What Does It Mean to Worship in Spirit?

Mark Virkler's picture

It is a joy to read the papers submitted by Christian Leadership University students, and I just need to share this amazing paper on experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit during worship. Personally, I hunger to encounter Jesus in every worship service, and I do it best by presenting the eyes and ears of my heart to the Holy Spirit to fill, and fixing them on the worship taking place around the throne in heaven. After picturing that scene, I then tune to flow (Jn. 7:37-39; Eph. 1:17,18) and a vision unfolds where I find myslf in awe with a vast multitude, worshipping before the King in heaven. So enjoy Chloe's powerful description of spiritual worship which follows.

THE MOMENT – PRESENCE by Chloe Moodley

Creating holy moments comes when a Worship Leader doesn’t just know how to recite Psalm 23, but knows the Shepherd of the Psalm. Leading worship is not about choosing the best flow of songs or the latest songs or putting on a great performance. Leading worship is about creating holy moments. This is the Presence of the Holy Spirit taking the stage while we wait for Him to do what He wants to do.

Picture of Chole MoodleyTo create holy moments, we have to spend time with God. Knowing the Shepherd comes through constant communion with Him. Knowing the sound of His voice grows with familiarity to His sound. After a while we know the voice of our Shepherd and we obey Him without question. When we do this, people know we have been in God’s presence. The atmosphere in worship becomes charged with Presence. The worship sounds real and we feel the rhythm pounding in our hearts. Urgency takes over our spirits and as we give in to that urgency, we are transported to another time, another place, and a place in God. We move from focusing on ‘me’ to gazing on Him. We realize we don’t have to look very far because He is within us and we are surrounded by Him.

Growing personally is another key to creating holy moments in leading worship. This involves reading, studying, debating, etc. Our choice of authors defines who we are. Looking at the names of authors to the books in our personal libraries tells us what we feed our souls with. And what we feed our souls with is what we become. Debating is a good growing tool. During these discussions, we realize what we believe. We may not know what we believe unless someone challenges us. Then we ask the question, ‘What do I really believe?’

Reading helps us develop the language of worship. We must articulate our speech through worship vocabulary. Our diet should be a worship diet: living on worship. Observing other worshippers lead or by simply listening intently to the words of the songs on the radio or on a CD or our iPods, creates an awareness of what we are actually saying or to whom we are addressing the message. Instead of routine or ritual we create holy moments by owning the song. As we lead worship, we must encourage and exhort so people learn how to own the song and direct their worship inwardly to the Presence inside of them or outwardly to the Presence around them. Many people have gone off course through sin or issues in their lives. Worship is the tool that brings them back on course. That’s why spending time with God and growing personally is key in creating holy moments. This is the moment where God Almighty meets worshipper, where Creator meets creation.

‘He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters.’ We need to capture the mood of the Holy Spirit. The question we must ask is ‘Where does God want to take this worship moment?’ Should we follow our list? Should we change the song? Should we just wait and see what God wants to do? If the sheep are hungry, tired, thirsty, or irritated by another sheep, they will not lie down. God wants to cause His sheep to find peace in Him so they are free to lie down. When God wants to change the mood, don’t follow the song list. It’s like a kite moving in the sky. Although we may control the kite from down here, the wind controls the movement of the kite and the direction it flies. Camp out where the Holy Spirit is.  Stay there and eat. Be sensitive to moments. This becomes transformational worship. Don’t move from a holy moment! Stay in that moment! That is what our souls have been craving, to eat from green pastures.

Another key to creating holy moments is to love people. They know if we are for real or if we are phony. Love people and they will love you back. People just want to be loved. The song they are singing is ‘When I’m loved, I’ll find myself loving you back’. They are crying out,  ‘Don’t look at my faults! Just love me and I’ll learn to worship like you do.’ We don’t know what they’re going through. They want to find their way to God’s Presence. They want to experience holy moments in the presence of the King. As worshippers we don’t have to sound professional and perfect. God is looking for raw and real. We come just as we are.

