By Warren Anderson, HBF Board Member
So often in the past couple of years, even while visiting numerous and disparate churches in random order, God has seemed to have a specific word for me or a member of my family each time. Indeed, I’ve been surprised by the number of times the pastor’s sermon or a transitional comment by the worship leader has spoken directly to a specific concern or issue facing me or a member of my family. It’s been uncanny–especially since Lea and I visit so many different churches as part of our ministry routine, probably 40 or more in the past several years.
These small-scale occurrences, too numerous to be the result of chance (even if I were inclined, and I’m not, to view them that way), have caused me to think a bit about the concept of our congregations’ expectations as they come to worship each week. In other words, why have I been surprised by all this?
Let’s put it another way: Have we become immune to the concept of holy expectation in contemporary worship?
I think the answer might be “yes, more often than not.” I understand why, of course. We live in the age of Planning Center and other often-useful tools that help keep our services flowing smoothly. Worship leaders in highly presentational churches have producers in their ears telling them how much time they have before they have to cue up the morning’s video, and the running clock back by the confidence monitor flashes red when anyone on stage goes over the allotted time for any element of the service. To be sure, it certainly seems that many churches are programmed so completely that there really isn’t room for much else–even though I’m sure most church leaders would respond in the affirmative when asked if they desired God to move in their midst in worship.
Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, wrote a paper a while back entitled, “Holy Spirit Empowered Ministry: A Case Study of the Church at Antioch” that articulates some key concepts from the 1st-century church’s worship practices. Let me excerpt some particularly compelling observations where corporate worship and a sense of “holy expectation” are concerned. As you read, you might consider asking yourself how closely our current worship services mirror those described by Iorg, even if you subscribe to the notion that much of the content in the book of Acts describes as opposed to prescribes.
Healthy churches experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their worship services. Healthy churches have a holy expectation something special will happen every time they gather to worship God. Healthy churches have leaders and members who seek God’s power in planning, preparing for, and directing worship services. Healthy churches experience the Spirit’s intervention when worshipping.
How can you discern if the Holy Spirit is moving in the worship services of your church? Simply put–supernatural things happen. Decisions are made and life change happens beyond the scope of human ingenuity. People give gifts, make commitments, and chart new directions because of insight received while worshipping. In short, things happen that can’t be explained by the work of your two hands!
When the Holy Spirit moved in the church at Antioch, the members did something beyond their ability. They responded to preaching, gave money, delivered messages to fellow believers, accepted a call to missions, fasted, prayed, and laid hands on fellow believers (commissioning them for service). When the Holy Spirit is active in a worship service people respond–privately yes, but also openly, definitively, and publicly. Certainly, public response can be manipulated and be too dependent on emotional appeals. But foregoing all opportunity for public response in worship isn’t the answer to those excesses. . . .
Healthy leaders and healthy churches have a sense of expectancy when they gather together. They seek the filling of the Spirit, personally, and the empowering of the Spirit, corporately. These churches create opportunity–spiritual, emotional, and physical–for people to respond to the Spirit’s prompting in worship. They facilitate praying, sharing testimonies, confronting sinful behavior, public repentance and supportive prayer, and expressions of mutual support (laying on of hands in Antioch, often a hug or a handshake today).
These churches plan time in their worship gatherings for a response–using various methods but always giving people an opportunity to follow the Spirit’s promptings, urgings, or instructions.
Healthy churches expect the Holy Spirit to be an active participant in their worship gatherings.
Read the last two sentences in light of the fact that Iorg is a Southern Baptist; non-charismatic churches don’t get a pass from him.
Let’s consider adding time for planned spontaneity in our services.
The Lord be with all who help to lead the Church as we seek to help our congregations increase the level of holy expectation they bring to corporate worship!
Health Notes: Simple Tips on Managing Stress
By Marion Boomer-Hauser, MS, RD, HBF Board Member
Stress is the body’s natural defense against change or circumstances that might cause physical, emotional, or psychological strain on your body. Stress automatically initiates the fight-or-flight response; hence it is our autonomic nervous systems that control our responses to stress.
