According to a biblical understanding, from both the Old and New Testaments, worship is an ordinance of grace… there is always a double movement in worship—a God-humanward movement and a human-Godward movement—and both must be understood in terms of the gift of grace, the gift of the God of grace who provides for us a way of loving communion.

Communion with God and community with others who are seeking Him is the heart’s cry of many people. Many do not know that their heart is hungry for the power of God to touch their lives; that they are looking for a genuine encounter with the life of God. They do not realize that the triune God is in the business of creating community, in such a way that we are never more truly human, never more truly persons, than when we find our true being-in-communion.

In the emerging worship settings of what some are calling “progressive emerging worship,” worship leaders and pastors try to create a worship experience that engages all of the senses, the heart and the mind. These experiences move away from being a “spectator sport” as so many contemporary services have been, toward a more inclusive, participatory model – as the work of the people. These gatherings are about the saints gathering to live out Psalm 95:6, which says, ‘Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.’ It is a multisensory approach of bowing, kneeling, listening, learning, looking, singing, caring, touching, and loving with our minds, our hearts, and our bodies.

Now and in the future, the power of the story of God’s interaction with people, is and will be, an integral part of worship. The Church into which worship enfolds believers is a community of people who have, throughout the ages, participated. Telling the story through visual media, drama, dance, and liturgy, teaching and preaching creates worship within a tradition that enables us to be actively conscious of the Church’s past as well as of its eschatological future in Christ.

Sadly, many see the church today as totally irrelevant. The church seems antiquated and out-of-date. Preachers and worship leaders seem to go through the motions week after week, year after year, and the power of the story of the gospel of God is absent. Marva Dawn quotes H. Benton Lutz as writing “these pastors force stale, dry words into our hearts rather than telling the stories of Scripture in ways that illuminate our lives. They do not crack the kerygma open and let those stories spill over the real events of our daily lives.” As churches keep God at the center, they will tell the stories of faith so that God’s presence and intervention will become visible in people’s lives.

(continues in installment 4)