Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Martyrdom Entranced Worship ...

Since coming back from the Brighton Leaders Conference I have found that I am obsessing nearly on two things: Mission and Worship. I have never before felt such a desire "to go"! Yet John Piper's famous quote in his book, "Let the Nations Be Glad" is arresting:

"Mission is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Worship therefore is the fuel and goal in missions. It's the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of God's glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God ... When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God's true worth, the light of missions will shine to the most remote peoples of the earth. And I long for that day to come!".

As do we Dr Piper! An unfortunate comment was once made by a pastor I was talking to. He said; "Worship is really the cup of water before the main course - the sermon". After reading "Let the Nations be Glad" I couldn't disagree more vehemently and so would John Piper. Surely rather the sermon explains what the worship is. Or rather the object and goal of the worship.

However as I read a chapter later in the book, I was arrested by a comment that John Piper quoted regarding martydom. It was regarding a man called Raymond Lull - an 80 year old.

"His ambition was to die as a missionary and not as a teacher of philosophy ... His love had not grown cold but burned the brighter "with the failure of natural warmth and the weakness of old age". He longed not only for the martyrs crown but also to see his little band of believers (in Africa) ... At length weary of seclusion and longing for martyrdom he came forth into the open ... he was stoned on the 30th of June 1315".

His ambition was to die as a missionary! He longed for the martyrs crown!? Longing for martydom?! Who is this man? As I read this, part of my heart burnt with a desire to have his same longing - but the other part of my heart ached with fear that I simply did not have this man's faith or vision. Could I walk willingly to my certain death for the sake of the relentless advance of the Gospel? I'm not sure at the moment I must confess.

So I began reading Terry Virgo's excellent article in a previous Newfrontiers magazine on "Worship in Spirit and in Truth". As I understand John Piper, these great men of the faith - these martyrs - could go with their heads held high because they had seen Something or Some One worth dying for. My reasoning is that it is in worship that my vision will increase and I pray my faith will grow to attempt daring exploits for the spread of the Gospel. So I went through his article with my own comments. I must become a better worshipper! It was said that Albert Einstein, "must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had ever imagined and they were just not talking about the real thing".

I believe that Terry's article is so helpful in increasing our knowledge of worship because he identifies steps or stages in worship. This is a totally biblical concept. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote; "Do we know anything about these advancing steps or stages? As we look back acros our Christian experience, do we know what it is to rise, like this, from step to step and from platform to platform? Do we know this increasing boldness in the Presence of God, this increasing assurance and the desire for yet more and more?".

So Terry wrote:

"Worship is our highest calling. God is seeking worshippers, so converts must become worshippers ... Perhaps our worship reaches full expression when we gather corporately in our churches. It should be the climax of our week".

This sounds very similar to John Piper's argument. And how vastly different. Corporate worship should be the climax of our week compared to a "cup of water before the main meal"?

"We don’t want to be bound hard and fast with rules, but if you have no guidelines you can lose direction. 1. THANKSGIVING. Enter His gates with thanksgiving; a simple thing but genuinely helpful".

I remember for many years at my home church in Dunstable there was a huge sign in the entrance foyer. It said; "Enter His gates with thanksgiving". As children it became very normal to us, but the worship used to model that generally in church. We would always begin with thanksgiving. It was so useful because thanksgiving would enable us to focus on God whatever baggage we had entered the church with. He is God! And He is worthy to be praised! As Terry said;

"Thanksgiving is appropriate in every circumstance. People face huge problems; mortgage difficulties, family disputes, parent/child tensions. People often come in pain. It’s helpful for them to be able to say ‘in every circumstance of life I’ll praise you’ and then start adding content to declare why He is worthy of praise. So come thanking Him, honouring Him, expressing our appreciation to Him. Thanksgiving is our threshold, our doorway in".

"2. PRAISE GOD WITH UNDERSTANDING. You praise what impresses you! Don’t keep singing songs that have no content. Sing songs that absorb your mind and expand your understanding of God.".