The body’s nervous system regulates both voluntary and involuntary actions, in addition to memory, communication, and thinking. The autonomic nervous system controls everything that happens automatically such as breathing, digestion, and heart rate to keep us alive!
We all know that stress is no stranger to those who work in music and/or ministry! If we do not address the underlying cause of stress and do something about it, it will soon take over and then nothing will be accomplished for God’s glory and kingdom. Right?
Let us take a little deeper look. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts: the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. The parasympathetic system controls things like digestion and the ability to rest. It works to conserve energy and help us sleep, breaking down food, absorbing it, and sending its nutrients to restore the body. The sympathetic system, on the other hand, is responsible for action! This is where we get the fight-or-flight response – quick energy to move away from danger or stressful situations.
So, when dealing with a chronic ailment or long-term difficult situations, the body stays in that fight-or-flight mode (sympathetic dominance) for much longer than the body should. The parasympathetic system cannot function well and thus the person may experience digestive difficulties and/or sleep disturbances, among other things.
Another interesting aspect of why a person stays in sympathetic dominance is related to their neck curve. If instability exists in the cervical spine, vertebrae can move too much and encroach on important vessels such as the internal jugular veins and the vagus nerves (the nervous system superhighway that runs along each side of the neck.)
At our Caring Medical office, we are seeing dramatic increases in the number of patients that come in with feelings of stress, anxiety, inability to cope, depression, sadness, and loss. Why? Since we are experts in the neck, many of these patients have issues related to cervical instability. However, compounding that are the stresses of life. So, we encourage you, first and foremost, if you are having these feelings, consider that it might be related to your neck.
Think about this neck-stress connection for a moment. Most everyone is looking down at a smart (or dumb!) phone, computer, or musical instruments for long periods of time over many days. The ligaments in the neck “creep” and weaken leading to loose ligaments in the neck that in turn can compress these vital structures and cause all sorts of symptoms. It’s important to take breaks from your instrument and find ways to “look up! vs constantly looking down!
Everyone experiences other kinds of stress in their lifetime, some more than others. What is stressful for one person, might not be stressful for another. Stress is a part of life, but it must be managed effectively to maximize success, health, and happiness. Therefore, the way we respond to our stress plays a huge role in our overall wellness.
Here are tips that can help you look at your stress in a new way.
Take a breather – If you find that something is stressing you out, step away from the situation and if able, go outside for a few minutes. Research shows that spending time outside and in nature can help reduce stress levels by lowering your heart rate (and improves digestion!) We love taking a 10-minute walk around our office complex at lunch time to “reset” and get ready for the afternoon at work. It really does help!
Separate worries from concerns – We know this may be easier said than done but try being mindful of what you are getting stressed out about. If a situation is a concern, ask God for help and release that anxiety to Him. If you cannot do anything about it, then there is no sense in worrying, right? What does that really accomplish? Nothing. Focus your time on things you can change!
Turn it around – While listening to a recent Podcast, we heard this, “turn the let-downs into lessons and the disappointments into determination!” Wow does that change your mindset! Just because something is challenging does not mean you have to stress yourself out – challenging times are an opportunity for growth!
We cannot stop things from happening in our lives, but we can control how we respond to them. Matthew 6:34 states, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If you are stressing about what may happen tomorrow and it does not even happen, then you worried for no reason! If it does happen, then you have just worried twice! Right?
Worry less and live more!
Here’s to your health!!
Through your generous efforts, the Huntley Brown Foundation was able to donate a keyboard to the Divine Favor Ministry in Faisalabad, Pakistan for the church and the orphanage. We have begun the process of virtual music lessons for the children at the Orphanage. This is a program that we hope to continue to expand with your continued support. Please let us know if you have an interest in providing donations of time, teaching, and funds. We are in need of music teachers to help in this effort, if you would be interested in providing lessons, we would love to hear from you! Thank you in advance!
Your prayers are much appreciated, and we are truly grateful to those who have given to the ministry so that we can help others.
Huntley Brown Foundation