Thursday, 29 May 2014

What Are You Getting Out of Worship?

     When you assemble with the saints for corporate worship, what are you getting out of it? Do you find the atmosphere less than inspiring? Is the preaching dull and boring? Is the song service lacking in enthusiasm? Are the prayers dry? Has communion become predictable and routine? Does the weekly collection make you feel like the church is trying to get something out of you? Is observable spirituality deficient in the people around you?
     Perhaps you’d get more out of worship if the atmosphere was different. What if the surroundings were more appealing, the preaching was more dynamic and interesting, the music was livelier, the prayers were more stirring, communion was spruced up, and there was less pressure to contribute? Maybe you’d receive greater satisfaction if the scheduling of services was more convenient, the seating was more comfortable, and your felt needs were being met. Have you considered looking for another church where you might enjoy a better worship experience? 
     “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God …” (Acts 16:25a). Who helped set the mood for these guys? Who was responsible for getting them in a worshipful frame of mind? Who provided an atmosphere conducive to an uplifting experience? Who made their comfort and convenience top priority? Who directed their attention to spiritual things, ensuring they got the most out of worship?
     These servants of Christ had been unfairly treated, falsely accused and arrested, severely beaten, locked in a dungeon and fastened in stocks amongst a bunch of criminals (Act 16:20-25). Yet somehow they managed to offer praise to the heavenly Father. How is this possible? There were no worship leaders, praise teams, choirs, or orchestras. There were no special lighting effects, motivational videos, air-conditioning, padded seating, or free coffee. Neither convenience nor comfort was afforded them. How on earth were they able to engage in meaningful worship under such unfavorable conditions?!
     Apparently Paul and Silas had something deep within themselves that was not dependent on (neither bolstered nor hampered by) externals. Irrespective of their dismal circumstances and gloomy surroundings, they demonstrated an inner conviction with an unyielding commitment to and focus on God. Worship was not done for them. Worship was not done to them. They assumed personal responsibility. They took initiative. Their experience was void of complaints or excuses. They set their minds on things above and dutifully expressed their heartfelt devotion.
     None of this suggests that there is no place for capable leaders in our collective worship assemblies. If the concept of “decently and in order” means anything (1 Cor. 14:40),1 leadership is necessary. However, those who guide the congregation in worship are not performing to a human audience. It is not their duty to cater to a room full of needy beneficiaries. Their role is simply to direct fellow-participants in an orderly fashion in a mutual offering of praise and adoration to the One occupying the heavenly throne. If worship leaders have adequately prepared and are doing their sincere best, who among us has a legitimate right to complain? We ought to appreciate and support the humble efforts of those who are willing to serve.
     When the preacher faithfully communicates the truth of God’s word, whether his delivery is deemed appealing or appalling, should not the biblical message itself be eagerly ingested? (Rom. 10:8). If the song leader directs the singing with hymns that praise the Lord and teach and admonish worshipers, who among us is exempt from contributing joyful hearts and voices? (Col. 3:16). When prayers are led and communion is observed, doesn’t every member have a spirit that ought to reverently be added to the collective whole? (1 Cor. 11:28; 14:15). How can giving be acceptable unless each one contributes with a purposeful and cheerful attitude? (2 Cor. 9:7).
     No one should be satisfied if truth is not taught and practiced, or if so-called “worship” is merely performed by a select few, or if the stimulation of emotions or the entertainment of human spectators is the principal objective. What appeals to the earthly senses often detracts from our heavenly focus and then defeats the purpose of assembling as a church. At the same time, if would-be worshipers (including leaders) are not prepared for worship, or if any spiritual activity is regarded as a tedious chore, it becomes nothing more than an empty ritual and a pointless act of irreverence. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
 A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
     What I get out of anything is directly related to what I put into it. When my primary concern is me and my ultimate goal is to (selfishly) gain something for myself, not only am I missing the point, but I almost always end up unfulfilled and disappointed. But worship is not about me. Worship is about giving. A truly worshipful perspective looks far beyond self. When offering my heart completely to God and demonstrating my allegiance to him is my first consideration, and my secondary aim is to encourage and strengthen my brethren, it is nearly impossible not to be uplifted and spiritually refreshed in the process!
     As we seek to please and honor God while preserving the scriptural integrity of worship, what improvements can and should be made? Here are some suggestions:
1. Bring a worshipful disposition with you (Psalm 63:1-3). No one else can step in and do this on your behalf.
2. Prepare for worship (Psalm 122:1). Be rested, and allow enough time to avoid the frantic rush; read scripture, meditate, and/or pray beforehand.
3. Keep your focus (Colossians 3:2). There will always be potential distractions, both internal and external. Worship is not designed to be easy. It requires personal effort.
4. Don’t depend on someone else to worship for you (Psalm 19:14). Take responsibility; intentionally give of yourself.
5. Avoid unnecessary complaining, excuse-making, and blame (Philippians 2:14-15). If your worship is unacceptable, it is generally your own fault.
6. Be accountable to God (Jeremiah 17:10). You cannot judge the hearts of your fellow-worshipers, but the Lord certainly can while he judges yours.
7. Be an encourager (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Express your appreciation to those who lead the services. Generously offer smiles, love, and positive words to those with whom you assemble.
8. Conserve the balance of spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). True worship consists of both the right attitude and the right doctrine, neither to the exclusion of the other.
9. Don’t allow unbiblical teachings and practices to infiltrate the worship assembly (Matthew 15:8-9). Know the Bible and stand for what is right.
10. Maintain a spirit of humility, reverence and awe (Revelation 4:9-11). This is entirely up to you.
     “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnote:
     1 All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.



Image credit: http://issacharinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/prayer-warrior.jpg

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