The Journey into the New Song and New Sound

There's a sound coming that will release the wind of worship!

I arrived at Riverlife in January 2008 (it was Kenmore Baptist Church [KBC] at the time), and I quickly realised that this suburban church hidden on the side of the hill was being invited on a special journey with the Lord, to explore worship that puts it’s focus directly on the face of the Lord.

Words: Nick Riddel Read: 5 - 10 mins Published: 20 October 2020

I’ll always remember being captured by a prophetic word that our former Senior Pastor Ric Benson received in 2001, which I first heard when I came on staff at KBC around 2011:

‘I (The Lord) desire that the elders, pastors, leaders and congregation of KBC (now Riverlife) have as their consuming passion, seeking My face and My permanent presence both personally and corporately, regardless of what it costs, and regardless of what others think, either within or outside the church'.

The words impacted me in a way that I didn’t anticipate.

Perhaps even some of you reading this right now were there in the room that day or can remember the threads over the years that have connected our community back to this word from the Lord. It seemed to carry this weight, this divine potential, an opportunity and an invitation to purpose for us as a church family. It’s not every Sunday that your pastor vulnerably brings a word of this nature, and I admire Ric’s courage and obedience in sharing it so openly. In the years that followed, as staff we would witness this same theme through the words of pastors, prophets, evangelists and missionaries who would grace our doors from places around the globe. They each came with an ongoing encouragement and challenge to us:

‘Prioritise His presence! There’s a sound coming that will release the wind of worship! Don’t compromise!’ (2011 - D. Wagner)

I remember sitting in these staff and leadership gatherings between 2009 and 2019 with speakers and guests, shaking my head in amazement, but also in a holy reverence, that it was like no matter what we were pursuing, the record/the song that was on repeat from the Lord for us as a team was ‘above all else be presence-centred’. Pastor John Robertson recaptured this vision in 2019 and into the future, rallying us again to be a people relentless in building a ‘fireplace’ of prayer and worship for the nations (including our own). Throughout our history as a church, this call has been on us: to be this house of prayer and worship that hosts God’s presence. Our invitation is to lean into this as an entire community.

The Bible expresses that one aspect of a pastor’s role in this area is to “train and equip the saints (the believers within the flock) for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). This is very much an echo of Jesus’s words to Peter in John 21:17, “Do you love me?… Then feed my sheep”. I will be the first to acknowledge that this is no easy task; it is not a simple thing to set out into this area of worship, and to stay obedient to and be effective in it. How do you best train people of all ages to live out this lifestyle of worship, so that it overflows from their own heart? To equip people in such a way that out of the overflow of our hearts, we would be known as a people who passionately love the Lord our God with everything within us? (Luke 10:27). Where “worship is not as a service but as a lifestyle, it’s not just what we do it’s who we are from morning to night!” [Wagner 2011] This is something we believe that ultimately only the Spirit of God alone can birth in hearts, but we are all being invited into this. It is something I long to give opportunity for and to keep developing in us, with whatever resources I have.

When I was first studying pastoral ministry, I remember seeing a competing narrative within contemporary church culture; and I came to realise that this was also evident in so much of how society was operating. As a pastor, who was to be somewhat of a ‘professional’, who was going to stand in front of a crowd each week to perform and inspire an audience each week, there were some appealing elements in this other culture. To any emerging leader, you can feel good when people gather around what happens on the very stage that you’re standing on. People affirm you. But this approach ends up being tragically one-sided, and instead of leading people, leaders end up robbing the people of something so essential to their walk. Scripture reminds us we each overcome by the power of our testimony (Revelation 12:11), which we express when we each stand to sing our own song. Jesus’ heart and instructions to us were always to make disciples and to teach those disciples to obey so that they would themselves multiply (Matthew 28:18-20). No matter the length of time it takes to do this, no matter how much we are stretched in the process, we are called to climb this mountain in together, in obedience to God’s call on us as a family. And the end reward is a people who are not shaped as receivers (as the world would want them to be) but equipped as ministers themselves. Jesus longs for unified corporate worship and intimacy with His bride (that’s all of us). And as His bride who is also His body, each of us play our part.

We want to continually raise up a worshipping people, preparing them to be people who grow in maturity to minister to the Lord in worship, and then go on to lead others in the pursuit of God’s presence. This goal requires us to press into new and unfamiliar (even uncomfortable) spaces as we seek His presence. But what a joy is set before us, and what a far more of a fulfilling path to take! What an empowering reality that our faith, our relationship with Christ, our baptism of the Spirit we received, carries this invitation and calling. What a blessing that the goal is not just a small team of people who perform up-front for the masses, but that every single one of us, young or old, is equipped to express our faith and worship! This is the journey we are on, and this was always His plan. Every believer here is so significant to this community and to the Kingdom. You are His worship leader; you are His minister, whether you are on any platform or in a seat amongst the rest of the family. As a church, we hold dearly the truth straight from Scripture, that reminds us that we are part of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-5), and I love that we seek to affirm this.

Here at Riverlife, we’re very much on a journey as we prioritise seeking His presence together. We treasured this journey in our corporate gatherings and work together to enter this ‘new sound’ He’s set before us. In other words, the goal is that each of us would seek that real-time, moment-by-moment communion with God, to intentionally and actively embrace His presence in our midst and respond to His leading. This is a complex task in our diverse and ever-growing congregation, and we are certainly learning as we go. But we need your “yes” and your help in partnership! You are a key part in the pursuit of this ‘new sound’ of worship because you are the new sound! You are the new sound and we need every harmony at play in this (and in case you’re wondering, I’m not talking about your best effort at hitting the high parts up the octave in “Way Maker”). Young, old, new, familiar, and everywhere in between, we are all on this pilgrimage of singing a new song to the Lord (Psalm 96:1); not resting on yesterday’s bread (Deuteronomy 8:3); but desiring what He’s calling us to today! That as the song “New Wine” declares, “I lay down my old flames to carry your new fire today” (Hillsong, 2018). Where is the Spirit leading today? How is He speaking afresh to you today?

I’d invite you to come on this journey with us. Maybe you have just joined us and didn’t know there was even a journey. Maybe it will be a sacrifice to leave behind the old wineskin that you know so well? Will you seek to grow and be equipped further? There is more, church! We go from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:16-18) and behold, He’s doing a new thing and it’s springing up! (Isaiah 43:19) What a time to be alive! What an amazing church family we have! Lord Jesus, lead us onwards in this procession!

‘I want to take you to a whole new level of faith and church that you have never before experienced. I want you to be aware that this journey will be unique, unsettling and challenging for all in the church but will be the most exciting journey ever undertaken.’ (2001 - R. Benson)

As a leadership team, we are excited that anything is possible on this journey as we seek to be His house of prayer and worship, releasing a new sound, empowered to reach the nations of this earth!

What is He speaking to you this day? He is for you!

‘Will you trust me with the new sound? There is a sound coming! A sound that will release the wind of worship. Many will not come for a sermon, they’ll come for a sound. Don’t compromise My presence. It’s all about My presence!’ (2011 - D. Wagner)

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