As we gather as a community of faith in the presence of God, we gather with the expectation to worship God by responding to His revelations. Worshiping God in a worship service, amidst all elements of worship, should lead to spiritual formation in our lives. Yet we have often disregarded the potential of spiritual formation to occur within each element of worship and instead, have relied solely upon the sermon to form us spiritually. We have relegated all other worship elements (songs, prayers, communion, etc.) to lead to the preaching thus encouraging the mentality that these are preliminaries to the main event – the sermon.
Our lives should be spiritually formed by each element of the worship service, not just the sermon. The sermon should be seen as one offering among many offerings during the corporate gathering. There are no preliminaries to get out of the way. Each element in the worship service is an act of worship offered to God, and as such serves to form us spiritually. I call this focus “worship formation.” We are becoming more like Christ (spiritual formation) as we respond to His revelations (worship).
If we are to understand how spiritual formation occurs in each element of worship within the worship service, we must look at each element in light of spiritual formation.
The songs in our worship services are to a great degree formative. The songs we sing in church lodge themselves into our minds as truth. As the worshiper sings truths found within songs, their faith is strengthened, their theology is founded and their spirit is formed.
It could be said, worship prays God’s story. As a result of Christ’s redeeming work, public prayer ushers all of creation to the Father through Jesus Christ by the Spirit. As we pray we join with God on the journey of Him changing us from the inside out by the power of Christ working within. Our prayers shape that which we are, both on the inside and on the outside.
The use of Scripture is foundational in celebrating God in worship. The Bible has always been central to the life of the Christian church. The ancient Hebrew stories, songs, prophecy and wisdom that permeated the Jewish world of Jesus’ day profoundly shaped even Jesus himself as he lived on the earth. The earliest Christians explored the Scriptures in an attempt to understand what Almighty God had accomplished through Jesus, and as a result, they planned to shape their lives accordingly. Today, we continue to study the Scriptures to discover how to live and thus, how to worship.
Our time of worship at the Table should leave us changed. For when we enter the presence of God, our hearts should burn within us as we remember that the one who was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again, is now alive and within us. This leads the worshiper to the mysterious greatness of God found at the Table. Through this process, we are being transformed as we are drawn closer to Christ.
The ministry of proclaiming the word of God through the preaching of a sermon must be an act of worship. The purpose of the Word of God is to reveal the God of the Word. In Scripture, the people who saw God were never quite the same again. Their lives were transformed. So it should be every worship service in which the Word is proclaimed.
Silence has long been an important aspect of personal and corporate worship. It is a time to quiet the soul in order to become receptive to God’s revelation. Embracing times of silence in worship allows God the opportunity to speak. Much of what else we do in worship is directed toward God. In every element of worship, there should be aspects of revelation and response, yet silence is primarily the time to allow God to be the communicator as we do nothing else but listen to His voice. As we hear from God we open ourselves to the opportunity to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In silence, God is given permission to form us from within in a way that only He can.
It is within forms of giving which the disciple of Jesus experiences a renewed and transformed life, becoming as the very nature of Christ, becoming more like Jesus, whom Himself gave His life as an act of worship to the Father.
In baptism we find our identity and are incorporated into Christ’s life and His body – the church. Through baptism, God draws us near to Himself. For those who have previously been baptized and are observing someone else’s baptism, the worshiper should remember their own baptism allowing God to refresh the sign and seal of regeneration upon their own lives. Spiritual formation through baptism should continue to occur instead of being a one-time occurrence.
God desires for spiritual formation to occur any time, any place, in every way. Each element of worship within the worship service should lead the worshiper to be:
…transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
As we worship God, we are spiritually formed becoming more like Christ and as a result, we engage in “worship formation.”