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Renewal leader urges recovery of joy, intimacy in Lord’s Supper

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“When we come to the table of the Lord, we need to bring our problems, fears, heartache and brokenness and encounter the living God to be healed and made whole,” Robert Webber said during a Renew Your Worship workshop at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary May 4.
“We need to recover a sense of the joy and the intimacy in our relationships with God” through the observation of the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the fruit of the vine, said Webber, who, as director of the Institute for Worship Studies in Wheaton, Ill., and professor of theology at Wheaton College, is recognized by pastors, denominational leaders and scholars as one of the foremost authorities on worship renewal.
Throughout the workshop and during a seminary chapel service, Webber emphasized the depth of intimacy with God that can be attained as ministers and worship leaders themselves discover the significance of the Lord’s Supper and share the experience with their congregations by giving special attention to the worship surrounding the event.
The service must be placed in the context of relationship, Webber said.
“Praise the Father, remembering that he is holy and we are unworthy to be in his presence. Thank Jesus for all that he has done to make salvation possible. Invoke the Holy Spirit to come and be present, ushering us into a deeper experience of relationship with God through praise, thankful memory and presence.
“We must gather around the Word of God,” Webber said, making God’s Word the focus of the celebration rather than the symbols of bread and juice, and directing people to experience God’s grace.
Also, approaches to the service which are either too doleful or too casual must be replaced by spiritually moving, uplifting worship.
“Churches sometimes approach the service as a funeral dirge, focusing on the death of Jesus so much they miss the joy of the resurrection,” he said, adding others are so casual about the service they don’t even read Scripture about the Lord’s Supper.
Referring to Luke 24:13-35, Webber said the church should respond to news of the resurrection as the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, with joy and excitement and renewed hope and faith, eager to receive all that God has to give through worship, he said.
“In worship the primary activity is that of God. He calls us, reveals himself, loves us, then we respond.”
To restructure a doleful approach, Webber suggested churches can restore joyful, healing, intimate observation of the Lord’s Supper through:
— heartfelt, meaningful prayer, sometimes incorporating prayers from devotional classics and prayer books;
— congregational participation as people stand or kneel at the altar as they receive the elements;
— music which expresses both Jesus’ death and resurrection, thankfulness and a sense of intimacy with God, adding contemporary praise music that is meaningful to blend with more familiar tunes.
“Linger at the table of Christ in a time of worship. These are your intimate moments with God,” Webber said.
Webber also suggested tying the invitation time to the Lord’s Supper to give seekers who are ready to receive Christ an opportunity to respond to God in faith for the first time.
Seekers who are not yet ready to receive Christ could receive a blessing during the service from the minister without taking the elements, he said.
“We must flee to the table of the Lord” when burdened with problems, heartache and worries, Webber said, and “recover a sense of relocation in intimate relationship with God from our dislocated lives.”
Webber has conducted workshops on the topic of worship with nearly every major Christian denomination, ministry and fellowship in North America. He is the author of more than a dozen books in the field of worship, including “Worship Old and New” and “Worship Is a Verb.” He is editor of the eight-volume work “The Complete Library of Christian Worship.”

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  • Linda Joyce Zygiel