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The Priority of Pentecostal Worship

By G. Raymond Carlson

Non-Pentecostals have questioned the form of worship in a Pentecostal meeting as much as the doctrinal distinctive. Historically the Movement has had an informal manner and freedom of expression in worship.

In perpetuating the Pentecostal revival we need to safeguard the factors that produce the Pentecostal blessing. This does not mean we make a case for that which is fanatical. The Pentecostal revival has never been a fanatic’s revival; fanatics have tried to attach themselves to the revival. Physical reaction to the power of the Holy Spirit must pattern according to that which is choice and edifying; otherwise, it will offend true spiritual sensibilities. Paul, in his letters to the Corinthians, laid down corrective measures for demonstrations which are not of the Holy Spirit.

Worship is a consciousness of the presence of God and a response to that consciousness. It is the outreach of the deepest emotions of the soul in adoration, reverence, homage, exaltation, and praise to the Almighty.

Worship is not dependent upon environment and circumstance, but most people are not oblivious to environment. Therefore, leaders are responsible for creating the right attitudes to inspire anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s moving and an appetite for spiritual things. Attitude, appetite, and anticipation create atmosphere.

The Pentecostal church is marked by a wonderful atmosphere of worship. Atmosphere is important. Sinner and saint alike can sense God’s presence in a truly Pentecostal church. In such a meeting the Holy Spirit has unhampered opportunity. Herein lie the excitement and attraction of a Pentecostal meeting. This is the New Testament standard and is in accord with the divine plan. This freedom also poses peril, for worship must truly be worship. True worship is not religious excitement, nor does it appeal to the flesh.

Worship services may take one or two undesirable directions—there may be formality with lack of spiritual liberty, or there may be lack of scriptural order and control. Spiritual leaders are responsible for bringing people into God’s presence and making them realize "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

Formality can develop in the ritual of the informal church. Neither Pentecostal routine nor ecclesiastical liturgy is true worship. When Pentecostal churches follow an order of service that degenerates into meaningless habit, they have nothing more than ritual.

The mind of God is the important matter in the service if we are to have a Pentecostal meeting. This Pentecostal climate hinges, to a greater or lesser degree, upon the leader. He must be in vital contact with God and maintain sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit. When leading people in worship, he constantly needs to know the mind of the Spirit for the moment.

The Holy Spirit must be allowed to settle in conviction or blessing upon a congregation. The spirit of the day is to rush. People need God’s therapeutic rest. Let us refuse to rush through the order of service; rather, may we bring men and women to deliberate and worshipful rest in the Lord. Guard the freedom of Pentecostal worship. Neither wildfire nor fleshly manifestations are to be condoned, but let us never be so painfully nice that we perish from propriety.

Paul outlined a beautiful worship pattern for the church: "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Furthermore, he said, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16). We are told to exhort one another and not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25).

This is congregational worship based on scriptural instruction. All members of the whole body of believers share in worship as the Holy Spirit indwells them and they yield to Him. Then people who fill church pews are no longer spectators, wondering how they will be entertained.

God rejected King Saul in favor of David, a "man after his [God’s] own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). Saul intruded into religious action without waiting for the prophet Samuel. He said, "I forced myself"(1 Samuel 13:12). The kingdom was given to David, a man who continually counseled his soul, "Wait thou upon God."

When we fail to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are prone to force ourselves. As a result, we have forced singing, forced praying, forced testimonies, forced giving, and forced preaching. How much better it is when the Holy Spirit comes. Then we have Holy Spirit singing, praying, giving, testimonies, and preaching (Romans 8:26,27; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 14:15; Ephesians 5:18–21; 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Jude 20). The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be in operation and controlled according to the scriptural pattern of 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14.

May Pentecostal people in Pentecostal churches pray that Pentecostal worship shall be strengthened. May the sound of song and praise and prayer ring forth from our assemblies. May we give ourselves to waiting upon God. May our altars be filled with seeking souls, and may they not be soon emptied. May the altar service have priority in our worship.

May the Holy Spirit quicken us with a healthy spiritual appetite, a keen anticipation, and a faith-producing attitude. Then we shall have a Pentecostal atmosphere, and when the spiritual atmosphere is right, the rain from heaven will fall.

The late G. Raymond Carlson formerly served as Assemblies of God general superintendent, Springfield, Missouri.