As the Church grapples with the increasing necessity to influence & measure cultural transformation, its role as an equipping agent for those positioned to transform culture is more crucial than ever.
Those rising as gatekeepers and influencers in various spheres of culture require ongoing encounters with fresh dynamics of the Kingdom of God, and churches are rising as Apostolic Centers employing new delivery systems. Progress has been evident in various dimensions; intentional discipleship, Kingdom theology, business as missions, and ‘7-Mountains’ engagement, etc. However, corporate worship in the local church often remains trapped in outdated patterns – lending itself to entertainment, sentimentality, or a self-focused paradigm; and has in many settings lost its edge as a dynamic tool in the current Apostolic reformation. As we gain traction in the move toward outward transformation of culture and the sending of the entire church into assignments in every sphere - worship in the church-realm must also reflect this. Our corporate worship dynamic cannot be lost, sidelined or relegated as part of the old order, but instead must also be swept into reformation, resonating with apostolic core values and function, apostolically aligned and flavored.
Therefore, in rediscovering and implementing apostolic values into our churches and gatherings, it is crucial that our worship leaders and teams are aligned also. Over several centuries, the corporate worship dynamic has progressed – from the ‘teaching and truth’ anointing of the great hymns, to the pastoral function of relating directly to the Father in the choruses of the charismatic movement. Currently, as apostolic function and anointing re-emerges in our churches and organizations, worship must also be aligned correctly alongside every other dimensions of ministry. Corporate worship that embraces and carries apostolic government in its DNA is a crucial element in enforcing the presence of the Kingdom, and mobilizing and activating the victorious, overcoming Church. What sound in corporate worship should accompany those who are called to function as architects in societal transformation, reformers of culture? Those who are called to disciple nations?
Identifying three different functions of corporate worship is helpful for us to locate where we are, and where He is moving us :
• Priestly Worship – functions from earth to Heaven and is the foundation of worship from us to God. The church singing ‘to’ the Father.
• Prophetic Worship – functions in releasing revelation and is a vehicle that carries the voice of God. The Church singing ‘from’ the Father.
• Apostolic Worship – functions from Heaven to earth and carries the authority of God. The Church singing ‘with’ the Father.
Much of our praise and worship has existed in the necessary priestly dimension - the offering of earth to Heaven. In some settings there has been a natural progression into prophetic worship, so that now many are comfortable with the release of prophetic revelatory songs in corporate worship. However, there is currently a progression into apostolic worship that forerunners have been moving in, but most of our gatherings do not yet have a context for.
The bottom-line difference between Priestly and Apostolic Worship
The outpouring of the Alabaster Jar in an act of worship (Luke 8:36) is one of the most powerful images of personal devotion that we see in the New Testament. Jesus was not offended by the heart-felt outpouring, and actually uses it as a teaching moment for the religious leaders who were criticizing. In contrast, Paul and Silas when imprisoned for demonstrating the Kingdom (Acts 16:22-35), release a completely different worship dimension. Singing in prison at midnight, their sound changes the circumstances around them - an earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison resulting in mass freedom and the salvation of the prison guards. Contrasting these two worship expressions :
• Priestly, ‘Alabaster Jar’ worship gives place for personal devotion that models complete access to Him.
• Apostolic worship causes prison’s to be shaken and every chain to be broken, it is corporate in its effect and function, resonating with authority.
• Where Priestly worship is the song of the devoted individual, Apostolic worship is the song of the sent Church.
The current default for much of our corporate worship is still ‘personal devotion’, and most of our regular corporate gatherings are focused in moving from the priestly into the pastoral dimension - rather than into the apostolic. Out of an earth to Heaven connection in worship, the Church bring their personal needs and come into contact with the height, width, and depth of His love for us. As leaders, we then minister to, and shepherd, individuals and families pastorally. This is a legitimate, but not the only function of the corporate gathering. We are clear that the Holy Spirit desires to move us not only into the pastoral, but also into the revelatory and governing dimensions of prophetic and apostolic purpose. Spirit-empowered corporate worship should partner with apostolic anointing and function to provide opportunities for the Church to be re-charged, re-envisioned and re-aligned. Not only comforted and pastored. Although intimacy with God is never taken from us, the final aim of corporate worship is not greater personal comfort and devotion, but connection with our created purpose, dunamis- empowering, and engagement with culture.
