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Worship in Spirit and Truth

What do you think people mean when they say “The worship was really good tonight”? Neil Turton reports on a gathering of FIEC church leaders in the Oxford area that considered the topic together.

Worship in Spirit and Truth primary image

For several years the FIEC churches around here have invited all their leaders (elders, deacons, small group leaders, youth and children’s leaders, etc.) to come together with two aims: to be encouraged and equipped in their leadership roles and to build relationships amongst the churches.

We praise God for the way the number of FIEC churches in this area has grown over the last few years through new church plants being established; the most recent ones being Town Church Bicester and Grace Church Kidlington.

It was great to have John Risbridger, pastor of Above Bar Church in Southampton, address a group of 50 or so leaders from nine FIEC churches at Long Crendon Baptist Church (LCBC) for this year’s gathering.

The themes and speakers of previous Leaders’ Days have included: Evangelism (Rico Tice), The Heart of a Leader (Julian Hardyman) and Gospel-centred Church (Tim Chester).

Our 2018 theme was ‘Worship in Spirit and Truth’ and, having recently written a book on the subject, John Risbridger was well qualified to speak to us.

The Bible, Leadership & Life

John led two main sessions on ‘Worship in the Bible’ and ‘Worship in leadership and life’ as well as a seminar on ‘Worship in the church’. The other seminar choices and speakers were: ‘Worship and small groups’ (Kitty Brittenden), ‘Worship and young people’ (Ian Fry) and ‘Worship in all of life’ (Mark Herbert).

John speaking at the Leaders' Day

In John’s first session he took us through worship as it occurs in the Bible, suggesting that the most important question we need to answer is how we can be “the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (John 4) since worship is ultimately to him and for him.

He explained how Genesis teaches that human beings were created for worship and how, after the Fall, Exodus shows us that we were also saved for worship. The second half of the book considers what it means for the people to be a worshipping community.

John proposed a Bible overview that could be built around the theme of worship and the worshipping community culminating in the arrival of Jesus as the true worshipper and the creator of a new worshipping community that will one day be perfected.

We got more technical, looking at the different uses of worship words in the Bible: worship as homage/honour (proskuneo), worship as grateful obedience/service (latreuo) and worship as awe and respect (seb-).

Practical Planning

John’s seminar session on ‘Worship in the church’ included some more practical application in terms of planning a service and brought together the roles of word and Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:15-17. He emphasised our responsibilities to minister to one another in song and explained how corporate worship should lead to going out to live the whole of life as worship.

In the second main session after lunch on ‘Worship in leadership and life’ John challenged us as leaders to be committed to growing worshippers as we minister to others through the overflow of God’s grace in our lives.

The implication is that we need to be giving generous portions of time in our personal prayer life to worship. We spent some valuable time in the Psalms considering how we can give the whole of ourselves to God in worship and what it ‘feels’ like to lift hearts, voices, bodies and indeed our whole lives to God in praise.

We were pleased that the day achieved its objectives and were grateful to John and the other seminar leaders for their ministry to us.

John’s book ‘The Message of Worship’ is published by IVP in the BST series. The talks will be available on the LCBC website (

Neil Turton photo
Neil Turton

Neil has been a pastor at Long Crendon Baptist Church for 13 years prior to which he worked as an investment banker for 15 years. He is married to Liz and they have three teenage sons. He enjoys sport and travel.