In one of our classes here at Southern, we discuss challenges pastors face each week in leading corporate worship. One of those challenges is that every person comes to worship with a different story. Picture your congregation. Their individual stories are as varied and unique as their faces and personalities. Some come with hope and joy. Others come defeated by life’s circumstances. Some come with a clear understanding of the greatness of God and their great need of a Savior. Others come with a skewed view of God shaped by the culture.
The challenge? How do we begin corporate worship in a manner that effectively engages people of all ages and who come from an incredibly wide range of perspectives and circumstances? Maybe by reminding them to “Come up here.”
“After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” Revelation 4:1.
“Come up here John, I want to show you something.” Sometimes I’ve wondered if that challenging invitation is a charge we may need to offer our congregations at the beginning of worship services: “Church, Jesus calls us, just like he did John, to come up here and look at what is happening in heaven.”
What’s going on? A worship service in heaven. Unceasing. Exalting Jesus Christ. This scene is the ultimate corporate worship of those who have “come up here.”
In his Thanksgiving sermon from 1734 entitled “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven,” Jonathan Edwards points to several scenes of worship in heaven to challenge his congregation to train themselves for heavenly corporate worship. In fact, Edwards makes strong connections between earthly and heavenly worship:
The heavenly employment that Edwards speaks of is the joyful work of praise. Edwards says, “That (praise) is the work of heaven shows it to be the most honorable work. No employment can be a greater honor to a man than to praise God.” Yet, we often worship so carelessly, so critically with little realization that we are in essence joining an unseen corporate worship service going on in the heavenly realm. Can we help our people glimpse the invisible corporate worship service? Can we grasp it ourselves? Edwards encourages us to do so:
“You have already heard that the saints in heaven do praise the Lord so fervently because they see him. Labor therefore that you, though you have not an immediate vision of God, as they have, may yet have a clear spiritual sight of him, and that you may know more of God, and have frequent discoveries of him made to you .”
How do we begin corporate worship in a manner that effectively engages people of all ages with an incredibly wide range of perspectives and circumstances? By reminding them that Jesus’ invitation to John is Jesus’ invitation to us—“Come up here.”
Part II of "Come Up Here" will be posted next week.
Dr. Crider is the Executive Director of the Institute for Biblical Worship and a professor of Church Music and Worship in the Department of Biblical Worship at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY. He also serves as Worship Pastor at LaGrange Baptist Church in LaGrange, KY.