The Goal of our Worship: Getting Vertical
Chris Moeller - Worship Pastor
I wanted to take a moment this week to shine some light onto the specifics of how our church structures a worship service that both glorifies God and impacts our hearts. It all stems from our ultimate goal — to get vertical. Everything we do is for God’s glory!
However, unashamed vertical worship is not something that’s easy to jump right into. How many times have you been in a worship service where it took twenty minutes before you were overwhelmed with how great Jesus is? We are so prone to distraction and closing our hearts off from His work that it’s difficult to get vertical right from start.
Our Model: The Temple
My desire as a worship leader is that we would walk into the sanctuary with an overflowing heart of praise to our awesome God. But the reality is this usually isn’t the case. Therefore, as worship leaders, we do our best to lead our church from where we are into the presence of God in order to respond in true, passionate worship (John 4:24). We structure our services in a way that shepherds all of our hearts from the horizontal cares of this world to the vertical praise of our God.
In essence, we are seeking to create a worship service that is modeled after the way God commanded Israel to worship in the Temple. Worship at the Temple began on the the hillside and proceeded to move from the Temple courts (outer and inner) into the holy places (Holy and Most Holy). The further you moved into the Temple, the higher the restriction were. However, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for you and me, we now have access to the presence of God through his grace! There are no more restrictions.
In this model, think of the worship leader standing on the hillside shouting, “Hey everyone! Come and worship with me!” (Horizontal/Gathering). As people gather with him, they move into the courts and start telling each other what the Lord has done in their lives and rejoice together in the work of the Lord through Jesus Christ (Diagonal/Testimonial).
After the declaration of the reconciliation they have in Jesus and what the Lord has done for them in salvation, they are led into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, where they are floored by the greatness of God and respond with shouts of “Hallelujah!” declaring the majesty of God (Vertical/Ascription)!
When the heart of the worshiper has entered the “Holy of Holies”, the worshipper begins to have an intimate encounter with Lord. The others in the room begin to fade into the background as the worshipper’s focus is increasingly upon ascribing glory to the Lord. After this, God then speaks to us through his Word and we respond again with praise.
In terms of our worship service, the order that has worked the best for our church and correlates nicely with the Temple setup model, is to start with a 5 element worship set that leads to the sermon where God’s Word is preached without apology and authoritatively, and then ending with a 1 or 2 element worship response.
Our Service: Journey to Vertical
Let’s talk about that five element worship set. I use the term “element” here because the worship set is not limited to songs. Elements are forms and can include, but are not limited to, Scripture readings, testimonies, confessional elements, personal or corporate prayer, and more. This five element set is intended to bring the heart of worship from horizontal to vertical.
The first element is horizontal/gathering, the third element is diagonal/testimonial and the fifth element culminates the journey to a vertical/ascriptive place, which then sets up our hearts to hear God speak to us from His Word.
The second and fourth elements are “in-between” elements that help smooth the flow from horizontal to vertical. In terms of music, a second element may be a gathering song that is testimonial in portions of it. A fourth element may be a song that is testimonial in the verse but ascriptive and vertical in the choruses.
In terms of non-musical elements, the second element could be a time where people greet one another and share why they they’re excited to worship the Lord. A fourth element could be a moment after the testimonial element where we are led through a confessional exercise in response to the sacrifice of Jesus.
Regardless of the element, the journey should go from horizontal to vertical, from the hillside of the Temple to the Holy of Holies. In the history of our church, we have seen a drastic change in the culture of worship at our church. Our hearts have been transformed by the Word of God through the Holy Spirit to lay our pain and distracting preoccupations before the Lord and focus on recognizing and responding to His greatness.