Worship in Spirit and Truth

by Donald Bell, Lt. Colonel – 

My appointment allows unprecedented opportunity for travel and participation in worship, not only in the many and varied multi-cultural settings of the USA Western Territory including the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, but around the United States as well and in other countries of the world I have had the privilege of ministering in Costa Rica and most recently in Panama City, Panama.

It is fascinating to learn, as we travel to these different corps, of different interpretations of “true worship.” Colonel Virginia Talmadge has written an excellent book on the subject of worship, published by the The Salvation Army Supplies and Purchasing Department, Southern Territory, entitled Exploring Worship. Over 15 years ago the Colonel addressed the same questions we might ask today:

• Have you ever felt dissatisfied with an experience of worship, or have you ever felt that you really didn’t worship when in a worship service?

• Has our traditional concept of worship given worship a sense of irrelevance?

• Have we unwittingly made worship common and ordinary?

• Have you ever left a worship service with no conscious awareness of being in the presence of God?

Have you found yourself stating the following?
• That worship service didn’t do much for me.
• We do the same thing Sunday after Sunday.
• I’m tired of the band and songsters.
• I’m tired of repetitive worship choruses.
• The message just doesn’t seem relevant to my world.

Worship has much to do with our own understanding and participation in the service. I trust we come with the desire to be fully involved rather than to simply receive what someone else has prepared. Colonel Talmadge puts it this way:
• Worship is not what someone does FOR us—the worship program
• Worship is not something done TO us—the worship sermon
• Worship is something we DO—(I worship)—worship experienced.

She goes on to say, “In other words, there are any number of things that may lead us to worship; what we OBSERVE, or what we HEAR, or the atmosphere CREATED. However, something happens in worship only when we are INVOLVED.” Do you remember your soldier’s covenant and the declarations you made on that significant day when you stood before your fellow soldiers? One of those promises goes like this: “I will be actively involved, as I am able, in the life and work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.”

We live in a society today that is very self-focused. A number of years ago at a Rotary meeting, the incoming president, Mark Trotter, a recently retired Methodist minister, spoke on the changes he had seen in society during his lifetime. Before and up until the 1950s those living in suburban neighborhoods often congregated on their front porches and had significant involvement in their local neighborhoods. They knew their neighbors by name and often interacted personally with them. In the 1960s, barbeque equipment became popular and people moved to their fenced back yards and most of their time was spent with family.

In the 1970s, with the advancement of the television, people moved inside their family rooms and conversation was limited so as not to interrupt the television. By the 1980s computers were coming on the scene and today most interaction takes place between individuals and their personal computers.

Unfortunately, this has become true of our church services as well. We have moved from the open air to the restrictions of a fixed building and often come not for interaction with the congregation in corporate worship, but to be entertained or receive what others have prepared.

Colonel Talmadge continues, “Worship includes responsibility and commitment. ‘Not everyone that says, Lord, Lord…but those who are obedient to my Father in Heaven.’” (Matt.7:21) “The worshiper must celebrate his worship experience by application. He must become a channel permitting God the Holy Spirit to flow out through him in blessing and ministry. Worship necessitates action by the worshiper.”

I trust you are preparing yourself each week for congregational worship—a time to come together, prepared and ready to receive what the Holy Spirit has for you. Get involved in your corps, get involved in ministry, get involved in the lives of those around you so that Christ might be glorified and so that you might receive strength and blessing to win the world.

Paradoxically, with modern technology and travel geographic borders have fallen, but personal relationships are becoming isolated. Get involved, go outside the walls. The time is coming and already here when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. (John 4:23 NLT)

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