I have been working my way through John Stott’s book, The Living Church, and was struck by his discussion of transcendence in worship. Here is what he wrote concerning the church:
This quest for transcendence is a challenge to us and to the quality of our public worship. Does it offer what people are craving – the element of mystery, the “sense of the numinous”; in biblical language “the fear of God,” in modern language “transcendence”? My answer to my own question is “Not often.” The church is not always conspicuous for the profound reality of its worship. In particular, we who call ourselves “evangelical” do not know much how to worship. Evangelism is our specialty, not worship. We seem to have little sense of the greatness and glory of Almighty God. We do not bow down before him in awe and wonder. Our tendency is to be cocky, flippant and proud. We take little trouble to prepare our worship services. In consequence, they are sometimes slovenly, mechanical, perfunctory and dull. At other times they are frivolous, to the point of irreverence. No wonder those seeking reality often pass us by.
In response to this analysis, he offers three things that are needed in the church:
1. We need such a faithful reading a preaching of God’s word that through it his living voice is heard addressing his people again.
2. We need such a reverent and expectant administration of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper that (I choose my words carefully) there is a Real Presence of Jesus Christ. His presence is not in the elements, but among his people and at his table, Jesus Christ himself objectively and really present, coming to meet us, ready to make himself known to us through the breaking of bread, and anxious to give himself to us, so that we may feed on him in our hearts by faith.
3. We need such a sincere offering of praise and prayer, that God’s people say with Jacob, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:16), and unbelievers present will fall down and worship God, exclaiming “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
Stott is such a great communicator and I have benefitted tremendously from his discussing on the church. This particular discussion concerning worship within the church was powerful. I encourage you to pick up this book and read it!