What does it mean to worship “in the presence of God”? Sometimes we take our terminology for granted. After all, isn’t God always present everywhere?
And in reaction to our feel-good, experience-driven culture, many church leaders conclude that we overrate the importance of the weekend experience. Perhaps, but I err on the side of thinking most people still haven’t experienced the fullness of God’s presence in a corporate worship experience.
Perhaps we’re afraid of what God will do if we yield ourselves fully to Him. Or perhaps we’re afraid of what other people will think of us when they see us getting swept up in the moment. Will they accuse us, at least secretly, of showing off? Of being too emotional? Funny how we don’t ask these kinds of questions from the stands while screaming for our football team while waving a giant foam finger.
So what, then, does it mean to experience God’s presence in a time of worship? I think one of the best explanations I’ve heard recently comes from Jeff Kennedy’s book, The Father, the Son and the Other One:
“We’re OK with the Spirit so long as we can keep Him occupied with the discreet work of inner transformation. You know, the invisible stuff. Yet we struggle with the notion that He wants to baptize and submerge us in new life—a joyous life. A life that makes us dance and laugh and splash around with hope. A life that transforms our status from 'exiles and foreigners' to 'sons of the Most High God.' It is also a life that can inspire stunned silence as we sit in fear and wonder of an awesome heavenly Father.”
God’s Spirit is sovereign. He moves in ways of His own choosing, but He delights to meet us in the place of prayer and praise and intimate fellowship with Himself. Results may vary. Sometimes we will act outwardly in ways uncharacteristic of our personalities. Melinda, a young lady who is part of my church, wrote about her experience on a Sunday:
“I just cried in church. Not like a few soft tears. Straight up UGLY cried.”
That’s when you know it’s good.
At other times, we will be stunned into silence and struck with the absolute holiness of God's character. We will be left without words, unsure of what to do next. That’s OK. It’s always OK, in fact, when God’s children praise Him through tears, with joy, in fear, under humility and with great anticipation about what He can do.
While unbelievers may not get what it means to worship a God they don’t yet know personally, I think we make a serious mistake when we conclude that public worship is for the church. The fact is, when God’s people worship in spirit and in truth, their unified dependence on His power and their corporate thirst for His glory are a powerful witness to what God does in the heart.
This is the kind of worship I long for, and it's the kind God longs for as well. I can’t wait to meet Him with God’s people again next weekend. I hunger for His powerful presence. I crave that experience in my soul. And I’m thankful for a church that doesn’t hold back but lavishes praise on a God so worthy!
I don’t know what you typically hunger and thirst for, but once you get a genuine taste of the powerful presence of God, much of what our flesh usually reaches for suddenly becomes fleeting. I want more of God. And He certainly wants more of me, and of you, and of all of His people as we gather together to worship and to witness.
Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He’s the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.