I thought about the many times that I had come to churchs past and simply not had any desire to worship or praise God at all. This made me think - does God really impress me? Hymns and songs are so helpful when they are full of doctrinal content. Because they express some aspect of God that should impress us! Some of my favourite songs contain lines that sometimes I can hardly sing without getting emotional. The beautiful hymn, "Before the Throne of God" (sang at Stoneleigh Bible Week 1998) contains the line, "For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me". Wow! Or as another hymn says, "Amazing Love! How can it be?".

Terry then takes us up another step or stage in worship;

"3. IDENTIFICATION. Worship is enriched by identification ... we are not moved only by the objective beauty of God, but by our identification with Him; He’s my God, my Saviour. So my praise takes on an even deeper feeling and meaning ... Praise takes on greater intensity the more we appreciate our identification with this God, with what He has done for us in His Son".

I think that really touches what I experienced at Church of Christ the King on the Sunday evening before the Brighton conference. I spent two years every Sunday singing of the Cross of Christ and feeling very little. The teaching aspect to those songs was second to none. But when John Hosier said that one sentence in his prayer; "It was love that constrained the Son of God to go to Calvary" - I think I identified it! For the first time it felt I realised that the Cross is the greatest expression of love that the Son of God can possibly give. To ask for further expressions of love as though the Cross wasn't enough is nigh on blasphemy.

The next steph or stage:

"4. SHOUT TO THE LORD. Praise has to be expressed. It is not fulfilled until it’s articulated ... When I was baptised in the Holy Spirit ... I was expected to keep this new experience to myself. Ultimately I could not settle for that because praise reaches its zenith in being expressed ... When I was a young Christian, clapping in church was almost like blasphemy! Now I frequently find myself applauding God and shouting His praise alongside a ‘dancing and shouting generation’. He is worthy of praise in the way that praise is often articulated in other normal human settings, namely with wholehearted enthusiasm!".

One of the things that stirred me the most last year at Newfrontier "Let the Nations Be Glad" conference was to see Terry left alone on the platform during the lively offering dancing and clapping to the African beat and watching the masses of Mobilise that were packed around the front of the platform. It moved me because my experience has been often that as men get older their tolerance for noise and sound diminishes. Not this man! How awesome to have a father of our movement who loves to shout His praise alongside the young!

"5. ADMIRATION AND REFLECTION. That brings us to expressions of love and devotion that take us into another sphere ... I am reminded of Graham Kendrick’s song, ‘Knowing you Jesus, knowing you, there is no greater thing…’, a song that is probably often sung in private prayer as well as in meetings. I imagine that, if you were a song writer, it would be your greatest desire to help serve the saints to get close to Him alone so that their longings for God can grow! If we don’t reach genuine encounter we are missing out".

I feel that we are getting close to the kind of worship that stimulates martyrs. Genuine encounter - really being able to sing, "There is no greater thing! You're my all - you're the best!".

"6. ENCOUNTER. ‘I long for you O Lord’, ‘As the deer pants’, ‘Show me your glory’ – we are looking for moments of discovery, and carefully selected songs can help us on our way. I think sometimes we start singing in the Spirit too early in meetings. Corporate singing in the Spirit can not only sound beautiful but also lead into a dynamic spiritual experience of God’s presence. But sometimes we jump in too quickly before people are ready. That, in turn, often results in quite brief times of singing in the Spirit which don’t go anywhere.

Consequently, we can get used to periods of singing in the Spirit that are not very dynamic. Times of corporate singing in the Spirit can be breathtaking and can be the prelude to the breakout of gifts of sung prophecies, sung tongues, sung interpretations, all kinds of wealth of spiritual worship. I love that old Wimber song ‘Just like you promised you’ve come…’ I remember in the early Wimber meetings there were times when you wondered what would happen next! How often is it like that for you at a Sunday meeting?".

