I believe one of the reasons secularist society is so cynical toward us who practice the Christian faith is that our engagement in worship is a spiritual reality.  My own sense of secularism is that apologists for that manner of viewing the world place their faith in their own logic and reason which is naturally dependent, then, upon those things they can personally experience by virtue of one of their senses.  Never mind the irony that the God they try to discredit is the One Who has given them those senses and the brain that makes them work, the mind with which to reason their fallacious conclusions.  It is truly ironical that those who claim to be too “intelligent” to believe in a risen Savior, are unable to reconcile the mystery of worship in spirit and truth.  In essence this thinking places these persons as captains of their own proverbial ships; it places them at the center of their world – in effect, they are god.

One of the many challenges for those of us who help to plan and shape the environment of gathered worship is to nurture experience in the spiritual realm with our Triune God who is Spirit, and we who worship Him are instructed to worship “in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)  Theologian Wayne Gruden as others help us grasp how we humans engage in this spiritual activity using our physical bodies, but by power of the Holy Spirit also participating in the spiritual realm by faith.  Biblical models help strengthen our grasp on how this might occur.  Mary knew she was worshiping when she declared “…and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47)  Presenting God as He truly is absolute pre-requisite to Christian worship.  Worship occurs in His presence.  An attitude of worship is a response to seeing God as He is.  Numerous biblical examples for this have long served as foundation for healthy approaches to worship planning.  The Old and New Testaments give examples, structural models, and descriptions of characteristics of true worship such that  we should have a sense of the direction for our worship.  What these descriptions cannot give to us is precise understanding of the numinous encounter itself.

Last week I was reminded just how mysterious encounter with God can be.  I sat in a concert held in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Knoxville.  Listening to music, singing hymns of faith, greeting fellow believers were all contributors to an atmosphere that could be called worshipful, and certainly these components effected my own spirit.  Another contributing factor for me was the acoustic environment of the room as well as the memory of recording sessions in which I had participated as choral singer and as conductor.  In recalling one of those sessions my mind remembered there was  text printed on the upper marble border of the room.  When I looked up to read those words, a sense of the Spirit’s presence and spiritual worship flooded my soul.  My participation in the next congregational song was somewhat limited by my emotionally overwhelmed state.  I had a response of spiritual commitment to some looming questions.  The encounter defies detailed articulation.  The gap of experience and description is only negotiated in faith.  

What is describable are some of the results that are characteristic outcomes of genuine Christian worship.  Gruden describes these:

  • We delight in God – joy for sense of direction and simply His presence is result of worship
  • God delights in us – though hard to comprehend, this sense of God’s pleasure is reflected in Genesis 1:31; Isaiah 62:3-5; Zephaniah 3:17; and Heb 2:12
  • We draw near to God – this is the amazing provision of the Gospel that engenders our highest praise.  Our confidence in this spiritual movement is not in ourselves, but rather in Him, and the invitation to come boldly (Heb 4:16; 13:15-16)
  • God draws near to us – James 4:8; Psalm 22:3)
  • God ministers to us – 2 Cor 3:18; Heb 4:16
  • Enemies flee – 2 Chron 2:20-21
  • Unbelievers know of God’s presence – I Cor 14:23-25; Acts 2:11)

I have long believed that the power of art forms in worship, like music and especially corporate singing, is at least partially rooted in our inability to define exactly what it is about these that effects our spirits.  There is a mystery in the effect upon us as persons.

The room, the songs, the sermon, the fellowship of Christian community, the reading of the Word, the sights and sounds of all these things and more, all speak into the spiritual act of gathered worship.  No one of these is “it,” but any and all participate in the “it,” namely the spiritual reality of worship.  Though the worship is reality oin the real world, it is at once a mystery.

Explore posts in the same categories: Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

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