Published on April 6, 2023 at 11:05 a.m. by Jonathan P. Rodgers, Faculty Fellow  
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Healthy Congregational Worship—Is Trinitarian in Nature
This is part one of an eight-part blog series, titled Worship Check-up: Vital Signs for Healthy Congregational Worship.

To say it plainly: we were made to worship. Beginning on the first pages of Holy Scripture, God in three persons brings creation out of chaos. The Divine Architect creates a garden-tabernacle for us to live in perfect fellowship with Him—our Creator. From that initial, animating God-breath (Heb. ruach), our existence has been predicated on the idea of relationship. That which was created would give praise, honor, and thanksgiving to its Creator. Ever since the fall, however, this relationship has been damaged, thus affecting our response in worship. As we examine the health of our worship gatherings, I want to call us to become more aware of the presence of the Trinity at work in all facets of worship. God the Father desires to cure our fallen propensity to be worshiped rather than to worship. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves, and He is to be worshiped rightly as the lead role in this divine rescue story. It has been said before, “we are willing to be God-centered, it seems, as long as God is human-centered,” but God’s glory, not ours, and the pursuit of it must be the warp and woof of our gatherings. In corporate worship, this means that we should place a high priority on the vertical orientation of all elements in our services. May we follow John Wesley’s advice to “above all, singing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself or any other creature.” Soli Deo Gloria: To God alone be the glory.

Not only is our worship to be God-centered, it is to be Christ-exalting. Though we were kicked out of the garden, God made a way to let us back in. God sent His only son Jesus, the Christ, to live a life we could not live and die a death we deserved. All worship is to exalt the One who bridged the ultimate breach. To “exalt” is to hold in very high regard; to think or speak very highly of; to raise to a higher rank or position of greater power. When we engage in worship as participants or leaders, are we truly exalting Jesus Christ? Are we raising Him to a higher position of importance in our lives through the words we preach, sing, say, and pray? Or are we unintentionally exalting something or someone else?

Finally, our worship is to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Spirit of God was present back in Genesis 1 at the dawn of creation, “hovering over the waters.” In the New Testament, ever since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the work and writings of the apostles give witness to the power of God through the Holy Spirit. This is most evident when believers were assembled for worship. The question for us as worship planners and leaders is: do we rely on the power and work of the Holy Spirit to guide the planning and implementation of our services? Or do we unintentionally side-line the Holy Spirit and His work when we are live, “in the moment” in worship. As a personal practice, I often think of this as an inner dialogue of prayer that runs in the background of my mind. During a service, I’m constantly asking the Holy Spirit to guide my actions, make our team’s leadership effective, and move among his people. All our work is in vain apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit to make effective what we have prepared. We must be prepared to bring our loaves and fish, but we must know that it is God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, who will perfectly provide for His people.

Considering these ideas, take some time to evaluate your own current  practices. Perhaps you will want to have a discussion with your staff or leadership team in the coming weeks. Here are some practical questions to help guide your reflection.

Worship Check-up Questions

· Is the language of your service (specifically, your songs) oriented more (or less) vertically (to God) or horizontally (to one another)?

· Does the placement of and orientation of your platform/stage as well as your physical motions point people away from yourself and to God?

· Do an inventory of a recent service and evaluate your service through the eyes of an unbeliever. How often would he/she hear the name of Jesus?

· Do you plan worship with a keen dependence upon the Holy Spirit?

· In your service, do you verbally acknowledge the work of and a dependence upon the Holy Spirit?