I’ve had the above question posed to me in different ways a number of times. Some folks ask it as a sort of objection, while others inquire out of straightforward curiosity. Either way, it is a valid question.
Before answering the question, I’d like to point out that it normally presupposes that some sort of ceremony is needed/is best for creating a sense of awe among the people. If this is assumed, then it is understandable that it would lead to questions and even objections about simple gatherings.
I’d like to suggest that the need for a ceremony is simply a cultural norm. It is what we are generally used to; therefore, we believe it is necessary for creating an atmosphere of seriousness. This is fine for a wedding or funeral, but it is not necessary for church gatherings.
It all comes down to what causes us to stand in awe of God. Must we take part in a crafted ceremony to feel in awe of God? This seems contrived to me. It should be God Himself who brings about this awe. This can certainly occur during a ceremony, but it does not have to.
As followers of Christ, we ought to stand in awe of who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing. In simple church gatherings, we generally hear all these things. Someone offers a teaching from scripture about attributes of God. Someone else might talk about what God did as seen in the bible. My favorite part is usually when someone shares about what God is doing in their lives or someone else’s that they know. When I hear these things, I stand (not literally) in awe of God.
I love hearing from multiple people about how they have seen God act during the previous week. Usually it is in the little things. Occasionally, it is the bigger stuff. Either way, my faith is strengthened through it. My hope is that others are encouraged as I speak. Sometimes we all just sit in silence after someone has spoken of what God has done and is doing.
This sort of gathering finds awe in the conversation. Someone might speak about a passage of scripture from an angle that I have never even considered before. When a light bulb comes on in my brain, the response is usually awe of God and thanks to Him. Someone else might speak about being stuck in a situation where there seems to be no way out (whether it be big, small, or somewhere in between), only to then find God delivering them from it.
As we gather, I’m usually sitting on the floor or on a couch. Literally, then, I’m sitting. Emotionally and spiritually, however, I’m standing. I’m standing in awe of God because of what I’ve heard in the conversation.
This might happen during the week during a phone call, but usually the scene is our larger gathering in somebody’s home. We talk, we listen, and we grow. All the while, we’re in awe of our great God.