How Pentecostals worship

What do Pentecostals believe about ‘worship’? Pentecostalism believes that worship is the primary means by which Christians draw near to God to offer him a sacrifice of praise, in faith that his blessings will follow. This blessing involves the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence amongst Christians as they worship. A central reason, if not the reason Christians should gather together is for corporate worship in the Spirit, for it is there that God reveals himself in particular.

While affirming on the one hand that ‘worship is a lifestyle’ (it’s not about one day per week, but every hour of every day; it’s not about an event or an experience but about belief-fuelled behaviour), on a practical level, however the focal point of worship in Pentecostalism is the corporate event, the ‘worship meeting.’

Churches meet in ‘worship centres’. A time of ‘praise’ prepares individuals and the whole congregation for the ‘worship time’ that will follow. The aim of the worship time is for each individual to achieve genuine openness to God at the deepest (or highest) level. It is during this time that individual ‘worshipers’ seek and move closer to God. This partly involves ‘letting go’ on a mental level; letting go of ‘personal baggage’ and inhibition. This allows individuals to move beyond the mind to find God himself. When this is achieved on mass (worshipers collectively ‘enter in’, and are united in ‘pursuit’ of God), then the worship meeting and centre becomes a place where God’s special presence is revealed.

The act of ‘drawing near’ to God in particular involves offering him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. But often it is more than this: From the front, ‘worship leaders’ urge the congregation to ‘enter in’ (to the realm of ‘worship’), not only because this causes God’s presence to be manifest (or be felt), but also because this ‘offering’ of praise ‘exalts’ or lifts God up (He is ‘enthroned on the praises of his people’). In other words, God is enthroned or ‘glorified’ as his people praise him (Hence the old hymn, “we enthrone you,” and “I exalt you”).

In this sense, God acts in a special way when Christians praise and/or worship him: God ‘reigns’ (locally) as king through our act of acknowledging and submitting to his kingship in worship. It follows then, that as his people worship him, he becomes active in a special way. That is, God’s Spirit is ‘poured out’ or ‘rains down’ and therefore God ‘comes’ and ‘moves’ and ‘works’ in the midst of his people, as they worship him wholeheartedly.

The ‘worship team’ (leaders, singers and musicians) are therefore instrumental in this process. The worship leader and his/her team are seen as central to the church’s purpose for meeting. Their role is to help the church to ‘enter in’ to worship wholeheartedly, and consequently “experience the manifest presence of God”.

The Pentecostal and indeed all charismatic movements also strongly emphasize private worship to God. Whether this happens in one’s own home or car, individual Christians need to maintain their own private devotion to Christ by setting aside ‘quiet times’ (or loud as the case may be) where they worship God every day.

But this ‘lifestyle’ worship obviously involves isolated individuals and so lacks the ‘corporate’ element. Therefore, the public meeting remains central to worship in Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement more widely. For in the ‘worship meeting’ Christians experience something that is really unlike anything they do at any other time: they make a corporate sacrifice (or free will offering) of praise to God. God ‘delights in the praises of his people’ (collectively), and therefore this special activity carries the promise of a special blessing for the individuals who participate in the church-wide experience.

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