As a doctrine, the Churches generally endorse the presence of Christ in the
worship, but in practice and in reality it is very often a much neglected factor
- a "forgotten factor." From various angles this doctrine is undermined today,
and so many people ignore it, as a result, it is often more a case of the
absentia Christi than the praesentia Christi.
The presence of Christ in worship is decisive and fundamental for the
understanding, the life, the working and the power of worship. His presence
as Mediator makes worship possible and sensible; it is the deepest secret
thereof and is the main attracting force to draw people to worship.
We may be sure of this presence of Christ, because He gave His promise to
this effect; it is the implication of His commandment to celebrate the holy
communion; it is confirmed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of
Pentecost; in a special way is it upheld by the meaning of the covenant of
Christ - the idea of His presence in worship runs like a golden thread through
the New Testament.
He is present with His gifts, and it is to our benefit and salvation. Because it is
a dynamic and active presence, things must change; hence people are changed
About the way in which Christ is present, ideas divergent. Early in the history
of the Church His presence gradually became limited to the Lord's Supper.
Here it gradually became more materialistic, and the view grew that His
presence came about through the change of the substance of the elements.
That is wrong: He is not present through the change of the substance of the
elements - the transsubstantiation -; nor is He bodily present "in", "with"
the elements - the consubstantiation -; He is in fact present through the
Holy Spirit. Christ is present everywhere, but because His ascension with His
glorified body and His second advent must be taken seriously, His omnipresence
can only happen through His Spirit.
He is not only present at communion; and He is not only present at the communion
plus the preaching of the gospel; He is present throughout the whole
service and at every element of the service.
The belief in the presence of Christ in worship has fundamental implications: it
implies that the congregation must also be present; at every word and act of
every partaker His presence must be taken seriously into account; in His presence Christ confronts His congregation, and that demands a response; He
changes the lives of people; this encounter with Christ leads the congregation
to witness and service; it is the source of joy and hope.
The presence of Christ in worship does not happen automatically, nor can it be
enforced; neither is it in the power of the Church to manipulate it. The only
way in which it can be experienced is through faith and through the work of
the Holy Spirit.
This presence is a wonderful reality now, but it is still partial and incomplete.
The final and complete presence of Christ in the midst of His people will come
at His second advent.