Yet I was amazed to find that there is one final stage - that I am sure many will not like. Yet Terry writes;

"7. INTOXICATION. There is one more step: delight and even drunkenness! The Bible says, ‘These men are not drunk as you suppose’, they were full of the Spirit. ‘Don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit’ (Eph. 5:18). We are talking about encounters that affect you powerfully. The nearest description is this very irresponsible one of being drunk! Who would have dreamed up such a comparison? It seems outrageous! But the Bible offers the comparison. When we come together we want to taste God; His love is better than wine".

Some may argue that this is not very seeker-friendly. Non Christians may be in our midst and may be put off. Dave Holden dealt with this issue excellently at Brighton, and Terry dealt with it too in his article. He wrote;

"We must not worry that this kind of worship is not ‘seeker friendly’. I have non-Christian friends who have come to our Sunday morning worship and have said to me, ‘We just cried. What did we touch? What was that?’ When we worship we want the unsaved to feel the impact and know that God is there".

And so in conclusion;

"8. TRANSFORMATION. As we behold His glory we are being changed. That’s the power of worship. So we go from encounter to delight, to transformation as we behold His glory. We are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another. If you experience God enough you are going to be changed. So we are being changed more and more from glory to glory as we worship and behold Him.

Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t simply sing a few songs. Worship is your highest calling. Let your mind be informed; let your will be motivated; let your heart be inflamed; let the Holy Spirit draw near for heartfelt fellowship; and let God be greatly glorified.

How thankful I am to be at a church where the elders are not prepared to settle for anything less! I began this blog by writing of the 80 year old gentleman who longed for martydom. Who wearied of safe seclusion and walked into Africa seeking out those who would kill him yet needed to hear the Gospel. Could I do that? I fear not at the moment. Yet God is so unbelievably gracious! His call for me is not yet to die a martyrs death but to worship Him in Spirit and in truth - to seek encounters with Him that will transform me forever.

15 comments:

thebluefish said...

bring it on!

Anonymous said...

I can't quite believe that in the space of forty or so years since the Charismatic Renewal begun, we are beginning to talk about Martydom-inspiring worship. Encounters with God that so change us that we are willing to walk to our own crosses - heads held high "for the joy set before us".

No more, I think, can cessationists claim that charismatics are "triumphalist-happy-go-luckys!". Triumphant - but not triumphalistic! Certainly not after reading a blog entry like that - that is seeking after worship encounters that make it possible to seek a martyrs death!

I think we are on holy ground if that is what Brighton conferences are inspiring. If that is the generation that is coming up from their ranks, then indeed the tide may be turning.

Phew!

That's all I can say!

Dr S A J Burgess

James B said...

Let's go for it!! Enough defending the truth - let's let the truth free! Let's pursue worship that encounters God in power!!

SJ said...

Dr B ... I think you've touched on something there in your statement re: charismatics.

Could it be that charismatics are finally getting serious and are realising that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not simply to give them goosebumps, teach them to play tambourines and sing happy choruses (see Dan ... I've learnt Ern off by heart).

But the gift of the Spirit has come to bring us into encounter with God. To take seriously the Great Commission and to bring the Kingdom of God into existence in life and power so that demons do flee??!

I was absolutely AMAZED by Dan's account of a demon being exorcised at a Newfrontiers LEADERS Conference?!?!? And why not!? The Kingdom of God has come!! Demons must flee!!.

Triumphalistic - no. Triumphant - yes. Exciting days.

Simon Edmonds said...

I found myself asking the question as I read the summaries of the Together on a Mission - will there come a day when the strains of "Bambalela" and "This is where the Party Is" will fade away in the wave of suffering and persecution that God may see fit to release on His Church.

Silly songs?

Trivial songs?

Yet as I read this piece on seeking Martyrdom I find it somewhat difficult to reconcile the two views. The writer of this blog seems to be earnestly longing after a heart that seeks martyrdom, yet is prepared to dance around and be somewhat undignified in Brighton singing those same cited songs!

