An obsession with power fills our world. Whether it’s through the dominance of a government system, the outrage of a murder in the streets, a catty fight in the school hallways, or gossiping words that malign a person behind their back, all of these pursuits tarnish people and the idea of one thing—power! In our thirst to comfort ourselves and to make ourselves feel safe, we endlessly search for powerful masters that we believe will protect us and lead us to the “good life.” If we can’t find this for ourselves, then we take the reins of our lives and live under a false belief that we can control what is in our future—even though we can’t see it!
This language of power has taken a bite out of the word “worship,” as well. Christians everywhere want to be filled with power from on high. We want the power hour, the power encounter, and we are thirsty for something or someone that will strengthen us.
The good news in this search is that it shows that humans know we are weak, whether we admit it or not. The bad news is, if we do not know where the true electricity of life is—the real power—we’ll plug into numerous bad outlets that will eventually leave us dead, fried, or flat-out blown up!
So how is a church’s worship, their liturgy, the work of the people, supposed to supply individuals and the body with POWER? This is a complicated question. For starters, however, I think a power transfer is hidden right within the liturgy, worship service, service order, or bulletin info itself (whatever your church calls it).
Let’s take a look at how the power comes through our worship together as a family:
Call to Worship: We do not call ourselves to worship; God calls us! The call to worship, then, is a call far greater than our power can muster, and it exposes our limitations.
Prayer of Adoration: “When we adore God we are turning to true power that longs to give abundant life … our prayer of adoration is a declaration against all aberrant and destructive uses of power. It can also be an assault on our own self-adoration. It is a reproach against any government, culture, or individual that oppresses others. Adoration is deserved by only One; he is the rock of our salvation, the only One who is our peace.”
Prayer of Confession: When we confess our sin, we take responsibility for our destructive, false, and alien uses of power, and we acknowledge how our pig-headedness in fighting for control only seems to land us in a tub full of suet.
Declaration of Forgiveness and Assurance of Pardon: The forgiveness of God is our assurance. It’s a safe power that releases and redeems us rather than imprisons and enslaves.
Intercessory Prayer: We dare to talk to a gracious God. This is not a right, but a gift from a merciful King!
God’s Word (presented or preached): To listen and to speak God’s word is to accept a transfer of authority. We gladly take up his thoughts and ways in order that they may master and guide us.
Baptism: Acts of misused power are birthed from a misunderstood identity. One who knows their “Father” and knows their Father takes great pleasure in them is likely to trust heavenly resources for the Spirit’s power, rather than use creation out of spite, anger, and rage for what it fails to provide.
Lord’s Supper: The communion supper is a pure representation of the divine and unique oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are held together in mutual authority and submission. Their power comes from serving one another, not in being served.
Offering: Our gifts are not coerced, manipulated, or done in guilt, but rather are a statement that “all is God’s” and everything is in his hands.
Singing the Music (or any kind of response, really): A singing noise comes not out of the hearts of imprisoned people, but of those who are free! Singing is an indictment on all the malicious powers that seek to control us; it’s a liberating war cry that tells the story of our release from bondage through Jesus’ blood!
Commissioning and Benediction: When Jesus issued the Great Commission to the disciples in Mt. 28, it says that “some worshipped and some doubted.” We are all believing doubters, sent out into a broken world, being weaker than we would care to admit, but also possessing more power than we could ever hope to discover.
If a church seeks to prepare people for a POWER encounter in a church service they are going to have to use a Biblical format that equips the people to live POWERFULLY in service to the church and the world. This is what true liturgy should do.
Worship is powerful!
¹ Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2007), 116.