So, we’ve covered some ground in terms of the controversies and customs with regard to reverence in our worship services. We have taken a quick Biblical tour of what reverence is in terms of a principle in Scripture. To sum up, reverence is essential, and it is essentially the posture of the human heart, with appropriate attendant actions, that make much of God and His promises. Reverence is the exaltation, exultation, meditation, and glorious satisfaction in all that God if for us in Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What does that look like in a worship gathering? Well, here are some suggestions.
Intent and Planning
Worship begins with the motives and the design of a worship service. What you think of worship crafts how you design it. Therefore, worship planning teams should have a priority that the service be highly reverential. Once they do, you will see that in the service itself, in structure, song selection, song orchestration, the sermon, the prayers, etc.
While many forms can capture reverence, I do want to suggest that chosen moments of stillness, silence, and contemplation do serve to establish reverence. The absence of these does not necessarily take away reverence, but their presence is helpful and a gift. Many churches today do not allow for enough stillness, silence, and contemplation, which in turn make it challenging for people to really think about and own the truth and power of God’s work in worship.
From Start to Finish
A tone is set in how a service begins. Whether it is a verbal call to worship, a prayer, or a song, the worship leader sets the tone of reverence in how he or she speaks of God and why we are gathered to worship. The beginning of the service should get our eyes on God, how big He is, how glorious He is, and the gratitude we should have in being in his presence to worship him.
Likewise, the closing of a service should set a tone of reverence as we bless and commission the congregation in their service to God in the week ahead. Often the benediction/closing is the moment that seals the sense of wonder and awe that was gained during the service and it should be considered as another important means of conveying reverence.
The Appearance of the Worship Leaders
I do not think that reverence is exemplified in a narrow range of clothing genres. But, I also think that if the worship team looks like clowns, or are obviously trying to draw attention to themselves in how they dress, then that takes esteem away from God, and thus is not reverent. The worship leaders can be stylish, no doubt, but should not be distracting. Women should be careful not to wear anything that is designed to be alluring or provocative. Please take into account fit, length, and such. Men, don’t be a peacock. Be comfortable, be sartorial, but don’t draw attention to yourself. Give the focus to Jesus. In other words, be excellent but not distracting. That helps the atmosphere be reverent.
Some songs exude celebration, and therefore will be upbeat and elicit clapping, body movement, and overall gladness. But, some songs should be selected to elicit a sober reflection on the mercies of God, on the basic truths of the gospel, upon the majesty of Christ, the reality of our sin and yet the glory of the Savior. There should definitely be a priority to select songs that create a unified story in worship and also a balance of joy and reverence. Many genres, from traditional hymns to contemporary choruses, to solos, choirs, and congregational songs can do this. Even instrumental pieces can and should exude reverence.
The way the preacher deports himself as he preaches creates an atmosphere. If he is glib, always light, rarely gravitational, you will not have a sense of reverence. The preacher must carry himself, speak in such a way, and of course deliver the message of a Biblical text in such a way that he leads others in reverent worship of God even during the sermon. Preachers can definitely use humor, and they surely must also balance the sermon with the other Biblically important attitudes of celebration, conviction, peace, freedom, and such, but he must be reverent, too. This will include how he uses humor, how he handles controversial topics, his clearness when it comes to sin, his boldness in proclaiming a big Jesus, and how his communication is unapologetically God centered. If the preacher is reverent in his preaching, he will shape a reverent people.
Thoughtfulness and Excellence
Two simple principles seem to make it or break it when it comes to reverence in worship. Is the service thoughtful, and Biblically so? And is it excellent, and humbly so? You can tell. You can always tell. When a service is thought through, it shows. When it is thought through, it is often excellent. When it is excellent, it leads to focus on Jesus, not on foibles or eccentricities. One friend calls this undistracting excellence. From invocations, songs, Scripture readings, prayers, the sacraments, to the sermon, testimonies, media, and all the other bits, if there is a clear thoughtfulness and excellence, and a clear Biblicality to it all, the service will be highly reverent.
These principles can be expressed in a very formal, high church service with business suits or even black robes abounding, or it can happen in a converted wear house, painted in matte black, with work shirts and jeans and an indie rock worship band. Both can he very, even equally, reverent.
Given who God is, we must be reverent. Period.