Worshippers tend to lead worship without really leading anyone into God’s presence. We get so caught up we leave the people behind, wondering and waiting for us to take them there. Our role is to help people to encounter God. We are there not to perform. People are there not to watch us but to follow us into God’s holy presence. Don’t run ahead! Wait for the people! Take them there! They’ve been waiting the whole week for this moment. Worship is for them, not for us. We’ve already been in God’s presence getting ready for the moment. Don’t scold them, condemn or belittle them. Sense the mood and the tone of the Holy Spirit. What happens when people encounter God? Their disposition changes! A shift occurs!

When we get to a place of awareness, we begin to focus on the One who is magnificent. This One is the reason we want to be in a state of awareness. This One is the reason we wake up in the morning and feel fully alive. This One is the main event! This One! Jesus Christ! We move from a place of selfishness to selflessness. Our attention is removed from ourselves and moves to Him in others. We begin to see the image of God revealed and released in people. We see and hear the cry of their hearts, calling out for the One who they came to worship. To create holy moments we have to be fully present, fully alive and fully aware. He is here! And we are aware of Him! We submit to Him and He brings the miraculous.

But experiencing the miraculous begins inside of us. As a worship leader, I must take care of my soul first before I can help others. Only the broken can lead the broken. Only the hungry can lead the hungry. Only the thirsty can lead the thirsty. Worship leaders must lead balanced lives. We need to find rest with the Shepherd. We must experience the green pastures and the still waters before leading the people there. If we’ve never been, how will we know the way to the Shepherd’s pastures? This is the place where we rest, charge ourselves and replenish ourselves to be effective. We must find things to do which restores our souls. In today’s language, we must treat ourselves to feel whole, satisfied and fulfilled. This does not mean we have to do things that are only spiritual. There are non-spiritual things that we can do to treat ourselves. It could be watching a movie, having a manicure, going to a spa, going on vacation, having a party at home without preaching, talking about things in life, etc. Being balanced means I enjoy my life the way God intended I do. We cannot be so spiritual that the only person who ever talks to us is God. There’s no use in that. God wants us to be His love. How can we be His love if we don’t know how to love? Love is not preaching and reading the Bible all day long. Love is showing that we care.

We practice the Presence of God wherever we are, in whatever we do and who ever we are with. We must have all types of friends, the scorned, the drug addict, the person who I work with that continually swears. How can we be a witness if we are only around Christians talking church only? That’s not what God intended. We need to balance our friends. Many worship leaders fall because we’re tired, exhausted and always giving. We try too hard instead of learning how to take time for ourselves so we can be recharged for the next worship experience. Sometimes we are so good that we can miss God. We are always expected to be on the job and we can miss God. God is in the simple things in life. He is often in the mundane things in life. He is so simple that we tend to miss Him. We look for the big things. We look for the big audiences. We sing songs we write expecting it to make big news, hoping it will work, while God is looking for the simple song we hummed when we were in our darkest moment.

During these dark periods, we find God. This is time to sing and praise His Name and lift Him up. When we lift Him up, then He becomes bigger than our situations.

Worship Leaders also go through tough times just like everybody else. The difference is that on Sunday morning we have to get up there and lead God’s people to Him. They come to experience holy moments after a tough week. Many times we don’t even feel like leading the worship because we are so down. What do we do during these times? How do we pick ourselves up and lead the people into His Presence?  Psalm 18:46 says ‘The Lord lives’ and this is what we must remember. God lives! When we’re down, we don’t remember who cares or what God has done in our lives. The feelings and voices of despair begin to exaggerate and magnify the issues. We must remember ‘The Lord lives!’ And the more powerful dynamic is that He lives inside of me.

