Feast

(Note to you, dear reader. I’ve included a quick poll at the bottom of this post. Your answers are completely anonymous, so feel free to vote!)
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In early October, I, with a friend, had the opportunity to attend a worship conference in Nashville.

After an afternoon of travel, we entered into the lobby, full of people with coffee cups in hand, standing and networking and talking and laughing and wondering. There were book tables and, in the lobby, a baptistery, with a large glass window which viewed the large courtyard to the back of the campus.

As the sanctuary doors opened, we walked inside and found the auditorium which, with pews, could seat well over two thousand peoples, but instead of pews or chairs, it was filled with tables and chairs, and the thousand or so which came to the conference found their places and waited.

The worship leaders took the stage, an a capella group, with around a dozen singers, and the first note of the first song was angelic. The room erupted into praise from ministers and worship leaders eager to be filled during a worship assembly, a stark departure from spending Mondays virtually emptied from leading hundreds in worship on Sundays. I was one of those people, and found myself in a room of raw emotions and needful people, and could not sing, for my voice weakened, and my emotions softened, and the worship experience, though very subtle without musicians or bands or instruments, was simply remarkable, and easily the most transforming moment of worship I have ever attended.

The night of worship was such a feast for the soul. Great worship songs led into an emotive and energetic and intelligent speaker, which then gave way to another time of worship. That led to a video montage of several movie clips, which had most of us laughing, which then gave way to another moment of speaking. We then engaged into a community activity with those sitting around our table, and then were led again in a moment of worship. The two hour event moved fast, and was a true sensory feast. At the conclusion of the event, I was simply overwhelmed.

And it wasn’t because the quality of the worship leaders or the speakers was any greater than what I see, and in which I participate, every Sunday. It was just the careful and simple planning to ensure that you can connect with God in every single sensory way, from singing to listening to writing to watching to talking.

Traditional churches find this thought very revolutionary, with static schedules of worship. But a teacher in a classroom of second graders understands that if you want students to learn, and you want your learning environment to be a true learning experience, you need to ensure that your students can learn in a variety of ways, by surrounding them with varying angles of the same message.

Yesterday, in the church where I worship and work and lead, was a day very similar to the conference described above. The worship schedule included a brief moment of worship, then a presentation, followed by a longer period of singing. Our church then shared communion, and, before the offering, watched another presentation. We prayed for those who have been saved, and then heard a message on giving. After, we witnessed a baptism of one of our students, but the comments made by her father were just overwhelming and moving. I saw one of our church members at lunch, and he told me that the morning was just great — and that we only made him cry three times.

He is not alone. Great moments of humility typically follow genuine encounters with God. Isaiah, the prophet, could not speak when he saw the cherubim of God, and heard His voice. The face of Moses glowed after speaking with God on a mountain, but that was well after God approached him in a bush glowing with fire, but never quite burned. Elijah heard God in a whisper. Peter and Andrew and James and John, and others, saw God as a human, and watched him heal the withered legs of a crippled man. And they were soon given the same power to heal.

Moreover, all of those stories attest to the fact that God has no one favored way of approaching humanity, but, in fact, approaches us in a variety of ways, because we have varied ways of sensing and feeling and understanding. I believe we have every right, and every capability, to find and worship God with every emotive response we possess, for we are created that way.

We again tested this idea last night, when we hosted a more contemporary worship event, targeted for teenagers, with a sensory worship environment, that included, of all things, a painter, painting a scene from the crucifixion. With the lights dimmed, the schedule was again broken into parts, which alternated between moments of speaking and singing, and watching. It wasn’t variety, for the sake of variety, but rather, a genuine, honest attempt to reach a new generation of seekers, whose lives are filled with multiple tasks at once. They expect their experiences to be total and complete and surrounding. Others don’t, but find God in new ways when they engage in worship like this.

It was a worship of surrounding, with people finding God in layers of emotions and responses and experiences. It was truly a feast.
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Share your thoughts! Your submissions are completely anonymous, even to me, so please, vote!

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2 thoughts on “Feast

  1. Please allow me to think out loud….

    You wrote: “I believe we have every right, and every capability, to find and worship God with every emotive response we possess, for we are created that way.”

    I believe this could be carried too far. For instance, think of “ANY emotive response we posses” that is not appropriate, and I find it hard to classify that as worship to God. ex. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

    I’ve also been studying this:
    Jesus said, “Believe me, woman. A time is coming when you will not worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know. Salvation comes from the Jews. “But a new time is coming. In fact, it is already here. True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. They are the kind of worshipers the Father is looking for. “God is spirit. His worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:21-24

    Note, that he says, “True worshipers will…” which implies that “False worshipers will not…”

    I am seeking to learn three things from these verses.

    First, what is Worship? Was the Samaritan woman’s worship acceptable to God? Jesus said “they worshiped”, but I’m not sure he said that their worship was acceptable.

    Second, what does “Worship … in spirit” mean?

    Third, what does “Worship … in truth” mean?

    I must also learn if worship is to be an entertaining experience for me, or for others, or for God, or all…

    thanks again for your thoughts. You are a talented worship leader, and writer.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts, Paul.

    My statement really is just a reference to sensory responses, and, even more specifically, to the type of worship time we should take our time to plan and lead.

    It was also a statement in reference to the previous comments about the conference I attended, in which the leaders took great pains to ensure that those who are auditory learners (and worshipers) have ample opportunities to experience God by listening.

    The same was true for the visual learners — that those be given the opportunities to experience God by watching. And you can carry the same logic and apply it to those who are tangible learners (or those who learn by doing), and communicating learners, and even social learners. We were given the opportunity to surround ourselves with a variety of styles of engagement, so that when we were done, and we left the room, there were layers of experiences.

    God is overpowering, and I believe when we only adhere to rigid schedules of worship, then we are the ones who are lacking. God created us to experience in a variety of senses. Why shouldn’t we experience God through those very same senses … especially since we are made in His image? Shouldn’t we then worship him, and connect with Him, through those same channels of listening and touching and watching and smelling and tasting. And think about it … most of those we do anyway, in a traditional time of worship.

    My belief is that we should continue to build on those avenues.

    I believe as any church progresses with rethinking worship in such a culturally aesthetic environment, where our own American culture seeks to surround us with every opportunity to engage ourselves with anything, then culture has done something churches have not. And when an unchurched individual comes to our assemblies, and we worship with reverence, but we also worship with a feast for the senses, we are inviting God to overwhelm us, and to overwhelm those who aren’t believers. And that, I believe, is the transforming power of faith.

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