Worship should be beautifully mysterious, but transformingly vitreous. One could call this “worship in balance.”
One associate pastor bugged me all the time about transcendent worship—as in why don’t we have more of it. He had been around a long time and I thought his problem was that he just didn’t understand what the Evangelical church needs and wants. I’ve grown since then!
There is a delicate balance in doing the more obvious work of leading people to God and coupling it with the “stepping away” work required to let people find God for themselves.
Here is an example of how this might be incorporated into a worship service as part of a liturgy we already know how to implement:
Sing your biggest praise offering with full out instrumental accompaniment, letting the sound reverberate around the room or through your sound guy’s earphones. Then stop everything. Turn the lights down. Don’t talk, don’t segue, and don’t explain. Just stop! Have the pastor walk up the aisle of the church without speaking or looking at people. Don’t worry about people staring at him as though he’s having a heart attack. Hopefully they won’t call the paramedics on their cell phones.
After about a minute (this will seem like ten), have the pastor give the following invitation or something like it.
“There are things I know and there are things I wonder about—just like you. I know God wants us to be here. I know He loves us. I know our being here is pleasing to Him. One of the many things I don’t know is why He’s so patient with us. Let’s take some time to silently tell Him we’re sorry for thinking we could ever hide from Him any of the doubting and acting out we engage in every day. If you are not a Christian and think this is weird, just try to remember a couple of things you might have done this week that you would just as soon nobody know about. I guess that would apply to all of us. Let’s pray that as we unmask ourselves—again, silently—that God might reveal more about who He is to us.”
After a couple of minutes, have some someone sing Steve Merkel’s Lord, Have Mercy, without accompaniment. It should be fairly slow and without affectation. The profound nature of this ancient text (in a contemporary skin) will have a deep affect on this holy moment. If the singer can be placed in the congregation, that would be even better.
I know this is just a regular old confessional moment, and as Reformed Christians we should all be doing that regularly, right? The thing that makes this different from ordinary confession, though, is that it comes out of a high praise moment and is shocking in its actualization. Whether people love it or hate the exercise is quite beside the point. Everyone will have an opinion about it and that, is a good thing.
The best way to incorporate moments of transcendent worship into every service is to examine the parts of God’s nature you personally don’t understand and enlist the active participation of your congregation to investigate them with you.
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