There are different ways we can come to worship. One way is passive, another participatory. In the same service both may be present in different people. Worship may be cold and static or warm and dynamic, both happening side by side in the same service. Worship may be engaged or disengaged, wholly focused on the transcendent or completely on the tangible present—all at the same time. Worship can be full of meaning or meaningless. What makes the difference? What makes for authentic worship?
In biblical perspective, worship begins with God not with us. In worship “God comes to us, initiates relationship with us. Our job is to respond, to be open to God, to receive God’s work in us and for us.” (Robert Webber)
Authentic worship is a celebration of God’s work—especially his mighty acts of salvation, redemption and restoration in the life, death, resurrection, ascension and coming again of Jesus the Messiah, God’s Son , King of the world. Authentic worship is the act of throwing ourselves on the good, forgiving grace of God in the midst of our distress, confusion, pain and desperation.
God speaks and acts through the proclamation of his saving acts. We respond with praise and adoration. God speaks and acts through the proclamation of his promises and hope given to us. We respond with lament and petition. As God’s people gather for worship with open hearts, we receive a clearer picture and sense of the power of the Gospel—the powerful presence of God who brings healing and empowers our lives and ministry in and for the world.
Rightly performed by us, authentic worship sets us free from passivity and releases enthusiasm and joy. Authentic worship on our part brings warmth and openness to God and also to people. Authentic worship ushers us into the presence of the Living God who is present for us, with us, inviting us to engage with Him as he has already engaged with us. Authentic worship is life-giving, life-healing, and life restoring.
May we come to worship God this way, giving God all the glory due His Name, and receiving from God all he has to give.