If God Is Hosting the Party…Why Are We Inviting Him to Show Up?


Worship doesn’t invite God’s presence…it acknowledges it.  He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light that we may declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9).  The Father is seeking the kind of worshipers who worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23).  God initiates…we respond.

God’s revelation occurs when He offers us a glimpse of His activity, His will, His attributes, His judgment, His discipline, His comfort, His hope, and His promises.  Our response is the sometimes spontaneous and sometimes premeditated reply to that revelation…worship.

Theologian Richard Foster wrote, “Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.  Its central reality is found ‘in spirit and truth.’  It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit.  Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals.  We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit.”[1]

Occasionally we actually bump into God in our worship efforts.[2]  When this occurs we often arrogantly assume the encounter was based on what we sang, said, or did and how we sang, said, or did it.  When what we do or observe others doing seems to have worked, our usual response is to institutionalize and market it as a template in order to achieve the same result each time we gather.

Have we considered that God might be grieved by our arrogance or angered at our insolence when we implore Him each week to show up and show off?  We take credit for instigating God’s presence when in reality He started the conversation, was present long before we arrived, and has been waiting patiently for us to acknowledge Him.

When I was a child my family traveled each summer from Oklahoma to Tennessee for a couple of weeks of vacation with grandparents.  The 1200-mile round-trip in the 1960 station wagon seemed to take forever.  The length of the trip was minimized through the anticipation and excitement that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were expecting us.  As my grandparent’s house came into view we could always count on seeing my grandmother sitting in the porch swing expectantly waiting for us to arrive.  She had been there for hours.

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth stated that when people assemble in the house of God they are met with an expectancy greater than their own.


[1] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1978).

[2] See Fr. Dominic Grassi, Bumping Into God: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999).



7 Responses to “If God Is Hosting the Party…Why Are We Inviting Him to Show Up?”

  • Pamela Jones Says:

    I agree with most of this post, but take issue with a few points. First, I don’t believe we ever “bump into God”. His word says that where two or more are gathered together, He is there in the midst of them. Therefore, His is there whether we feel him or not. (Praise God!) We don’t have to try to usher him in, He is there and He loves us, therefore he is anxious to spend this time with us. The second thing I disagree with is that we would or could “anger Him” in our attempts to feel close to Him or to help others to feel His presence. I actually think He is pleased that we try so hard, that it is the desire of our hearts. He is not a God who judges our motivations to connect with Him, He is just pleased that we are there! That’s not to say He doesn’t see our shortcomings, but He loves us in spite of them.

  • mick gilliam Says:

    Great article. Yeah- revelation and response! God prepares the place and the hearts.

  • Patty Howard Says:

    My thoughts have been captivated this week by David’s article. From the beginning, God has always desired to dwell with His people. The whole point of the tabernacle and then the temple in the OT were to focus the Israelites on the presence of God with them. His presence required holiness and obedience – worship. In the NT the Scriptures teach us that God is with those who believe and trust in Christ as their Savior. He promises to never leave or forsake us. We are His temple where He dwells. When believers gather as the Church, the Triune God is present in a unique way, therefore when we gather we must acknowledge Him and bring Him the praise due His Name. We come before Him with praise, adoration, confession, repentance, and with hearts and ears ready to hear His Word and with our lives ready to obey, do His Word. The Church is God’s presence and power with/in His people (His light, presence and power) shining into the darkness of this world thus bringing transformation. This is worship.

    Thanks David for stimulating me to rethink and refocus our worship on the One true God who is in our midst.

  • Jack Martin Says:

    Thank you for a very well written article on worship. As worship leaders who are often bombarded with “friendly suggestions” on how we should structure our worship services, it’s good to be reminded that God does the seeking and the engaging…not us!

    To know that the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth is enough to make all worshipers know that our efforts are NOT the key to true worship. Daddy is there, waiting on us to climb up on his lap.

  • Misty & Kristy Says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! Worship cannot be fit in a box. It can’t be copied or repeated as some set of actions to bring about some divine blessing. Worship is all about God… & in case we haven’t noticed, He likes variety & true, heart-felt passion – not rituals and sacrifices!

    Many blessings,
    Misty & Kristy

  • Josh Parent Says:

    I definitely appreciate the emphasis this article places (quite rightly) on our worship being a response to God’s character and what He has already done to demonstrate that character. That being said, I think it’s important to remember that Scripture simultaneously speaks of God both as omnipresent and as capable of manifesting Himself at a specific place and time. Unfortunately we’re all too willing, as the article points out, to take credit for God manifesting Himself. It’s almost as if we think we’re capable of compelling Him to “show up” through taking part in certain rituals, praying a specific prayer or type of prayer, playing a particular style of music or singing the same 3 words over and over again. What we need to keep in mind is the full implication of what it means to ask God to manifest His presence. If we really want God to reveal Himself then we better be prepared for something far more than the warm fuzzies we seem to associate with the Holy Spirit in the American church. We had better be prepared to handle the extreme discomfort that would be caused by seeing the stark contrast between His holiness and our flesh. We had better remember the words of Roman’s 12:1, which remind us that worship is about far more than music. It’s about offering up our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him.

    We should always keep in mind that Biblically speaking God is fully capable of and willing to manifest His presence in our midst. We SHOULD welcome in our midst; we should ask His Spirit to move amongst us. However, we need to invite Him into our midst while understanding and embracing the implications of what we’re doing. We need to know whether we’re looking to surrender to the dominion of the Messiah, the God King Jesus Christ in this world and in our lives or if we’re just looking for a feel good moment. If you’re looking for the first of those two options, than be prepared to be changed in a way that is far more all encompassing and long lasting than a 1-2 hour worship service. If you’re looking for the second option, go to a self help seminar.

  • Mike Reber Says:

    This really a good note to leadership and any trying to measure things against scripture. The choice of words used from the alter of worship have weight. We never know for sure which words we utter will be kept by another. Add the significance of the place and time and the words are all the more weighted by those who hear. Many of the words and gestures are offered to God hopefully from someone who knows Him well. Praise God’s grace in all of this as we all seek Him.

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