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Caner: Fellowship essential for ‘power of God’ in worship

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–True corporate worship depends on fellowship among believers, a seminary dean told 500 Music Week participants, noting, “What you and your church take years to build can be destroyed with one cross word, one bad thought, one bitter spirit.

“The responsibility for the power of God in worship rests on us,” featured speaker Ergun Caner, dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and professor of theology and church history at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., said during the July 10-14 music conference at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center near Santa Fe, N.M.

Preaching from Exodus 15, Caner said that contrary to popular teaching, Christians cannot worship corporately by focusing only on God. Focusing only on God may result in individual praise but it will not foster the fellowship required for corporate worship, he said.

In order to grow fellowship, church members must restore broken relationships –- a task far more difficult than the preacher’s job of preparing sermons, Caner said.

“What you do to bring about true worship in your church is harder than a pastor’s job,” he said. “… All it takes for a good sermon is a sanctified preacher. But for true worship to take place it takes a unified people. His job is easier than your job.”

Some churches may “want” God to reveal Himself in their worship services, yet dissension and fighting in their congregations indicates they do not truly “welcome” God, Caner said. Welcoming God requires the difficult step of rejuvenating a church’s fellowship, he said, adding that a key to rejuvenating fellowship is for believers to remember their common experience of salvation.

“Want to unite your people?” Caner asked. “Remind them what it was like the day they got saved.”

After believers remember their common salvation, the next step to rejuvenating fellowship is forgiveness, Caner said.

“True fellowship depends on forgiveness,” he noted. “… True forgiveness destroys bitterness, and bitterness is the secret enemy of worship.”

Caner illustrated the importance of forgiveness by recounting how a failure to forgive in his own life resulted in a prolonged period of inhibited worship. When Caner became a born-again believer in Christ, his Muslim father disowned him and refused to have any contact with him. Caner developed bitterness toward his father that “ruined my heart and my worship,” he said.

Though his father died without ever reconciling with him, Caner said he forgave his father in 1992 and experienced a new freedom to worship God.

“Forgiveness is the key,” he said. “… Regardless of how bitter and cynical I was at my dad, it wasn’t his fault because the bitterness did not reside in my father’s heart. It resided in mine.

“… [In] 1992 I realized the great secret of knowing how to be broken before God is to forgive those who don’t want forgiveness.”

Caner concluded by encouraging the Music Week participants to take any steps necessary to forgive those toward whom they harbor bitterness. Forgiving is a sure way to move a congregation toward God-honoring corporate worship, he said.

“You want to know the secret to worship? There’s somebody you’ve got to release,” he said.

Music Week was sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.