The Holy Spirit’s Work In Worship: Extraordinary Experience Or Disciplined Formation? -- By: Scott Aniol
DBSJ 24 (2019) p. 81
The Holy Spirit’s Work In Worship:
Extraordinary Experience Or Disciplined Formation?
“Our church’s worship is pretty formal, but I prefer Holy Spirit-led worship.” Such was the comment I overheard recently by a young evangelical describing his church’s worship service, illustrating a very common perception by many evangelicals today—if the Holy Spirit actively works in worship, the results will be something extraordinary, an experience “quenched” by too much form and order. A common perception, to be sure, but how grounded in Scripture is this expectation concerning the Holy Spirit’s work in worship?
My purpose in this paper is to assess this common expectation, measuring it against a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit’s work. I will begin by describing what appears to be the default expectation regarding the work of the Holy Spirit in worship by contemporary worshipers. I will explain that this expectation finds its roots in the Pentecostal movement and has spread even beyond charismatic movements into evangelical churches that claim to have a cessationist theology of the Holy Spirit’s work. I will then assess this default expectation from a biblical framework. First, I will examine exhaustively the language of Scripture describing the Holy Spirit’s actions, demonstrating that the Spirit’s usual work through the whole of Scripture is to bring God’s plan to order. I will then use that examination as a foundation upon which to discuss how the Holy Spirit ordinarily works today. Finally, I will specifically examine the New Testament discussions of the Holy Spirit’s work in worship, revealing that his actions there fall far more within the category of ordering than within categories describing extraordinary experiences. Thus, this paper will argue that the Holy Sprit’s ordinary work in worship is that of disciplined formation.
The Default Expectation Of The Holy Spirit’s Work In Worship
Arguably, the default expectation of contemporary evangelical
DBSJ 24 (2019) p. 82
worshipers is that the Holy Spirit works in worship in such a way so as to create an extraordinary experience, well expressed in the popular worship song by Bryan and Katie Torwalt:
Holy spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.2
Many theologians and authors who have helped to shape contemporary evangelical worship embody a theology of the Holy Spirit’s primary work as that of making God’s presence know...
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