This evening I began a new series based on the book by James MacDonald entitled “Vertical Church”. The topic of tonight’s discussion was the fact that we serve a transcendent God. While I’m not sure that I adequately conveyed this HUGE idea (I had a lot of blank stares looking at me), it really is a life-changing truth. You see, if we realize that God is above us, beyond us, and is altogether separate from this world, it really changes our limited focus when it comes to how we “do” church. For example, this evening I talked about the fact that in all parts of the world, in all different languages there are people worshiping God. Now those methods, languages, and even styles would be radically different than our own…and yet God is being honored and worshiped. Why? Well it’s because our God is transcendent. He is bigger than our limited perspective and abilities to express worship.
But here’s the difficult part. Unfortunately, what often happens as we try our best to “do” church is that we mistake our limited perspective and ability to express worship to a transcendent God as the only way that God can be worshiped. So in our effort to express as best we know how our adoration of our Savior, we sometimes get the misguided idea that we actually got it right – so right that everyone else must be doing it wrong. But when we step back and consider the fact that God is transcendent/far above this world, it is obviously short-sighted and misguided to believe that we can ever establish the boundaries for what is pleasing to God.
In James MacDonald’s book, “Vertical Church”, he touches on the size and scope of this HUGE universe. One illustration he uses in the DVD material is that we could get in a car and drive 65mph across our galaxy…and we’d still be driving 13,000 years later! Now I’m not sure where he gets these numbers, but it paints the picture pretty well! The point is this – we live in an enormous galaxy! And yet God is bigger than all of that.
Now how does that impact my worship? Well it ought to lead us to confess that all too often we have sought to limit God to what is our very limited idea of how God receives our praise and adoration through our local congregation. Hear me out on this – it is perfectly fitting that we would have our own unique methods of worshiping God through our local church. It is perfectly fitting that one church would worship very different from the one just down the street. It is perfectly fitting that one church would have ministries very different from another church. Why? Well it’s because that church is the visible expression of the gifts given to that congregation (1 Cor. 12). So as the body does what the body is supposed to do…it’s going to show itself in different ways (1 Cor. 12:18).
But here’s where a transcendent view of God changes us – it’s when we acknowledge our bias in worship and church methods but also acknowledge that these are not the measures of whether or not worship is genuine or not. What defines worship (which is an encounter with God) is deeper and more profound than the music or the study style. Instead, it’s how we are changed as we walk away from that encounter. You see, when I look at Scripture…when a genuine encounter with God took place…people were changed by that encounter. Moses encountered God in a burning bush and it sent him on a life-changing mission. Paul encountered God as a blinding light along the road and it turned his life in a radical new direction as a bold witness for the very one he was persecuting! So as we consider this invitation to encounter a transcendent God…we are humbled, we are privileged, and yet at the same time we are relieved as we realize that even if our form isn’t all that perfect, God’s bigger than the mechanics.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity in our hearts. What that means is that we all have a longing for something that’s bigger and more meaningful than our daily lives. We long to honor the God who redeems us through Christ…in spirit and in truth.
Considering all of that…I look forward to the opportunity to experience worship on Sunday and I hope you will too!