One of the distinctives of Spring Meadows is a particular kind of worship. You
could say that our goal is “worship that connects.” The purpose of our worship
services is (1) to connect Christians with God, but also (2) to connect non-Christians to God.
Worship at Spring Meadows connects Christians to God.
What is worship? Worship is coming into the presence of God. Our purpose is to help
Christians actually meet God, to come into His presence. The preaching aims to be
intelligent and instructional, while the music aims to be excellent and beautiful, but our
goal extends past education and aesthetics. Those are just means to the real goal. We
know God has a living, personal presence, and all that we do on Sunday strives to usher
participants toward it.
When Moses prayed to God “show me Your glory” in Exodus 33, he recognized that though God in one sense is “omnipresent” and everywhere, He also has a relational presence, a “face.” It is possible for God to come near and communicate intimately and intensely to us, just as human beings can bring their faces up close to us and communicate intimately and intensely. When we experience God’s presence, we sense His love and truth as tangible realities, bearing down on our hearts. Truths about God (which we may have always known intellectually) become fiery and powerful and active. They now thrill or comfort us deeply or instill great courage. Our fears and worries and guilt and anger and indifference fall off. (For more on the presence of God, look up Ps.16:11, Ps.17:15, I John 3:1-3, Is.6:1-6, Exodus 33:14-23, Is.64:1.)
Therefore, our philosophy of worship at Spring Meadows recognizes that worship is really unmanageable, and therefore each service is an adventure. We cannot control the presence of God! Since we believe so strongly that real worship cannot be programmed, you will not find us doing a lot to work up people’s emotions in an artificial way. The worship leaders can be intense but will not directly work on people’s emotions or wills. They will point to God and Christian truths and ask God to come down. There are not a lot of gimmicks—the worship services are very straightforward and basic in format.
Of course, God is always present when we meet, but there are clearly times when He breaks through in a special way. Sometimes His presence seems to rest mild and sweet on the meeting, while other times it can be powerful, convicting, and even disturbing. And we look toward worship experiences that go far beyond anything we have witnessed so far.
So the first responsibility of the Christian attendees at Spring Meadows is to sharpen their expectations for worship. If you come from other churches you may need to retrain your instincts. On the one hand, you may have been trained to expect a rather dry, cognitive experience, in which the service is just seen as a few housekeeping items before the lecture (sermon). On the other hand, you may have been trained to work yourself up into a cathartic experience. Neither of these approaches is healthy, for neither really trusts in God as the author of worship. Though the music can be spectacular, the primary goal is not to be entertained. Though the preaching is designed to make you think, the primary goal is not to be intellectually stimulated. You must come expecting God to illuminate you, to have major flashes of self-discovery, to have spiritual surgery done on your hearts, to be transformed and remade. You must come expecting to meet Him.
Worship at Spring Meadows connects other people to God.
What about people who don’t believe the Christian faith, or who don’t know what
they believe? Is a worship service for them? We at Spring Meadows believe the
answer is—yes! There is no better place for a person who doesn’t believe. In I
Corinthians 14:23 Paul indicates that we should expect in worship people who are both hostile to the
faith and seeking the truth.
Why should people who don’t believe be brought to a worship service? Well, because worship is about adoration and praise. The object (or objects) of our praise completely defines us psychologically, sociologically, spiritually. The act of praise is the orientation of the entire being, mind, will, and emotions, toward an object. The things we adore and praise most completely shape the way we think, feel, behave, and relate. They completely shape how we spend our time, energy and resources. The only way for someone to change is to change what he or she worships. Thus a service in which the true God is worshipped is the best place to come to grips with the foundational commitments of our lives, and to see why and how they should be changed.
Paul says that when a person who doesn’t believe watches people being truly built up and edified by worship “he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all” (v.24). Of what does this conviction consist? “The secrets of his heart will be laid bare” (v.25). It may mean he realizes that the worshippers around him are finding in God what his heart had been secretly searching for, but in the wrong ways. It may mean the worship shows him how his heart works. The result: “so falling on his face, he will worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you'” (v.25). So Paul is saying that anyone can recognize and sense the presence of God in corporate worship.
But in this passage, Paul also insists that Christians, therefore, are not to worship in such a way that is unintelligible to them. He warns them to do things decently and in order so that the unbelievers will not think the Christians are crazy!
Therefore, at Spring Meadows our services are planned and conducted to both build up the believer and also welcome and challenge the unbelieving. We seek to avoid lots of Christian “jargon.” We explain what is happening in the service as we go along. We often directly address and welcome people who do not have faith or who are seeking. And the preaching is very careful to continually address the concerns and issues that non-believers have with the Christian faith. We remember what it is like to not believe, and we do our best to treat with respect their questions and difficulties with Christianity.
After each service, we hope to offer classes that are especially designed for seeking people and even people heavily skeptical of the Christian faith. For example, a “Credibility of Christianity” class directly deals with the case for the truth of the Christian faith. It answers the question: “why do we believe?” An “Overview of Christian Theology” class explores the basics of Christian faith and practice. It answers the question: “what do we believe?” A Question and Answer class run by the minister offers people the chance to ask any question or raise any issue about Christianity.
So the second responsibility of Christian attendees at Spring Meadows is to use the worship service as a way to reach out to others in the city. Our services are designed for bringing non-Christian friends. For example, you will find Spring Meadows an excellent place to bring a non-Christian associate to give her or him an introduction to classical Christianity. We have begun to see people follow the pattern Paul mentions: the secrets of his heart will be revealed, so he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is truly among you!”
Next month – The Shape of Worship at SMPC