Worship in the Spirit

 “...And if an unbeliever or outsider enters… falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” – 1 Corinthians 14:24-25

I have been a pastor for over 20 years and yet I have never known a time of such concern for the lost and such serious thought about reaching out in a way that is culturally relevant. That has to be a good thing. And yet I feel that when that concern leads to the conclusion that we should restrict the charismatic nature of our worship, we are in danger of losing something that is actually essential in impacting the very people we are trying to reach.

Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 14 is for intelligibility (i.e. that anyone – outsiders especially – should understand what is going on). But my conviction is that there are ways of doing that without abandoning the gifts of the Spirit. Rather, the gifts of the Spirit in our public worship help introduce unbelievers to a God who is real, powerful, supernatural and able to encounter them in the dynamic of charismatic worship.

Again, this was a battle for which our fathers fought hard (see my first post in this series): new wine skins for the new wine and seeking to restore the pattern of New Testament worship. The recent trend towards what has been termed ‘missional worship’, where some or all gifts of the Spirit are discouraged so that “unbelievers or outsiders” will not be put off, is well intentioned, but I believe flawed.

Our worship is directed to God, not anyone else. Ephesians 5:18-21 describes the dynamic of charismatic worship. Was being “filled with the Spirit” a cause or a consequence of such worship? My understanding is both. And in a meeting charged with the Spirit’s presence, people inevitably encounter God. Acts 2 describes a scenario which must have been pretty difficult to comprehend (actually, that was the point) yet 3,000 were added as a result. Are we in danger of becoming wiser than God?

Let’s have our cake and eat it too. Surely we can enjoy vibrant, Spirit-empowered worship where the gifts flow and you never quite know what’s going to happen next and see people coming to Christ in the midst of it? Actually, that has been our experience here in Grace Church. And funnily enough, all the more so in recent months since we had a sudden and powerful outpouring of the Spirit. Our people have still felt comfortable bringing their friends, and we have seen one after another encountering God in the worship times – the preaching almost serving as an explanation of what has just happened to them (hey, that’s sounds like a familiar pattern too, doesn’t it?).

What’s important is simply that we give a warm welcome and clear explanation of what’s likely to happen from the front at the outset of the meeting, as well as explanations as necessary as the meeting progresses. Clear, strong leadership creates a safe environment for both believers to take the risk of using the Spirit’s gifts and unbelievers to realise that this is God! In the meeting! Right now!

Of course, it’s much easier simply to cut out the gifts, stick to a prepared song set and keep everything tidy. In that case we hardly need the Spirit – we can manage quite well without Him. But was that really how it was in the early Church? Wouldn’t it be fun to take some new ground by learning to worship in the Spirit and see many saved in His presence?

Read the previous post in this series here.

Image by Caner Mutu