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Christianity In Counterfeit

Get Off The Floor

Music is Satan’s special interest because that’s what Satan used to do back when he was on God’s team [Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28]. Bringing mess and discord into the church’s music department is Satan’s special delight. It is the rare music leader whom I have heard acknowledge this fact, or that women are most especially susceptible to these very basic ploys on the part of the enemy. Women tend to routinely place emotion over intellect. They can access their emotions much easier than men will allow themselves to do, and often act on impulse; uttering every unguarded thought immediately as it pops into their head and judging the rightness or even righteousness of something or someone based solely upon how they feel about them. This is not leadership. It’s not even rational.

Here’s how Satan uses godly things to undermine our ministry: If you’ve ever seen the USA Network TV show Monk, about an obsessive-compulsive private investigator, you may have seen something like this. A brilliant detective, Monk has just solved a complex murder case and is leaving his condo to apprehend the suspect, but he becomes obsessed with a spider web in a corner of his ceiling. So he grabs his duster, but the wand does not extend long enough, so he has to get something to stand on, but first must remove his shoes, at which point he realizes they are scuffed, which takes Monk into his pantry to find his shoe-shine kit, but while he’s in the pantry he realizes not all of the cleaning products are arranged properly by size and purpose, so he ends up pulling everything out of the pantry and sitting on his floor sorting all of those things out.

I’m using the music ministry as an example because that’s what’s on my mind at the moment. Your choir, your praise team has assembled for practice. But you front-load that practice with idle chatter about upcoming birthdays, discussions about wardrobe and calendar, praise reports which can and often do go on and on, prayer requests, and then an overlong, extended prayer. All of this seems both reasonable and right to people who know nothing about music and who are undisciplined about their ministry. You think you are doing good, but you are actually Monk sitting on your kitchen floor while the murderer gets away.

The whole point of music ministry is to feed God’s people on Sunday morning, not to indulge the small group on Thursday night. Why would God sabotage His own Sunday worship service by using a third to half of the team’s practice time on self-indulgent group therapy? Is God confused? Is God divided among Himself? The inspiration to pray, to share, to fellowship—these are all godly things, but did God inspire you to do them? If the pastor ran Sunday worship the way these sisters run choir practice, the sermon would never be issued because he'd have wasted all of the time allotted on chit-chat. The pastor exercises discipline when planning the service; he does not, cannot, indulge every idea even if they are godly and meaningful, but stays focused on the goal of Sunday worship: feeding the people, saving souls.

If Satan told you to go rob a bank, you’d know, ah-Ha! That’s Satan! But Satan may be saying, “Minister to Sister so-and-so,” or “Tack a bible study onto choir practice.” Satan may even be saying, “If you make them pray a long time, they’ll be better Christians.” This all seems logical to us, but it’s really not. God said, “Rehearse my choir, prepare my praise team, feed my lambs.” God said get up off the floor.

The music unit of a church is like the Marines. During Sunday worship, the music ministry hits the beach first, taking enemy fire, and you fight and fight and dig in and establish a beachhead for God’s Word to proceed against the enemy. You can’t do that with a half-hearted rehearsal people are coming late to and leaving early from because the sisters leading it have no spiritual discipline and can’t tell when they’re being bamboozled by the enemy.

Get Off The Floor: Ministry requires discipline and focus.

Know Your Purpose

Choir and praise team practice, in churches around the country, typically waste a third or more of their practice time on things that do not actually please God: testimonies, praise reports, and interminably long prayer sessions. We told God we were gathering to practice music, but practicing music is actually the very least thing we’ve come to do. We are, instead, much more invested in running our mouths for an hour, which by definition is more about us than God. Let ME tell you what happened to ME this week. *I* want to share how God blessed ME this week. MY Uncle has cancer, please pray for ME. Many members routinely arrive late because they know they’re not actually missing anything more than a handful of the usual sisters gassing on.

Choir practice is not a therapy session. The only reason this nonsense began, whenever it began, was likely due to the ego of the sisters—and I assure you, whoever started this foolishness was a woman—who were not allowed to lead during the main service and therefore brought in these add-on procedures and practices to a music teaching session where they absolutely do not belong. These women were using choir practice to have their own church service in rebellion against their pastor who wouldn’t allow them to function as deacons or ministers in actual worship service. Within the music department, in these functionary roles, these sisters could act as deacons, as pastors, laying on hands, giving biblical instruction, providing counsel. This was the likely motive for our mothers’ inclusion of all this extra stuff generations ago. But who inspired this?

For too many of our churches, choir practice, therefore, has evolved into a counterfeit of Sunday worship, de-facto preaching, de-facto healing, and transforming a simple prayer of invocation—no different from saying grace before dinner—into an unending, kill-me-now feature-length performance—which Jesus preached against [Matt.6.7-13; Luke 11.1-13], as Paul advised against speaking in tongues in public situations [I Cor 14]. All of this serves ego and self. And, when you point that out, the sisters go ballistic. Many of these ladies are absolutely convinced they are, in fact, holier than you, certainly holier than me. They claim, and likely believe, that God has directed them to eat up a third to half of the practice time with activities that have nothing to do with music, while giving the practice itself short shrift and, therefore, producing a mediocre worship experience for Sunday morning. Write this down someplace, sisters: God doesn’t do that. That’s not God you’re listening to.

