Worship Renewal: Key 1 of 6

Renewal and Revival

Worship Renewal is an ever-present goal in our individual lives and in our churches.  I want to present a series of strategies the people of God can use to reach this goal.  In our Pentecostal circles we tend to use the term revival more than renewal.  Are those two words synonymous, or are they complementary terms, two parts of a single process?  Revival means to bring something dead to life.  Renewal means to make an old thing new again.  We speak of revivals as specific events: the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, the Azusa Street Revival of 1906-1909, or the Brownsville Revival of 1995.  Histories of these momentous events are written around the personalities of the leaders, the doctrines upon which the revivals are based, and the influence of the revivals on the world. 

      Richard M. Riss in his book, 20th Century Revival Movements in North America, describes several characteristics of revivals:  (1) ministry in word and music in the power of the Holy Spirit that pierces the heart, (2) a deep thirst for the Word of God resulting in increased sales of Bibles and related books, (3) an increased demand on evangelists, (4) a return to the orthodoxy of the group experiencing revival, and (5) a renewed stress upon the Jesus story, especially the atoning death and resurrection of the Savior.[1]  In each revival, something dead (the church) was revived to new life, and people made pilgrimage from around the world, spreading the influence of that moment in time and space.

      If revivals are time, place, and personality-related events, renewal is a more community-based, doctrinal process.  Revivals are evangelistic, sweeping multitudes into the Kingdom.  Renewals are processes of reformation, bringing believers back to true spirituality.  Evangelists lead revivals; pastor-teachers lead renewals.  Obviously the Lord is working through all of the events and processes of the church; revival and renewal are related.  One might even see a progression in words quite familiar to us.  Revival in a community leads to renewal in the hearts of believers, which in turn leads to reformation in the Church, which can lead to the restoration of Apostolic Christianity.  Or perhaps a different sequence is more accurate in some cases: Renewal, reformation, and restoration in the Church lead to the revival of Christianity in the entire culture.  Perhaps the process isn't sequential at all, but everything is actually happening at once.

      For example, a pastor sees this swirl of events and processes in his local church.  Each Sunday someone experiences revival and a person nearby has a renewal, all within the context of the reformation of the Last Days as apostolic power and ministry are restored.  We observe at least a matrix of causes and results, stimuli and responses, which are the current moving of the Holy Spirit.  The articles that follow will present worship renewal as a starting place, an entry point for this holy cycle of blessing.

The One Who Makes Us One

      The first obstacle to be overcome in the process of worship renewal in the local church is division.  Too often, the local church and denominational communities engage in worship wars.  These are actually culture clashes.  Ideally a local church has several identifiable cultures within--generational cultures as well as ethnic or aesthetic groups.  Each group is defined by the particular music and public ceremony it prefers.  If the members of each group see their preferences as the central aspect of public worship, worship wars ensue.

      This, of course, is nothing new.  A culture clash is the basis of the question posed to Jesus by the woman at the Samaritan well.  "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem," (John 4:20 NIV) said the woman as she described the dilemma many worship leaders find themselves in today.  How does one please all the groups within the church in order to lead them all in worship?  Jesus' answer to her is His answer to us: ". . . [T]rue worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23b).

    Worship leaders (pastors and musicians) cannot meet the contradictory demands of the groups within the church if those demands are at the center of the worship service.  However, if the worship service is centered upon the desires of the Father, what He is seeking rather than what the people are seeking, worship leaders can readily succeed.  With the help of the Holy Spirit and informed by the Word of God (in spirit and truth), leading worship is a delight, not an impossible task.

      Each of the six keys to worship renewal will be an aspect of what it means to worship in spirit and truth.  The first is the one we must always keep and the one most easily lost--Keep worship centered on Jesus!  The ministry of the Holy Spirit centers on Jesus.  Paul says that Jesus has torn down the walls of hostility between the cultures within the Church.  With amazing stealth, our personalities and preferences, our music and our methods can steal the center of our thinking, planning, and presentation of public worship.  Worship renewal begins and is maintained by keeping Jesus at the center.

Strategy 1: Keep Jesus at the Center of the Worship.

Further Reading from Dr. Phifer

Fire and Form:
F&F102 Pentecostal Polarities  
F&F110 The Living Sacrifice of Praise
Worship That Pleases God--The Passion and Reason of Worship
Worship: A Pentecostal Perspective--Seeking the Ways of the Spirit

Ancient Future Pentecost--A Study in 21st Century Possibilities 

Beyond the Comfort Zone
Cheap Praise and Lazy Worship
The Gathering
Jesus at the Center
Ministry to the Lord
The Sanctuary
Waiting on God

[1]               Richard M. Riss, A Survey of 20th Century Revival Movements in North America  (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 3-4.