It is for those who love when God’s presence is experienced, at all levels, by a community who has gathered to worship.The following is, I submit, a theological course correction necessary for Worship Leaders and Pastors who lead in settings that intentionally welcome the Holy Spirit to be “manifest” as we engage in worship.
First of all, let me affirm this: I love the Holy Spirit. I also love when the Holy Spirit is manifest in a room in a palpable way, and people are responding (aided by expressions of worship) to the invisible, yet overwhelming, presence of the living, loving, ever-present God.
But as pastors and worship leaders, we have a responsibility to think about the way we talk about that experience to our congregations. We may mean one thing theologically, but when we’re not careful with our words, we communicate another. Theological ideas can be helpful or unhelpful to the discipleship of Christians—what we believe about God and how He works—and the following addresses what I believe to be a theologically faulty way of talking about God’s presence in any given worship environment.
Do We Bring the God’s Presence When We Lead Worship?
Here is my answer: We don’t “bring” God’s Presence by our music, worship, messages or prayers.
I believe such language is theologically faulty, and confuses Christians when we use it. It suggests that we ourselves are the primary actors in the worship story, and that our actions precipitate whether or not the omnipresent God is “there” or not.
God is already present. God is the primary Actor in worship. Ours is to respond (1 John 4:19).
We turn our hearts to perceive Him, welcome Him and to request His Presence be ever more manifest among us (ex: Solomon and the dedication of the Temple in 2 Chron. 5:13-14, and the disciples in the Upper Room in Acts 2). God doesn’t “show up” in this sense; He reveals Himself and we perceive Him—as we are open to a revelation of Him.
If We Don’t ‘Bring’ the Presence of God, Can We ‘Welcome’ the Holy Spirit?
Welcoming the Holy Spirit is an act of invitation, yes, but not an invitation for the Holy Spirit to come into the room as if the Spirit has been absent.
Welcoming the Holy Spirit is an invitation to the already-present God to more fully overtake our hearts and to make His presence more evident, to more of us, in revelatory and transforming ways.
Worship leaders and pastors then create environments that help a community to become aware of His presence (well-curated worship environments can beautifully facilitate this), and to engage with Him as the already-active God who is near and can be perceived.
Our liturgies do not make God do anything, that would be magic (performing certain actions in order to get a divine being to do our will).
Rather, our liturgies (including rockin’ worship sets) invite Him to more fully do what He is already doing in and among us, even as they open our hearts to respond to the Spirit’s active, manifest presence.
God may choose, in some instances, to make His presence more evidently manifest in various environments. In this we can think of the examples of the Spirit filling Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron. 5:13-14), or the rushing wind empowering the disciples in Acts 2:1-4.
But we should not take the credit for His choice, even as we create environments where we as people are able to be more perceptive of what is actually happening in the room.
God “brings” Himself if you will, and is present before we ever begin the music. (I.e., Omnipresence is the theological presupposition to which we must orient before language for what is happening in the room falls from our lips.)