by H. Arnett (October 2008)
There is no question that one of the key purposes of Christian assembly is to exhort, encourage and admonish one another. Some have called this the “horizontal” element of worship. I rather prefer to think of it as the edification element of church, the aspect that focuses on lifting up the discouraged, rebuking the erring, and comforting the grieving — and all of us stirring one another up to good works. All important and key aspects of a good gathering.
I prefer to think of “worship” proper as being vertical in nature. Singing about how good God has been to me and how important it is that we work for the night is coming seems less suited to that particular function than to the other one. In a certain way of looking at things, there are some songs and hymns that seem to adore how much I love God more than they adore God. It’s not that I’m opposed to reminding others how filled I am with love and faith and hope and maybe even how incredibly spiritual we all are. It just seems to miss the greater goal a bit. For the worship role, I go with singing about how good God is, how matchless and incredible are His attributes, how infinite His mercy and grace, how incomparable the love He has shown us in Christ Jesus, how exalted He is because of Who He is.
To be sure, any gathering of good people in doing a good thing is right likely a good experience. But if I would leave the place filled and flowing, nothing else so enriches as genuine worship and exaltation. I find that when I empty my heart and mind of me and my petty concerns and devote my every energy to glorifying the Father, Son and Spirit, there is a cleansing and filling. It is in that very thing that I find the grand paradox of genuine worship: the less I focus on me, the more good I receive. When I adore Him who is my Savior, I am renewed.
“Doc” Arnett (as most others call him) put it well, wouldn’t you say? The delineation of worship and edification (or vertical and horizontal) is one I affirm completely. I suspect that Arnett’s reluctance to call edification/encouragement stuff “the horizontal element of worship” is because it’s not worship (not because it’s not horizontal). This suspicion on my part is born out in the 1st sentence in his 2nd paragraph — in which he clarifies with the expression “worship proper.”
It is for certain: when we “get up” and “vertically” adore — and particularly when we address God directly more than sing about Him — we are built up and renewed.
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For more on the delineation of worship and service, try these additional posts:
For more from H. “Doc” Arnett, go to his blog at http://docarnett.wordpress.com/.