Can it be that John Piper is right. That Jesus Christ suffered more than any man ever will, yet was also the most joyful, most happy Man on earth? Newfrontiers International are growing something quite powerful and quite strong here. There is a generation coming forth from their ranks that are wildly charismatic yet deadly serious about dying for the Gospel.

Watch this space.

Anonymous said...

Let's not get carried away. Martyrdom isn't new you know! Newfrontiers haven't invented martyrdom.

Living Life Now said...

Newday and Mobilise etc, are such great conferences, because a generation IS emerging, and it's a generation that is going to be active in taking the gospel to the unreached, no matter the cost !! And where better to start, than in hearing from God, in amazing Spirit-filled worship.

Dan, you know how much I LOVE worship, so thank you for that blog, I know how heart felt it was !! I know how much you long to encounter God in the most glorious of ways, wherever that may take you, because I know you will never settle for second best.

Luke Wood said...

No intention of responding to a phrase like "let's not get carried away" after a week like Brighton. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

My turn to answer Mr Anonymous then ...

I don't think that anyone is claiming that Newfrontiers invented martyrdom. Haven't you been reading this blog? We have read quotes from church history that shout aloud that martyrdom began when Stephen was stoned and I know Dan is fully aware and fully appreciative of those greats - those church examples. Didn't you read the article properly? The martyr quoted didn't come from Newfrontiers!

I think the point is that for the first time consideration is being given seriously to martyrdom in the West and within Newfrontiers from his point of view.

Correct me if I got anything wrong Dan.

Can I say with all respect that the phrase, "Don't lets get carried away" doesn't tend to end with martydom entranced worship. Neither does defending truth rather than releasing it - as we read some time ago (Pioneers vs Settlers).

Dr S A J Burgess

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks Dr B. Yes you understood me perfectly. I was in NO WAY implying that Newfrontiers had the monopoly or the orginality on anything especially martyrdom. My excitement and passion is coming and stemming from the fact that this is beginning with us, the family with which we are related.

Terry Virgo has been saying for a couple of years that he believes it won't be long before we see the first martyrdoms coming in from within our ranks, and as a respected prophet of God, I have no doubt he is spot on as usual.

After all, "God does nothing except He reveal it first to His prophets".

As for getting carried away? Well I'm with Luke again. I'm not even going to comment on that!

James B said...

That's really interesting that Terry has been almost prophesying martydom coming. Wow I didn't know that. Its not something particularly classic charismatics tend to forsee on the horizon, as someone said earlier!

How does this fit in with NT prophecy? My mind leaps to Agabus straight away who told Paul that he would be bound, suffer with chains. But prophecy is meant to uplift, exhort etc! Yes but surely having a promise of sufferings coming for the Gospel WOULD actually encourage and uplift and prepare these men.

That man of God that Dan quoted from - he was seeking and longing for a martyrs crown! Was Paul? "To live is Christ, but to die is gain!!".

I'm starting to see a rather reckless abandonment to the Gospel hear - that really doesn't quite fit in whatsoever with not getting carried away!

Woah.

Ollie said...

I am aghast that the settlers concept is so alive and well. It seems like the easiest lesson to learn throughout the Bible and throughout church history - Jesus Christ Himself was killed because He offended the Jews with a radical gospel message that turned tradition on its head.

Yet why still are there so many men who read the same Bible as we do, yet fear the radicalism of truth, fear the winds of change, fear the Spirit who removes comfort zones, brings down religious walls and takes the Kingdom of God out to the street!?

I'm not having a rant, it just really really bothers and upsets me. If the Church of Jesus Christ could just wake up and realise that the gospel is THE power of God unto salvation and that the lavish grace of God doesn't call us to passivism and to caution and to lethargy and to "being mature" but to OUTRAGEOUS adventure, as Terry said?!!?!?

Surely someone must realise that this "settlers" attitude is holding back the advance of the Gospel? Isn't it? Or am I just getting carried away?

