The following is an excerpt taken from When God Draws Near: Exploring Worship from Seven Summits by Paul E. Engle.
Not long ago, I spent an entire week in Seattle, Washington, without once seeing the sun. Undaunted by the drizzle, fog, and unremitting thick gray clouds, I kept sneaking glances toward the southeast horizon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the nearby snowcapped Mount Rainier—the topographically prominent stratovolcano that usually dominates the landscape. But to my disappointment, the summit remained totally obscured for the entire week.
When at last I returned to the airport, I consoled myself with the thought that there would be future business trips to the Pacific Northwest and perhaps a future sighting of Mount Rainier. Exhausted from the long, sun-deprived week and longing to get home, I buckled up in my window seat. As the plane climbed upward, I peered out the window at the dark clouds that had surrounded me all week long.
Until, all of a sudden, there it was! We had broken through the clouds. The eastern horizon lit up with a luminescent pink and yellow glow. Projecting through and above the clouds, the snow-covered Mount Rainier pointed up 14,411 feet toward its Creator. Below its peak was a surrounding blanket of billowing clouds that extended for miles and captured the radiance of the morning sunrise. The majestic mountain had been there all week long; I just hadn’t seen it.
My experience can serve as a paradigm for what happens in the case of all too many people who attend corporate worship services each Sunday. Clouds and fog can obscure what is happening in the invisible, spiritual realm when believers enter a service. This book is written to awaken Christians to biblical realities that take place in worship assemblies but that often go unnoticed.
In the following pages, we will break through the clouds in order to survey the horizon from several mountaintops—not Mount Rainier, but seven summits from the Bible. Over the course of the book, we’ll travel to Mount Sinai, then Mount Zion in Jerusalem, then Mount Carmel, then Mount Gerizim in Samaria, then Mount Hermon in northern Israel, and then the Mount of Olives. Finally, we will make the ultimate climb to the heavenly Mount Zion. Together we’ll discover, from the recorded events that took place on each of these sites, God’s design and purpose for worship. By the time you arrive at the last chapter, you will have journeyed from Genesis and creation all the way to Revelation and consummation.
For decades, I have had the privilege of teaching pastors and church leaders on the subject of worship in the United States as well as in many other countries. I owe much to thousands of pastors and students whose feedback has helped me to further refine the insights the Lord has taught me through my study of Scripture. I have ingested countless books on the theology of worship. The teaching and writing that I have done on this subject have been enriched by several trips to Israel, where I have explored the biblical summits and archaeological sites I describe here.
In one of his books on worship, A. W. Tozer wrote, “This book is a small attempt to fan the flame of holy desire toward God. I hope you will catch the passion and press forward to delight in the conscious, manifest presence of God.”*1 This reflects the beat of my heart for this book also. I have provided diagrams, charts, and maps for illustration throughout. If you wish to use this book in a class or a small group setting, each chapter concludes with questions for discussion and reflection.
The experience of Sunday corporate-worship assemblies is “the most outward, Godward hour in our weeks. . . . It’s a time when the invisible is made visible: the scattered church comes together; the signs of the kingdom are present in bread and wine and in the waters of baptism. The gathered church is a foretaste of the new heaven and the new earth.”*2 My prayer is that the journey we take in this book will elevate our perspectives and open our spiritual eyes to new realities so that we come to joyfully anticipate Sunday worship as the highlight of each week.
Maranatha! Let’s begin.
Paul E. Engle
*1. A. W. Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God, comp. and ed. James L. Snyder (2010; repr., Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2014), 26.
*2. Mike Cosper, Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2017), 29.