Dr. Stanley Spence, Pastor First Baptist Church, Lincolnton, N.C.
Form in worship has been developed over the years with many influences. Each time we evolve we risk changing the nature of the meaning. For example; the communal meal which we call the Lord’s Supper was originally in people’s homes of the early church period from Jesus to around 314 AD.
In the early Catholic Church, from which the Protestant movement ultimately came over 1000 years later, the Lord’s Supper evolved from its original form. In the early Catholic tradition, the Lord’s Supper evolved to a ceremony behind a screen, on an altar table, in Latin, in secret, to advance the idea of God’s mysterious presence and mystery.
The people’s lack of worship attendance caused leadership to respond. The Lord’s Supper for the people dissolved into not knowing the Latin language, not understanding what was happening for over thirty minutes behind the screen, and losing interest in the ceremony itself. Did I mention, the people did not share in the meal at that time; only the priest.
The next movement in the Lord’s Supper was the removal of the screen; the next movement was the people were allowed to participate; and the next was the use of the common language, all in an effort to engage the people more earnestly in the worship of our Lord through the Lord’s Supper.
After the Protestant Reformation, the Lord’s Supper was split into two more camps of thought and worship. One camp considered it a Sacrament (the visible form of the Invisible Grace of God’s presence) and for the other camp, the Lord’s Supper became a symbol of the Lord’s presence. People fought over these two perspectives. The fight surely didn’t please God but the belief that God was represented in the ceremony of remembrance did.
Throughout the years we have continued to fight over issues that show our lack of understanding about worship. God simply wants His people to love Him and honor the effort He made to love us first. If your heart is not in the worship, it is meaningless to Him. If your heart is into worship and the form is not perfect, He will receive it with tender love. When we add all the other elements of worship, they are simply there to add to your expression of love unto God for all He has done for you and us, the Church.
When you worship the Lord our God, bring all of who you are to honor and glorify Him; i.e., a joyful noise, a humble heart, a grateful spirit, and a servant’s desire to please. The form can be varied but the previously mentioned things are true throughout the different ways in which they are expressed. Let our hearts truly worship God, not just the forms.
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