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Mandating God: Adventist University Worship

“Worship is our response to God. In other words, we don’t initiate worship; God does. He reveals; we respond. He discloses; we respond. He unveils; we respond.”
– Lou Giglio, The Air I Breathe
Genuine worshiping experience must be initiated by God; institutional policies, however well-intentioned, cannot mandate attendance at worship services and expect those present to engage in that worship as a genuine act. The act of worship is sacred, personal, private, and encompasses one’s entire being. Some Adventist colleges and universities seek to promote corporate worship through mandate and not persuasion – this is the fatal premise upon which the argument for attendance requirements is built. These policies fail to accomplish the goal of genuine worship through the faulty presumption that requiring that one be present leads to worship and that spirituality is best promoted through obligatory attendance and not responding to a genuine need.
Mere attendance at worship services does not translate into authentic worship experience. The presumption that compulsory attendance leads to sincere worship confronts its greatest challenge in students who raise strong opposition to such a directive. Often the argument is raised that these students are less spiritual than those who submit to the worship requirements, however, such an argument negates the reality of those students who do have a genuine, vibrant spiritual life – enriched through personal devotion, group study, fellowship, and worship at church services. Worship must be a response not a requirement, an action of love and not of conformity. God initiates the need for worship within the heart and one responds to that desire. Even while claiming to promote worship, required attendance at worship services denies God the opportunity to arouse the heart with His love and create a need for worship.
Mandating that which God inspires in one’s heart confuses God’s role in inspiring worship. Such confusion leads to spiritual distress–attending worship to reach a requirement and not to fulfill a need of the heart. This structure requires institutions, not God, to act as the force by which people are compelled to worship. How can any institution fulfill a spiritual need that is not already present in the worshiper’s heart? Attendance cannot necessitate worship, but only that the students are in attendance and the overriding hope then, is that the message presented (instead of the actual desire) will incline those present to respond to God.
The student’s response becomes a reaction to worship requirements and not a genuine need to worship. Spirituality is presented as being achieved through attendance. Students then rely on this supposed spiritual fulfillment by attending worships. They do not participate in personal devotion, reading of Scriptures, or fellowship with believers, therefore, the impetus for worship becomes a response to the institutional requirement and not God. Genuine religious experience is not fostered, but inhibited by this structure, producing shallow Christians who outwardly profess an authentic spirituality, but inwardly are deprived of divine fulfillment. This structure emphasizes the importance of meeting attendance requirements and not hearkening to the God who inspires worship.
This structure lacks the inspiration of God and instead supplants the supremacy of Adventist institutional rules. Worship is made into an action of conformity and not choice, defeating the whole purpose for the alleged need of such a system. God must be the inspiration to attend worship, not meeting an obligatory requirement. There must be a need in order for the heart to be reached. God must provide that need, for if God is inspiring, then religious institutions should trust that He will provide those who choose to attend worship the desire to do so. Mandatory attendance negates the genuine need for worship to be inspired and instead dictates that attendance leads to worship. Worship for the sake of fulfilling God’s need and not the requirement of institutions for the sake of evading punishment is more powerful, more fulfilling, and more Christian than the current structure. Worship ought to be the reflection of the desire to fill one’s heart with the very presence of the Almighty and praise Him in response to His love.

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