The pastor tolerates this because he rarely attends choir practice and doesn’t really care what goes on outside of his spotlight. The pastor is lost in self-absorption, the sister lost in self-deception. This kind of thing is a lot like dandelions springing up on your lawn. It infects and disrupts the ecology of the church ministry and corrupts it from within by tainting the ministry’s purpose and distracting from its goals. You are singers. Your job is to sing.

Be Still And Know That I Am God: Be absolutely certain you know Who is speaking.

Learning The Voice

The Levites ordained to play music and sing around the Ark of The Covenant [2 Chronicles 5] were tasked to keep the music going 24/7. There is no biblical record of these people interrupting their music with testimonies. With praise reports. There is absolutely no record of these Levites engaging in overlong, self-serving prayers. While I’m certain they did pray, they did share with one another, it is my conviction these folks did that on their own time and did not compromise or neglect the purpose for which God had ordained them. By contrast, we add on all of these things, all of these activities, and bristle against this liberal nut telling us not to distract from our ministry—not even for godly works. God wants us on our job. Let’s invoke His presence through prayer and get to the work He has ordained to our hands. Past that, all the rest are just things we think the session needs, what we deem right or even righteous, which, by definition, makes those things more about us than about God.

Far too many of us do not know or do not realize that Satan can and often does inspire us to godly things in order to undermine God’s actual plan for us. The devil doesn’t always send bats or, say, Dracula, to come scare us. He uses the voice of God Himself to inspire us to divert time and energy from what God actually wants us to do. Is prayer a bad thing? Of course not. Are testimonies and praise reports a bad thing? No, the bible teaches us to testify [James 5:16] and to strengthen one another. But, beloved, this is not what choir practice is for. Satan, not God, led you to tack on all of these good things, these godly things, in an effort to undermine the actual reason you are there: to strengthen Sunday’s worship. You think you are obeying God because these activities you’ve stacked on top of practice have obvious God qualities. But you, in fact, have been deceived by Satan who is using those things of God to distract you from your purpose.

Our conclusion, therefore, is that we need to know the voice of God and not just assume it is, in fact, God speaking to us because the inspiration is toward godly things. If you claim to be a Christian, you need to compare every inspiration and every impulse to some biblical model and the personal example of Jesus Christ. You can only accomplish this by learning God’s word. If you do not know God’s word, you will fall for anything.

You left your old church because it was corrupted and rotten to the core. But, here you are, bringing the exact same dysfunctional conduct and practices into your new church. And what are you reaping? Discord, confusion, strife. So, you burden your group with these marathon prayer sessions and talk them to death in an effort to get rid of the strife. But it never occurs to you that it is, in fact, these ungodly and disobedient practices you’ve brought along from your last church that are, in fact, causing the confusion, strife and discord. Isn’t it time for the leaders to reevaluate every practice and procedure they do? Is what I am doing really of God, or do I do it just because this is what I’ve always done?

If your choir, your praise team, does not pray on their own, if they have no prayer lives of their own, forcing them to their knees for an hour before every practice will accomplish absolutely nothing. If they do have prayer lives, the hour is just wasted. These people have worked all day. They have school, spouses, children, other responsibilities. It’s 7 p.m. and they’re tired, hungry. They come through the door with enthusiasm and energy which you then squander completely with all this yakking and time wasting. And you really think it is God inspiring you to do this.

Anointed Praise: Timothy Martin Workshop Choir

The Fix

How do we fix this? In his book, Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do, Eastern University Philosophy Professor Phillip Cary put it this way (See sidebar): Scripture says Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17), but directs our attention outside our hearts to find what we should put our faith in: “faith comes by hearing,” says Paul, “and hearing comes by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The word of Christ that he’s talking about is not a voice in our hearts but the preaching of the Gospel in external words we can hear with our ears.

In other words, you don’t have to get anxious about figuring out which one of your voices is God. None of them is. The revelation of God comes in another way, through the word of God in the Bible, and this is something you can find outside your heart. And that’s good news.

Yes, it is. The solution is simple and hard all at once: you have to step out of self. It is less likely God and more likely self that causes you to implement unproductive and illogical procedures to the work God has ordained for you. Pray. Ask God to reveal to you: what is the purpose of this activity? Then pair down your meetings, your practices, to the bare essentials. The closer you get to the actual purpose of the activity, the more God can move within it. What are the actual needs of the group as opposed to stuff-we’ve-always-done? Scrap convention. Write a new script. Stop being a robot. Meet their actual needs instead of what you think they need or, worse, what you crave.

There is a time and place for prayer. For testimonies. For fellowship. Call a prayer meeting, and you’ll have a powerful experience with God because people will come prepared to engage in a prayer meeting. People are arriving to practice music for Sunday and you are instead calling a prayer meeting. This is not how God operates. He does what He says He’ll do. He is consistent, logical, and orderly. He is not divided among Himself, part of Him going thisaway and part going thataway. Stop making your meeting, your practice, your gathering about *you.* Stop making it about mama ‘nem or whoever started this loony practice of beginning a stock car race by bobbing for apples.

Get sharp. Get lean. Let’s go, already.
Learn to recognize God’s voice when He is speaking.

Christopher J. Priest
12 May 2014

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