In the theophanies (encounters with the supernatural deity) of the Bible, there are five common elements of the meeting. Some theophany passages are Isaiah 6, Revelation 1, Acts 9, and Exodus 3:1, 2. Not all five elements are found in every theophany, but these five together create the composite template for our worship services.
Gathering. Just as with any other important ceremony, showing up in person at church reveals the importance of the meeting. Imagine a wedding where the bride chimed in through a video conference. Imagine a funeral where mourners watched a live stream online in their pajamas. Of course, one can think of extenuating circumstances when attendance in person is not possible. But overall, showing up and gathering with other people imposes a certain importance on the event. Whether it’s the removal of shoes or the blowing of the trumpet, a line demarcates the beginning of the encounter.
Surrender. Immediately after the divine revelation, one sees an immediate attitude of unworthiness and surrender. In the worship service, we see elements of surrender in the monetary sacrifice, musical offering, and/or familial dedications. We surrender our hearts as we listen to the sermon; we offer our prayers and bodies as a response in worship.
Hear. In every encounter, God speaks and His people listen. There are always words of encouragement, rebuke, admonition, and inspiration. Transcending the eloquence and erudition of the preacher, it is the Spirit who convicts and guides each heart to follow the will of God.
Respond. More than an educational seminar or an entertaining musical concert, worship services are an opportunity to respond to God, especially after considering the message. Usually done through song, prayer, service, or other form of offering, the worshiper gives thanks, acknowledgement, and reception of the message and the One who inspired the message.
Dispatch. Once the congregation has gathered to meet Jesus, surrender to Jesus, hear from Jesus, and respond to Jesus, this same Jesus inspires His disciples to go out. It is one thing to spend time at the top of the mountain; it is another thing to go down and spread the message of what just transpired. God’s heart always expands outward, desiring to seek the lost and bring them back to Him.