Corporate worship that remains only in the priestly sustains a rich devotional dynamic, but will often forfeit the momentum to progress forward. The embracing of apostolic worship adds dimensions of corporate activation and empowering to our corporate worship experience that priestly and pastoral function alone does not. The governmental anointing and declaration that is released through apostolic worship stirs momentum, change, and alignment, in a way that devotional priestly worship alone cannot move us into. Just as the full function of each of the five-fold ascension gifts are needed for the maturation and mobilization of the Church - so making room for Priestly, Prophetic and Apostolic dimensions in worship is needed in our corporate gatherings. Rather than leaving the church stuck in a Pastoral cul-de-sac, these three strands are combining to transform our corporate worship gatherings into purpose filled encounters. Scripturally, many of the Psalms begin in a place of reaching out to the Father in personal devotion and soon progress into militant declaration. Jesus clearly spent extended time in intimacy with the Father, but from that place was sent to exercise incredible authority and the “now” of God that demonstrated the Kingdom - healed the sick, stilled storms, raised the dead, and transformed culture.
Certain songs in the book of Psalms are Apostolic, carrying an outward focus and sent-ness within their content. Psalm 2 is an incredible example of Apostolic Worship and moves almost entirely in an outward declaratory dimension, there is no place that it speaks directly to the Father. Christ is unapologetically stated as supreme King over the nations – 2:6, 2:8 & 2:10. It speaks directly to the nations calling them to worship.
What is crucial to understand is that this Psalm was made originally by David to impact the realm of the Spirit - as not every earthly king could have physically heard this song in the natural. David makes declarations that set a mark down in the earth as to how things are from Heaven’s perspective. Other aspects to note are both the spheres of influence and also the intensity level that this Psalm engages. In the first three verses nations, peoples, kings and rulers set themselves against God. They conspire, plot, stand, and gather together. These are not passive thoughts but definitive actions. The psalmist releases declarations that answer these plans clearly, governmentally and authoritatively. Today, the word of God is clear that we fight not against flesh & blood, against people or governments, but against spiritual forces that are set against the manifestation of God’s purposes and His Kingdom.
Both the Prison-Breaking Worship of Paul & Silas, and David’s Psalm 2, illustrate some primary functions of apostolic worship :
• Apostolic Worship partners with the resurrected Jesus.
• Apostolic Worship shakes foundations of prisons and breaks open doors.
• Apostolic Worship results in everyone’s chains falling loose. Holy Spirit is an Apostolic Spirit -attracted to prison places!
• Just as ‘Apostle’ means ‘sent one’ – so apostolic anointing & apostolic moments in our corporate worship are infused with ‘sent-ness.’
• Corporate apostolic worship carries content that is outward - and by its very nature, invades territory in the lives of individuals and regions.
• Apostolic worship often carries an extended jurisdiction and operates ‘outside of the room’ influencing subjects, systems and places not present.
• Governing apostolic worship is concerned with releasing the reality of God’s authority now -establishing, building and enforcing the complete authority of Heaven based upon a New Covenant, post-Resurrection reality.
Where priestly worship functions earth to Heaven, and prophetic worship focuses upon releasing revelation - apostolic worship moves from Heaven to earth, partnering with Jesus as King and His ekklesia in corporate governmental moments, reinforcing declarations and announcement. Where Priestly worship engages the church as a captivated Bride, Apostolic worship activates her as a Kingdom carrier.
Apostolic worship can be expressed in various forms :
• Sounds that carry the government of God, expressing the sound of Heaven for the moment, representing what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing in a given setting.
• Songs that carry ‘present apostolic truth’ announcing where God is taking us.
• Music and declaration songs that converge with specific spoken decrees by Apostles and Prophets.
• Music and sound that converge with dynamic corporate prayer - moving the Church from petition to declaration.
• Spontaneous or already written songs that are governing or foundational in subject matter that are sung for a season by the corporate Body. They focus upon non-negotiable truths, the expansion of the Kingdom and cause apostolic expansion in the church.
• Songs from God released into the arts and entertainment sphere, that speak to the culture and capture the voice of a generation. Rather than operating in constant defense, God is releasing music and songs from Him that invade the music industry and carry Heaven.
We need to see gifts in the apostolic Church unlocked, and anointings married to see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. The new breed of Psalmist that walks as a Heaven-hearer will secure great progress for the Kingdom of God in the days ahead as they release apostolic worship and partner with decrees made by five-fold leaders. Whether the role of the Sound-forger is supporting and surrounding a prophet and apostle with governing sounds and music or releasing a song so that the corporate can declare, they must take their place. Worshipers are shifting in function from remaining only as a priesthood that minister to Him - to engaging in strategic prophetic and apostolic governing worship that God is releasing from Him as part of the tabernacle worship that is being restored.
