Worship is dialogue between God and His people, a dialogue that continually expands to encompass all who will respond to his grace. When Christians meet together to minister to one another, there is a corporate, spiritual engagement with God, in the Holy Spirit, through his words.

The Apostle Paul believed that God interacts with his people through the Word – the spoken word, the written word, the shared word and the word in song – “a whole range of verbal ministries in the congregational setting. For example, as they ‘sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’, with gratitude in their hearts to God, they fulfill the apostolic injunction, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Col 3:16; cf. Eph. 5:19-20).”

The experience of the presence of God during times of personal and corporate worship enriches and strengthens the life of the Christian. John Wesley maintained that the elements of works of piety–worship, prayer, reading of Scripture, fasting, the Eucharist–are all means by which the grace of God transforms the Christian to be more like Christ. Especially in the gathering together to worship God and to celebrate the Eucharist, we find the bi-directional flow of God’s power and our response. The people of God continue to be the Spirit-filled community when they disperse and go about their daily affairs, but their identity as ‘the temple of the Lord’ finds particular expression when they gather together in Jesus’ name, to experience his presence and power in their midst.

In approximately the last forty years, the worship experience of many believers has changed dramatically. Previously worship liturgy had not varied much since around 300 A.D. but with the advent of the pop culture in the 50s and 60s, a revolution began in worship. New musical and lyrical forms entered the church, first through youth movements and then into the mainstream of worship life. Much controversy still rages in some groups, to such an extent that people have even termed the controversy, “the worship wars.” Contemporary praise and worship genre of music became the primary focus of worship in many non-denominational free worship churches, and in the past ten years, has made inroads into mainline denominational churches. Many of these churches have focused on the Baby Boomer and Generation-X generations. However, there is change again in the wind, perhaps we could say, “in the wind of the Spirit.”

Worship leaders have been taking a fresh look at the ancient forms of worship of the early church, at the historical forms of the church over the centuries, and the forms of worship during this time of “contemporary worship.” No one knows what worship will look like in one hundred years, or even fifty, because we have no crystal balls. But we can learn from the younger generations of this postmodern culture to enable us to see the need for oral and visual story-telling, for experience and emotion, for interaction with sacred memories, for the use of varied art forms and for the use of space to connect the worshipper to God. Youth and young adults express a deep need for spirituality in their lives. They desire a way to connect with and experience the presence of God. They seek something outside of them that is greater than them. They need an experience of grace and hope from the Triune God.

(continues in installment 3)

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