The hope of most people is that when we gather for worship God would show up. Not that God is not already there (since God is everywhere), but that the presence of the Lord will be manifest to the people in real and tangible ways. This passage of Scripture captures that image perfectly:
When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the Lord’s temple, and the priests were unable to carry out their duties due to the cloud because the Lord’s glory filled the Lord’s temple.
Solomon’s Temple has just been completed and all the items from the Tabernacle built under the direction of Moses almost 500 years earlier have been transferred to the Temple. As sacrifices were happening, psalms being sung, and people praying, the presence of the Lord filled the Temple so completely that everything came to a stop. Even religious duties had to stop because the one being worshiped showed up.
Many churches today do not have this kind of experience ever. Whether their style could be called contemporary or traditional, the people who lead and the people who come simply go through the motions and do what they think they ought to do without ever truly worshiping God with their all their being. They check off what they are to do during a service and then go home and wonder if it all is true.
Many other churches today have dynamic experiences, but they are not of the palpable presence of the Lord. Their style has been crafted to appeal to a segment of the population, which is evangelism, not worship. Evangelism is people-focused and worship is God-focused. Churches that confuse evangelism for worship do neither well. They have wonderful outreach and growth but then go home and wonder why the Lord doesn’t show up in a mighty way.
For the kind of worship that experiences what happened at the dedication of the Temple, it has to be God-focused and the leaders and people need to be there solely to honor and praise the Lord. Anything else is not worship. God makes his presence known when we stop worrying about our own preferences in a service and when we stop evaluating church based upon whether we got something out of it. Worship is our act of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for who he is. Anything else is not worship.
When we truly worship, God shows up.