In 1 Sam 19:20, three groups of un-regenerated people are overcome by the presence of God as the Prophets and musicians work together. We can see the backslidden and un-regenerated pre-Christian come into an encounter with God by standing and releasing the atmosphere of Heaven. Kingdom businesses, street-prophets, media-visionaries, Fortune 500 CEO’s, evangelists and miracle workers will accelerate the Kingdom in their sphere of influence, saying what they hear to say, and doing what they see to do. Emerging worshipers simply have to do their part. Apostolic worship has a ‘sent-ness’ about it that enforces the will of God on earth - taking a prevailing atmosphere and bringing Heaven's.
We will see increasingly that new places of His presence are easily reached in the corporate through the marrying of worship and the five-fold ministry gifts. Governing music will increasingly find itself partnering with ministries through which the governing power of Christ is allowed to function. Where powerful apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching gifts are raised we will see Soundforgers positioned alongside, releasing governing and governmental music. The Holy Spirit wants to move and sweep through with extreme power, causing an uprooting of apathy and delusion, distraction and inactivity. Declarations and initiatives are being released that bring shifts across entire regional structures and social arenas.
God is wanting a partnering of governmental-sound with governmental-authority for His purpose and Soundforgers can operate alongside five-fold leaders in many ways. Some steps to aligning corporate worship with an apostolic paradigm are :
1. Equipping Worship Leaders and teams alongside other staff and five fold leaders as to the function, aim and nature of Apostles and Apostolic Ministry.
2. Equipping Worship Leaders and teams to recognize in popular worship songs, what is consistent with Apostolic purpose and values, and what is not.
3. Training them to recognize and distinguish between Pastoral, Prophetic and Apostolic moments in worship.
4. Integrating Apostolically flavored and influenced worship alongside pastoral and prophetic worship.
5. Re-educating our worship leaders and teams that Apostolic dimensions in worship are not confined to ‘warfare’ or ‘warfare songs’
6. Aligning our worship leaders and teams with the understanding that they are equipped to invite the entire church to encounter the sending, empowering, equipping presence of God every time they gather. Helping them to seek and release the sound that partners with societal transformation. Understanding that a default to personal intimacy, although never taken from us, may not be what Jesus is releasing every week.
7. Training them to them respond differently to Jesus as Pastor and King. When Jesus enters the room in His government and announces to His ekklesia that it is time to reset something - our response in worship is not devotional ‘Jesus and me’ intimacy - but a dynamic, apostolic sound with a ‘sentness’ in its DNA which contributes to the activating moment in the room and not detracts from it. When Jesus turns up as King, He requires a different response, than when He turns up as Pastor-Shepherd.
In summary, the global Church is not short of worship songs and experience that makes room for personal devotion & comfort. This over-alignment with Pastoral values and purpose must be addressed and adjusted if the church is to be moved into greater alignment with apostolic purpose and values. Just as Apostles value and integrate pastoral function and anointing into local church ministry, there is room for the inclusion of pastorally flavored worship, however, this attribute of the Kingdom is not to be the default or aim every time the Church gathers. Pastoral & priestly dimensions aren’t being retired from our corporate gatherings, but merely positioned correctly within an apostolic framework that re- positions them as spirit-led options, rather than the dominant flavor leading the Church to be increasingly inward and self-focused.
Apostolic worship is being recovered and released as part of what God is doing globally in restoring the apostolic Church. Apostolic worship is distinctly different from the priestly because it is not functioning to fill the bowls in Heaven but to partner with the answer from Heaven as the bowls are poured out. Not ministering to God, but joining with Him. The Apostolic function by its very nature, sends the church as dispensers of the Kingdom.
Our corporate sound will no longer be marked by sentiment, self-comfort or self-preservation. The Church is again hearing the sound of the Man of War as He moves over the Kingdoms of the earth. No longer just dwelling in intimacy but rising in God given authority, the Church is finding her voice and her purpose. We will live and worship as those who are commissioned – not just those who are saved and hiding. Kingdom worship is here to parallel the moves of God influencing the marketplace, culture and nations.
As we stand at the beginning of the 21st Century it is time to recognize that the Spirit of God is transforming our corporate worship gatherings into Spirit-led groups who are consistent in the priestly, dynamic in the prophetic as proclaimers to cities, regions, and nations, and powerful in apostolic authority to see shifts within every sphere of earthly rule.