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Worship and Mystery

Posted by on in General Secretary's Blog
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Our experience of the God who chooses us, searches for us and finds us makes our life an exciting adventure. The worship we offer in response is a whole-life engagement by every follower of Christ.

Organized corporate worship events are a vital part of the life of the Christian community. At least once per week, do we not assemble in God's presence in response to the experience of God's faithfulness? And when we do, we offer praise and thanks to God, listen to hear what God says to us, confess our sins and present our petitions to God.

Mystery lies at the heart of public worship. When we gather, we come into the presence of the triune God. Indeed, it is God who calls us to worship. Jesus said, “Where two or three of you are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). And it is to God that we direct our worship.

Yet, in Christ, God also joins us in the worship we offer. As our great high priest, Jesus mediates between us and the Father. He makes our worship possible. As our permanent high priest, Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:24-25). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit enables us to share meaningfully in the dialogue with God that worship entails. Worship is a marvelous encounter involving people and the triune God in a dynamic and potentially life-transforming encounter.

This mystery flies in the face of the "over-familiarity" with God that is rampant in some worshiping communities today. When I was a child, I grew up in a Baptist church that exhibited an acute sense of the mystery that lies at the heart of worship. In corporate worship, God and humankind are involved in a vital dialogue that calls forth reverence by the humans involved.

The mystery of God was infused in the worshiping community and I shared in the privilege that public worship confers. Each time we assembled, we felt obliged to engage in confession of sin near the start of the service. That a holy God is willing to receive our praise never ceased to amaze us. Gladly, we grasped the opportunity to receive God's forgiveness.

This mysterious dimension of worship was manifested every time we celebrated the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. For us, baptism was an act of God, an act of the candidate for baptism and an act of the community at worship. It was a sacred moment when we stood at the crossroads of God's calling on a person's life, that person's positive response to the call and the community’s warm embrace of a new believer. In addition, so "sacred" was Holy Communion that fear seized those who might consider participating when they sensed their life was not in accord with God's will.

The mystery at the center of worship was reflected in the prayers of intercession that were offered. We addressed the sovereign, omniscient God and expressed our desires passionately. Yet, it is not as if we believed we were passing on information to God. We did not regard intercessory prayer as an attempt to twist God’s arm. Instead, we regarded it as an authentic expression of our relationship with our Heavenly Father as both the source that inspires our prayers and the one who responds to them. 

Not surprisingly, the worship space we used kept drawing our eyes upward to God and the reverent spirit in worship made the place of worship a sacred space shrouded in mystery.

If we could lead our lives with a sense of the mysterious dimension of our faith, what a difference that could make to our discipleship and in our witness!

Neville George Callam, a Jamaican, has been serving as general secretary and chief executive officer of the Baptist World Alliance since his election in Accra, Ghana in 2007.


  • Guest
    R.S.John & Asha John from india Saturday, 28 October 2017

    We received marvellous blessings, God be with you all the time.

  • Guest
    Peder Martin Idsoee Liland Tuesday, 17 October 2017

    Dear brother Neville.
    Your three meditations leading up to the 500 anniversary are indeed at the heart of our life as the church of Jesus Christ. At this first point we are led to see and become more aware of the depth of our life as Christians, and how that makes us vital participants in the mission of God towards all mankind, and in the corner where we live.
    Peder Martin Idsoee Liland, Rt pastor, editor.

  • Guest
    Manuel Moises Quembo Wednesday, 20 September 2017

    Yes, Rev. Neville Callam, in the Worship we still sense God's presence and warm brotherly love. Thank you for sharing on this topic "Worship and Mystery" it inspires us to come unto His presence and adore Him.

    Wish you many blessings, before and after you leave the BWA General Secretary's position.

    Manuel Moises Quembo

  • Guest
    Mary Beth Mankin Wednesday, 20 September 2017

    What beautiful descriptions of worship, baptism, and Holy Communion! I think too many of us have lost our sense of mystery in worship. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Guest
    Abel Adamou Bouba Tuesday, 19 September 2017

    God's children are a family and worshiping together strengthens the love in Jesus Christ among them as well as the love for themselves.

  • Guest
    Rt. Rev. Michael J. Cleaves Tuesday, 19 September 2017

    My dear friend Neville!
    What a concise and beautifully expressed outline of the true nature of worship. Alas, I feel it is a counsel of perfection which many of our churches don't get close to, mainly for the reasons you hint at. Intercession, for example, is so often an indulgence of selfishness; and silence in worship is often abhorred, whereas it is a precious gift in the midst of the clamour of life. Thanks for your reflections - I hope I am not the only respondent! In Christ,
    Bishop Michael Cleaves, UK

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