Spirit-Led Worship: Together, We Walk With God
I saw him in church Sunday morning worshiping with his family. Our whole church family rejoiced that Major John Osbourne was home safely from Iraq, even if only for a fifteen-day leave. It was my joy to lead them all in worship.
Early Tuesday morning, the major, a helicopter pilot for the U. S. Army, joined our men’s prayer and Bible study time. He spoke with a quiet joy and conviction that captured my attention, as if the Holy Spirit were saying to me, ‘Listen carefully; I am about to speak to you through my servant.” I listened.
John’s report was full of amazing contrasts:
- He spoke of months of work, the hardest he had ever worked in his life—110 hours a week, but he said he has laughed more in the past six months than in the last five years.
- He spoke of a glorious reunion with his wife and kids and of a tremendous spiritual battle for his home.
- He told of fellow soldiers lost to the insane insurgency in Iraq and of friendships formed at the deepest levels.
- He told of shootings and bombings outside the gate and of ‘chance” encounters with brothers in the Lord having ‘Holy Spirit” meetings.
- He related the struggle of a people raised without the teachings of Jesus–the roots of democracy–to find a basis for democracy, and he told of American soldiers ‘doing the right things,” and winning the hearts of those people.
A Report of Fellowship
But what the Holy Spirit wanted me to hear that morning was the major’s report of the fellowship that the soldiers had. I had heard and read of this before, from camps during the American Civil War and World War II foxholes, to airplanes and ships at sea, to the shared agony of Viet Nam. When men serve and fight together, a bond of fellowship forms between them that is so right and powerful that it becomes the preferred memory of their war experience. Instead of the carnage and waste of war, veterans remember their brothers in arms. I thought of scratchy black and white films I have seen of the aged veterans of Gettysburg from both sides walking the ground of Pickett’s charge together in the 1920s, no longer enemies but comrades with a powerful shared memory.
Major John spoke of an officer in an anti-aircraft unit during the war. ‘[Before] he was trying to kill me, but now we are such good friends. He is a good man.” I thought of our church in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I led a former B-26 mechanic and a former German anti-aircraft gunner in worship, standing in the presence of Jesus, no longer in opposition, but in unity of worship, fellowship, and mission.
This intense, foxhole/crew member/shipmate fellowship and communion are the things that should happen in church. We are sharing a foxhole in the current spiritual warfare. We are fellow crewman on the same mission. And we are shipmates on the same vessel. The New Testament word for this fellowship/communion experience is koinonia. ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14 NIV). This relationship is so much deeper than any single English word can relate. We have to pile up hyphenated terms: fellowship–communion–participation–communication all at once!
In World War II when the ten-member crew of a B-17 flew mission after mission, each man with the other nine lives in his hands, koinonia happened. When buddies shared a foxhole during a shelling, with earth and luck their only armor, they experienced koinonia. When the crew of a sub pulled the plug to escape the depth charges of an attacking destroyer, they shared the foul air of a diesel sub, and they shared koinonia. Walking point or bringing up the rear on a search and destroy mission in the jungles of Viet Nam was an exercise in koinonia. Now, the ancient Greek word for the Judeo-Christian reality of men walking together with God has come to the Babylonian desert of Iraq.
Lord, grant us koinonia in the church. Let us look into Your eyes as we worship together and see there the love and strength You have for us. Then, let us look into each other’s eyes, as together we walk with God.
 ‘NT:2842( koy-nohn-ee’-ah); from NT:2844; partnership, i.e. (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction: KJV – (to) communicate (-ation), communion, (contri-) distribution, fellowship.” Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary (Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc., 2003).
Dr. Steve Phifer received a Doctorate in Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He has taught at Valley Forge University and Southeastern Assemblies of God University. For many years he was the Worship Pastor at Word of Life Church in Alexandria, VA.
More of Dr. Phifer’s materials can be found at stevephifer.com.