“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
Jesus emphasizes in John 4:21 that the worship of God is not tied to a specific location or rituals. True worship is an inward experience through which our hearts and minds engage with the Lord of the universe. Therefore, we can worship the Lord at any time and in any place. We can draw near to God at all times. This is a wonderful gift. Yet, in response to this truth, many people over the years have also diminished the importance of gathering together as the church. They dismiss the importance of the church, or “organized religion,” or just say that they “worship God in their own way.”
However, Scripture strongly emphasizes the importance and role of the church in the life of a follower of Christ. I think it is impossible to defend a stance that says we do not need to gather together as the church (Hebrews 10:24-25). So, my focus here will not be on defending the need to meet as the church. I will turn my attention to how Jesus’ call to worship in spirit and truth should impact our corporate worship services.
When we come together for corporate worship, everything that we do should be grounded in the Word of God. Our goal should be to provide the means through which we can apprehend the truth of God. Every segment of the service should be intentionally focused on exalting the person and work of Christ. Our focus should be directed to the wonder and glory of God and how he is working in and through our lives and the life of our church. And as we grasp the truth of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, our heart and minds are drawn to express joy in our Christ, our Rock and our Redeemer. Therefore, we also provide ways of expressing and responding to the truth of God as we worship together as a congregation.
This is why our pastor spends multiple hours each week, carefully studying and preparing to teach God’s Word. It is God’s truth which inspires genuine worship. Flashy presentations or speeches on motivational topics may pump up people’s emotions temporarily, but they will have no long-lasting effects of inspiring godly worship and obedience. It will produce a congregation that relies on quick fixes and who have a shallow, powerless faith. We need the truth of God to transform our lives and to teach, correct, train, and equip us for the work God has called us to do (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
For this same reason, there should be great care given to the selection of songs for worship services. We want to sing songs that declare the greatness of Who God is and what He has done. They should be God-centered and biblically-based (Colossians 3:16-17). Songs that only work up feelings of emotion, but contain little or no truth, do not inspire true worship. They inspire emotional experiences that do not last. There are many “worship songs” that even contain unclear or inaccurate theology. This can lead people into doctrinal error or confusion. I want songs which will reinforce the truth of God’s Word and are clear and strong in their content. Music can be a very impactful medium. It can be used to create emotional responses and even manipulate feelings. I don’t want people to leave a service with a tune in their head. I want them to leave with God’s truth in their hearts and minds.
The desire to worship in spirit and in truth is why we spend time teaching, singing, listening to testimonies, praying, reading scripture, celebrating baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and all the other things that we do in our services. We want to provide opportunities to experience and hear God’s truth and how He is impacting lives. We want to provide opportunities to express the godly passions that well up within us when we are confronted with that truth and the glories of God and His powerful presence. Our duty is to magnify and to glorify God. It is our calling as worship leaders.
That is also why I stress to worship or music teams that they are not to view themselves only as musicians and singers. The worship service is not just an outlet for them to use their gifts. As a part of the team, they are called to lead God’s people in worship. They are the lead worshipers. As a part of the worship team, their top priority is to be a worshiper, not a musician. They need to be seeking God and coming hungry for more of Him. This is also why I think it is essential for worship team members to be believers. Someone who is not a follower of Christ cannot lead others in the worship of Christ.
As we worship together, a call is being issued to those who come hungry for God. Our goal should be to provide them with an atmosphere and opportunity to experience the joy and satisfaction of worshiping the Almighty God in spirit and in truth. It should be our desire to experience the powerful presence of God in our midst. As a result, anyone that would join us on Sunday for worship, even if they are not a believer or seeking God, might also be confronted with the truth and presence of the living God. My hope is that no one would able to leave a worship service without saying, “God was surely in this place” (1 Corinthians 14:25).
This should be the result of our worship services as we are obedient to God and truly seek to worship Him in spirit and in truth. As we proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ, magnifying the person and works of our God, this truth should inspire worship in our hearts. As we gather as the people of God, our services should be grounded in truth, with opportunities for responding together and engaging in worship with our God. Let us continue to draw near to God together.
Together for His glory…