Oh calm me down someone - this post really got me so fired up that I went and started reading my Bible and I really just wanted to go to the darkest reaches of unreached people groups to get martyred for the Gospel and then I read that ... anonymous weirdo from Bristol ... and I got so upset!

Anonymous said...

My dear young brother,

I share your frustration. In my eighty or so years in the ministry I have seen the Church of God ebb and flow like a tide at it's height. Sometimes you will see outrageous classifications - such as men such as yourselves are zealous because of your youth, and you may be told rather patronisingly that you will "calm down" as you get older and see things from experience.

That is a vicious lie. I don't believe that is Scriptural. Zeal doesn't depend on age. It depends on what you have to believe in, what vision grips you and how you see the Kingdom of God.

I would like to think that I am more zealous now than I have ever been before - I am afraid that a lot of my zeal is driven by desperation. That I desire to see the church get it right!

Look at the namesake - the reason why this blogsite exists. Dr Ern Baxter lived till 80 or so years too if I have read Dan's writings right and he too never changed in his desire to see "something more". How blessed I was to read his sermon on the "Spirit and the Word" and hear him proclaim that despite the charismatic excesses he was STILL a charismatic at that heady age!

So please - my brother - don't give up on us all. I really do believe that age is just an unfortunate trend to a decline in zeal. Remember one of the speakers from the Brighton conference that Dan wrote of (I forget which one) but he said that disappointment is a dangerous friend of theology. Don't let your disappointment wear you down

God hasn't given up on His Church yet! And He needs and loves zealots like yourself to yell "WAKE UP" to His church! I have no doubt that the lady prophetess Ginny, at Brighton wasn't 100% popular when she prophesied as Dan wrote; "Wake up Church!".

The Church doesn't like to be told to wake up! Yet it must be. And it will be. So please - I agree with your rant. I love your rant. But don't write us all off. Some of us are still trying to be like Caleb hobbling along with the children of Israel - the younger generation - and demanding our mountains!!

Every richest blessing to you Ollie.

Dr S A J burgess

Anonymous said...

I do apologise - I wrote "Eighty or so years in ministry". I meant "Eighty or so years alive". Another problem with age. My brain doesn't connect to my fingers as it used to!

Dr S A J B

Baxter's Boy said...

This is something that I am deeply passionate about - the vital role of elders (not just church leaders) in our churches. I find it hard to control my rage when I hear of younger pastors who laugh at older people and mock them for their "age". There is absolutely nothing Scriptural about this whatsoever.

We are actually commanded to honour and respect those above us in the Lord. Not only that, those elders among us have a vast wealth of experience that can save a younger church pastor from a whole host of wrongs, if he would have the humility to actually ask for it.

Secondly I too have seen far too many elders grow deeply disillusioned with things they used to believe in and be passionate about. I remember being brought down to earth with a damp thump by a elder at my home church just after I had been baptised in the Holy Spirit. He told me that I would "calm down when I grew older and became a little more mature".

I resolved then and there to only surround myself with elders who set an example of zeal for God's house and were NOT growing old gracefully!! To this day, by the grace of God I still do. I refuse to become an embittered, disappointed older man. But rather I want to be a Joshua or Caleb trotting along on my zimmer frame as we enter the land! I want to be like Terry Virgo dancing around to mad silly songs surrounded by young people and just revelling in it! I want to be like Ern Baxter who testified that his 60 years of charismatic experience were the best of his life!

There is an amazing verse in the Psalms that says; "I shall not die, but I shall live and declare the mercies of the Lord". I think that verse should come like a wake up call to many elders in our churches who believe that just because they have past retirement age, they are "past it". Surely their work should only just be beginning!!

Retirement means you are free to go to the nations! Retirement means you are free to live your life for the glory of God! It's about time we made sure that the world (and foolish young men who should know better) stop dictating when our elders are past their best.

I love the example of men like John Wilthew from Sidcup who has moved churches and planted so many new churches! Never give up you elders! We love you. We honour you! We respect you! We NEED you!