is lasting. It  is growth in Christ-likeness. For her,  “Transformation is God’s business and not our own” (Smallbones, 2007) and it often takes place by grace, despite our efforts or teaching methodology. To Smallbones, the secret of transformation lies in having a dynamic, living, interactive relationship with God. No self-disclosure, no friendship; no friendship, no transformation. God’s desire to reveal Himself and have a transforming friendship with us is embedded in the purpose of the Bible. Therefore we need to teach it in such a way that it reveals who God is and what He has done, and elicit a response of gratitude, worship and faith. It makes you want to have a friendship with God, one that in the end would empower you with the grace to do all that a response of faith entails, and one that will transform you beyond surface behavioral cosmetics, and touch you at the roots of your personality.

Exploring a worship service that facilitates transformation

I like what I read in the article and there are many more stuff she has written that is thought provoking and resonant of what the Lord has been teaching me these several years. The question that begs to be answered then is what would a worship service look like that reveals God and invites us into experiential and living encounter and growing friendship with Him. Well for one, the lyrics of the songs we sing would be theocentric. They will exalt and reveal who God is and what He has done, and is doing.  Some time could be given for “testimony” where someone could share how God has been real to them.  The sermon should constantly have a theocentric focus that exalts God, and should lead people naturally and finally into deep trust, adoration of God, and experiential communion with Him. Instead of focusing on the faith of David, the cowardice of the Israelites, and the blasphemy of Goliath in the sermon, focus on the God who honors His covenant, and waits for someone to dare believe in Him, in order to deliver His people. See Christ defeat of Satan in David’s defeat of Goliath and how we are more like the people of Israel who rejoiced at the victory, than like David. We sat in fear, darkness and oppression until the One greater than David appeared and set us free (got this idea from Graame Goldsworthy).

Silence and holy communion

Another way to create space for the Lord to transform by friendship is the use of silence. Silence is the womb of communion. So have silence before the service begins; or a silent pause or two between or at the end of singing praises; at the offering time; silence for the gifts of the Spirit to manifest; at a pregnant moment in the sermon or a longer silence after the sermon; or during the Holy Communion; and hey, why not a long pause just before the benediction. And of course talking about Holy communion, that visible ritual that proclaims the Lord’s death until He returns, why not do it more often than the conventional once a month.

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  • The Indicatives before the Imperatives! Being before Doing! The Gospel for liberation and sanctification!Preach it bro!:)

  • This is a more personal account of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

    I am of the opinion that the most important state of mind to have when interacting with God is the realisation that we are righteous by the blood of Jesus.

    Hebrews 4:16

    Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

    Otherwise, we’ll cower from him like Adam and Eve did in the garden.

    Genesis 3:8

    Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

    Hence, the confession of faith “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” or “I am right with God by the blood of Jesus” (Thank you, precious Lord Jesus) is necessary to establish this state of mind when we have sinned (thoughts or words or deeds) or everyday.

    Secondly, we should have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit of God. An invitation to ‘reign in my heart and mind’ ‘show me the way’ ‘give me your wisdom, my Lord’ etc. should be meted out all the time. Talk to Him habitually, ‘Lord, should I wear the red shirt or the blue?’, ‘should I get my wife the diamond necklace or bracelet?’ 🙂 ‘should i wait or go ahead?’ etc. This would form a habit that would extent to other important questions later on.

    It should be on the spot thing. Not a time set apart to pray. That is why Jesus called Him, the Counselor (Adviser).

    John 14:26

    But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

    Once the question had been asked, the Holy Spirit will guide. We will be guided by the ‘peace’ within.

    Hebrews 10:16

    “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

    Once we have decided based on peace we will trust that this is the right decision and will act on it and then we….relax. The more we ‘listen’ the more we will hear. This is when He will prompt us without us asking a question.

    James 1:5

    If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

    Sometimes, the prompting would throw us. Like giving to a brother or a sister in need. However, small steps, small steps 🙂

    Sometimes He prompts us to pray for a person that we would not otherwise.

    The one important thing I learnt is that timing is important. When He prompts, learn to obey immediately. One time at church (an inter-denominational church), the pastor preached on praise offering. He gave a time whereby the congregation could do whatever they like in terms of praise like lifting up of hands or clap or bow down etc. When the Lord prompted me to clap, I was quite embarrassed to do so. I waited a bit later and it was the wrong time to do so because the pastor had moved on to something else! There were some people clapping with me but I totally knew it was the wrong timing. The Glory had passed. So, lesson learnt.

    Sometimes, a confirmation of a decision can come from the most unexpected people or unlikely sources. God can use anyone or anything (including non-Christians and donkeys) or any circumstances to help us. We should be humble to accept this is from Him if already this is in our hearts. Otherwise, our own will can overpower and we’ll not be able to follow when God is leading.

    And when we missed too many of God’s leadings, we’ll be back to the state of not recognising Him when He speaks. We block Him out because we’re not ready to let go of the reign. Either that or we’re too busy taking care of business to stop to listen.

    I have seen many many miracles by following HIs lead. This is how we….

    2 Corinthians 3:18

    And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


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