Wineskins Archive

February 11, 2014

Grieving Worship (May-Jun 2003)

Filed under: — @ 5:54 pm and

by Fred Peatross
May – June, 2003

Recently, I was a part of a “life impacting” spiritual experience in a Jesus-focused church. It was an assembly that touched the heart of every person. Everything revolved around a real-life event: a tragedy of life.

Assembling with a group of believers was becoming a new way of life for this young single mother and her family. She had expressed her desire for “a better life for her and her children.” Prayers and spiritual counsel were offered with the hope of seeing this family’s names added to the Lamb’s Book of Life. But February 10, 2001, forever changed the future for this family when a loving mother’s “journey” was brought to an abrupt end.

It happened the day before this young mother was to sit with her daughters and worship the God of the universe. Some knew very early. It was the local headline in the Sunday morning newspaper. The word spread quickly throughout every bible class. In less than twenty-four hours two daughters were left without a mother. The killer was a troubled man who, for unknown reasons, unleashed hellish terror by stabbing and murdering this young mother, who had been on a search for the Savior.

The day after this tragic event, a brave daughter came to worship alone.

“I had no where else to go,” she said.

Taking a seat three rows from the front she laid her head on the shoulder of a Christian lady and sobbed uncontrollably. Every song and every prayer petitioned God on this young girl’s behalf and every emotion in the building was adeptly regulated by the young minister who threw away his outline and called on God to move in him and throughout the congregation.

Unlike any assembly I have been associated with, this congregation leaned into this young girl’s grief as every believer left their seat to surround this young girl. I watched every hand stretch out attempting to touch this heart-broken soul as prayers reached up and her grieving cries screamed out to God.

It’s in this story that we see the contrast between “institutional” worship and worship that engages the heart. Institutional worship is a system in which people merely go through the motions; where rituals are carried out in a prescribed form. As Alexander Campbell said, “Many of us in running away from the extreme of enthusiasm have on the other hand, passed the temperate zone and gone into the frozen regions. There is, in too many churches, a cold-hearted, lifeless formality, that freezes the energies.”

In many “institutional” assemblies you would have seen this young girl’s grief handled in a very different way. Less open to the Holy Spirit’s power, a couple of Christian women may have quietly ushered this young grieving girl out of the assembly and into the ladies’ rest room where they would quietly sit with her as the minister preached his prepared sermon for the day.

I thank God for churches where the Spirit is being allowed to move. Praise God!New Wineskins

Fred PeatrossFred Peatross lives, works, romances his wife and exudes deep feelings of love, awe, and admiration for his Creator while living in the heart of Appalachia. For over two decades Fred has resided in Huntington, West Virginia where he has been a leader in the traditional church. He has been a deacon, a shepherd, and a pulpit minister. But his greatest love is Missio Dei.

Long before thousands of missionaries poured into the former Soviet Union Fred, in a combined effort with a Christ follower from Alabama planted a church in Dneprodzerhinsk, Ukraine. Today Fred lives as a missionary to America daily praying behind the back of his friends as he journeys and explores life alongside them. [Fred Peatross’ book Missio Dei - In the Crisis of ChristianityMissio Dei: In the Crisis of Christianity, reviewed in New Wineskins]

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