This originally appeared as a devo for whillschurch.org.
‘What a moment. Saw people turned around in their chair using it as an altar to pray.’
‘It’s because you gave them permission.’
And then that became a moment.
My friend reminded me of how at the end of the message I gave permission for folks to pray, to sit or stand, to move and take communion, to sing or not sing, to come forward and pray or use their chair as an altar.
Every week I sit with this friend in a room full of worshippers and together we try to plan a service for other Christ-followers to encounter God in a meaningful way. We have used music, words, drama, dance, symbolic acts, visual arts, poetry, and even silence. We want to engulf people with an experience, not entertainment or education. Every week is different but with the same goal – create a space for people to encounter God. Not just learn or get more information about God but to actually experience His presence.
I love all of this. But the most powerful tool in our tool belt is the power of permission.
You need space to cry and think? Take it.
You need space to write and draw? Use it.
You need to sing and stand and raise your arms in praise? Do it.
You gotta clap? Go ahead. Don’t even have to do it in time. (And we seem to have a certain song that we never get right anyway. So you’ll be in good company.)
You need to sit and reflect? Stay seated.
You need to process out loud with someone your anger and frustration at God? He’s big enough to handle that.
Want to use your seat as an altar? Make it so.
I will never stop planning and praying over our services every single week. Never. I’ll never cease to work to make them as good as we can make them. I’m in good company with those promises. There are millions of people and pastors and worship leaders and creative team people that make that same promise every single week.
We just better remember the point of it all. It’s not a glorified form of behavior modification where we can get people to stand when we want them to, sit when we want them to and sing when we want them to. If that is the case, then we are not all that different from those scientist who set up lab experiments with the mice in the maze. See if they can produce X result and we will reward them with some cheese.
It’s the Spirit that heals, and convicts. He instructs and encourages. He transforms us, not anything else. So the point has to be to create a space for Him to become more and us become less.
And at times all that is needed for that to happen is permission.