The next part of Psalm 18:46 says ‘Blessed be my Rock!’ We must remember who God is IN me and TO me. He is my Rock. He is my stability. He is my Bodyguard. He is my Protector. Whom shall I fear? How can I remain down when the unshakeable One dwells in me and works through me? I have to remember Him, not the issue. I cannot make the issue bigger than God. God is bigger than all. Verse 46 goes on to say ‘Let the God of my salvation be exalted’. He sets us free because He is our Freedom. We are free in Him. When the Israelites lifted up their hands, Israel prevailed. When they lowered their hands, the Amalekites prevailed. This is the time when the Worship Leader is the worshipper who reminds himself or herself that the Lord lives inside of me. So when I lift Him up, I lift myself up. Why? Because He lives inside of me. When I lift Him, I extend His territory around me, and increase the intensity of His Presence. Why? Because I am IN HIM.

How do I lift myself up before I have to lead worshippers to the throne of God? How can I create holy moments and capture the mood of the Holy Spirit unless I change my mood to come in alignment with His? I must declare that my situation is not reality. What is reality is what God says. Ps 18:47 says ‘It it God who avenges me and subdues the people under me’. We declare who He is. He is the Mighty Warrior! He is undefeated! The undefeated avenges me so how can I lose? I then begin to make proclamations. Preach to the atmosphere, to people, to all God’s creation, and even to demons. Verse 48 says ‘He delivers me and He lifts me up’. When I’ve been with God I will recognize a holy moment and allow the kite of His Presence to go where He wants.

Next, give thanks to God and sing praises to His name – Verse 49. This is when I start to really lift. Praise involves music. I sing a song of deliverance. I prophesy on my instrument. I just begin to praise and talk, praise and walk, praise and live. I let His praises reign. The words begin to flow. The melodies begin to fill my soul. The sound of heaven starts to download into my spirit. And I’m caught up!

I develop my worship vocabulary by singing the psalms and trying to feel the mood of David in the Psalms. I romance the King in Song of Solomon. Holy moments are created with Him and the angels. I get accustomed to His voice, His sound, His smell, His Presence. When He enters my closet, I just know it. This is the moment I’ve waited for when I follow the Shepherd to green pastures. Now it’s the time for the Worship Leader and the Worshipped to walk beside still waters. Now is the time to rest and recharge and eat green pastures. I sense He wants to say something wonderful to me. And nothing else matters. Just Jesus!

I continue to sing and worship Him with new songs, new ideas, new melodies and rhythms. He takes me on a journey with Him. Without even realizing it, I’m swept away. Time flies! It loses its sense. Minutes have no meaning anymore for they have translated into moments, holy moments. Presence is with me. Now I understand the cry of His heart. He tells me about His hungry worshippers that will be looking at me to bring them to Him. He tells me they’re thirsty too! He wants them to drink of the river. And then I realize I’m not the only hungry one or thirsty one. There are many. He elevates my thinking until He gets me to see His reality. My reality shifts. My perception shifts. His reality becomes my reality. Holy! Separate! Set Apart! Erect!

The voice of truth tells me who God is, and who I am in God.

I realize I want to wait in the Upper Room until He shows up. Then I think to myself, what if they didn’t wait in the Upper Room for Him to show up? They would have missed a Holy Moment when Presence stepped into the atmosphere and changed everything forever. When I’m leading worship I don’t want to miss that Moment when everything changes. I want to be able to capture that Moment in my time with God and when I am leading His people to Him. Why? Because I want them to experience what I did. I want them to know Him like I know Him.

My heart explodes with gratitude and I cannot help but give thanks for He is good. Psalms 118:21. You are my God and I will praise You. We thank Him because we’ve just won the battle and it was all His! Although I receive crowns of personal victories in my life, but when I come to Him I cast it at His feet and say to Him ‘It was all Yours!’ We can’t work harder or try to be better. We all fail. Jesus did it all! I’m still a work in progress. I will always be a work in progress.

God wants simple, humble, broken vessels because those He can use. Amy Grant’s song “Better Than a Hallelujah” sums it up;

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
Our life song is our worship to Him.

As Worship Leaders, that should be our favorite worship song. Our life is worship to Him. I love to lead worship but I definitely don’t want to show up at the party without Jesus. My favorite thing is His Presence and being in the Moment with Him completes my Truth.