Well, our three day worship conference for Indian pastors and worship leaders connected with Love-N-Care Ministries is over. I’ll warn you – this is a long post.
I began by reviewing all we had covered in the previous two days. This was partly so that men would remember it, and partly because pastors were still arriving last night. I then spoke on How Does God Want Us to Sing? My first point was that God wants us to sing with our minds. That means he wants us to understand what we’re singing, remember the words, and come to know God better through our singing.
I shared that we aren’t to sing out of routine, duty, or ignorance. God wants us to be conscious of how the truths we’re singing apply to our lives. To demonstrate this, we read the first two verses of Psalm 23 together:
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
I asked the men to respond to these words by briefly sharing how they have been true in their own lives. At first, the responses were somewhat general, but we quickly moved into more specific illustrations of how the Lord has demonstrated that He is our Shepherd. Then I asked them to respond to verse 4:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
One man, named John David, then stood up to share how this truth has affected his own life. I was totally unprepared for what he said. One night as he was praying on a mountain, around midnight, a tiger found him. But the Lord protected him, and the tiger eventually walked away. I talked to him later and learned that he had been praying from 6 in the morning until 6 in the evening. As his prayer time was coming to a close, he felt the Lord telling him to continue praying. After the incident with the tiger at midnight, he continued to pray until 8 in the morning. I asked him if he slept at all. He said no. That means 26 hours of solid prayer, not counting one brief interruption by a neighborly tiger.
At that moment, I was tempted to wonder if I’m saved.
Another man shared how he had been praying on a mountain and a bear joined him. The bear left. He found another mountain and a tiger showed up. He also left. He then went to a third mountain and encountered a large snake. The snake also left. He continued to pray. He was rejoicing that he didn’t have to fear evil because God was with him.
A woman shared through tears that God protected her shortly after her husband had started pastoring in a remote village. She had eaten something which caused her tongue to swell up, and there was no access to medical help. Within a short time, the Lord healed her.
Yet another pastor shared that his father (also a pastor) had been persecuted by members of his village. Knowing this Psalm helped him trust that he didn’t need to fear evil from the villagers because God would be with him.
Now I’m wondering why I’M teaching THEM.
Those examples were a perfect illustration of how we need to apply the words that we sing to our lives. We don’t worship the Lord in a generic way as the great shepherd. He is MY shepherd, and I need to understand how as I sing to Him.
As we began the second session, I taught them The Gospel Song, a simple song in English that communicates the Gospel message. I went on to talk about worshipping God with our hearts, expressed in thankfulness, joy, and longing. We then spent 15 minutes in spontaneous song, pouring out our hearts to the Lord, asking Him to give us a greater love for Him, and then thanking Him for the love He’s shown us. It was a powerful time.
After lunch, I helped Yesupadam, the leader of Love-N-Care, baptize about 15 men and women from some of his surrounding churches. They ranged in age from 15 to about 80. Another moving moment.
During the final session I spoke on worshipping God with our bodies. First of all, that means we are to live for His glory in every day life. But when we gather to sing His praises, He wants us to communicate His glory through our hands, our bodies, our voices, and our feet. God wants every part of us – mind, heart, and body – to be focused on magnifying the worth of God in Jesus Christ. As expected, they responded with great enthusiasm.
At the end of the day I prayed for a group of songwriters (about 15 men), and had the group thank them for the songs they’ve already written, and the ones they’ve yet to write. I then spent 15 minutes with them alone emphasizing the significance of their role in these churches. I encouraged them to work hard on biblical content, especially the Gospel; to work hard on writing memorable melodies; and to work hard on giving and asking for input from each other.
I haven’t gotten much feedback yet, but one pastor, Nehemiah, told me that his view of worship had been changed. I can only trust that God gave me the seeds to plant during these three days, and that He will bring good fruit in the days to come.
Tomorrow, Larry and I leave for Gujurat on the western side of India. I’ll be teaching another three day pastors’ conference next week. As always, I greatly appreciate your prayers.