Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Praise and Worship in the Charismatic Movement

This is how I remember praise and worship to often be, in the late 70s and early 80s.

The congregation often started singing spontaneously, well before the service officially began. Song after song, waves of praise and worship filling the auditorium, before the meeting even started.

By the time the service officially began, anticipation was already at a peak. There was dancing; clapping; hands raised - tambourine girls out the front.

Just walking into the auditorium could be a life-changing experience. You could feel a thick presence of God, as if angels filled the very atmosphere all the way up to the ceiling.

People travelled many kilometres, hundreds of kilometres, and even came from interstate and overseas - because they'd heard the fame of what people were experiencing.

After a few rousing songs of celebration, a slower worship song. The whole congregation like one person would feel a different aspect of God's presence come upon them, and respond.

Then another song of adoration, and another - after which the whole congregation would often spontaneously begin singing a new song to the Lord. Either in English or in unknown tongues, singing their own words to the Lord, the whole congregation harmonising together.

After it waned, sometimes another wave would come. Anything could happen next. Someone might lead in a new song for all to hear - either in English, or in tongues with interpretation. Some might prophesy. Or speak in tongues, and another might interpret.

Then the congregation would often respond, as one man - everyone just sensing what the Holy Spirit was doing, and responding spontaneously.

Sometimes a minister would get up and give words of knowledge. Gifts of healings might manifest.

We sang by heart. No-one needed to look at the words. Sometimes we sang old hymns - with new joy.

You could go home singing the songs all the way home in the car. Or in home-meetings away from the screen and band. Or down the beach with friends. The lyrics were memorable and the melodies beautiful. It lent itself to spontaneity.

We always felt announcements broke the flow of what was happening.

Then someone would preach. People sat on the edges of their seats, eager to hear the revelation that poured forth. Teaching like they'd never heard before. Evangelism which set the stage for what came next in the meeting.

We always looked for the ministry of the Spirit to happen next. Extended time for it. Often demons would be cast out. Miracles of healing would occur. Personal prophecy would be ministered. People could barely stand up, the power of God was so heavy. Sometimes people laughed for joy. Sometimes people had to be carried out of the meeting!

People of all backgrounds came and got saved. The movement had wide appeal across all segments of church and society. New leaders were raised up. New churches and missions founded.

As great as it was, we still dreamed of a day coming when the power of God would be manifested even greater. We saw it, longed for it, prophesied about it.

Prior to that new move coming, many churches became distracted by programs. Many Pentecostal churches which had not embraced the New Order Latter Rain/charismatic movement of which we were a part, developed the Contemporary Church style praise and worship instead.

But in the mid-90s it came. Laughter for joy spread to whole congregations at a time, not just to a few on ministry lines. People remained under the power of God for extended periods. Visions. Callings to ministry. So many deep things occurred. This was what we foresaw in the 80s.

Like the New Order Latter Rain/charismatic move which we were a part of, this new River movement spread to many churches also. Many were deluged by it, for a time, including the Pentecostal churches which had been slow to embrace the New Order Latter Rain/charismatic movement, and also charismatic churches which had become a bit distracted by strategies and programs - but then some went back to church as it had become usual. Praise and worship in these churches took-on more of the Contemporary church style which had developed out of Pentecostal churches which hadn't fully embraced the charismatic style of praise and worship.

Other groups carried-on in the River. Some of these groups later became criticised for unverified claims of phenomena such as healings, gold fillings, gold dust, angel feather, oil, and gemstones. And some groups were not strong in many aspects of local church. Consequently many of these groups did not have the broad appeal, but attracted a narrower segment of society, than the earlier movement had. Some of these groups developed their own distinct style of praise and worship.

Some people carried the River-anointing and were able to continue to express it to some extent, by remaining in churches which had once embraced it but waned in the expression of it. The praise and worship in these churches therefore had hints of the worship-style used by some of the new River-type groups added-in with the predominantly Contemporary style. Some such people eventually became leaders in some such churches, or became itinerant ministers, and even eventually begun planting new churches which carried that move of the Spirit more freely.

Many took a different attitude towards tattooing than the traditional Christian feeling - across all contemporary Pentecostal, charismatic and River-type groups, hindering unity of conscience somewhat.

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