The Worship Experience
Much has been said in recent years about worship and the feeling of some who believe some changes need to be implemented in our approach and style of worship in order to attract and retain membership. I hear a lot of talk about the attitude of those who are not coming regularly or who are seeking certain innovations. The conventional wisdom is that
if they would just seek to do things in God’s way and put something into the worship then they would get something out of it and that would result in spiritual growth. We certainly want people to desire to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) and be faithful in their attendance to our services (Hebrews 10:24–25; Matthew 6:33). The reason why so many are not, I fear, is because we have, in many cases, failed to provide the right kind of atmosphere that is conducive to a meaningful worship experience.
I don’t mean an environment of emotionalism or entertainment but an air in which one could say, as David did, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’ ” (Psalm 122:1). Christ meant for his disciples to be family (Matthew 12:48–49) and the worship experience should feel like a gathering around the family dinner table. I remember, as a child, feeling warm, safe, encouraged, and uplifted while I was “at church.” And we worshiped according to the pattern laid forth in the New Testament. It wasn’t boring or tedious! The problem today, as I see it, is that some churches are so sound doctrinally that you cannot feel love within ten miles of the building. What these congregations need to remember is, as one old preacher once told me, “If that is the case then they are NOT sound.”
So what can we do, without going beyond what is authorized in the word of God, to create an atmosphere conducive to helping bring people into the church and helping them go to heaven? Focus on our own individual attitudes toward God, worship, the church, and others! Here are some suggestions:
1. Enter Expectantly. Many folks show up to Bible Class and worship simply out of habit; with no preparation or expectation. When this happens others will sense the lack of anticipating anything meaningful and will follow suit. We need to come together expecting to learn more about God’s word and how it can impact and improve our lives. We need to anticipate being uplifted and encouraged and more importantly we need to look forward to encouraging others.
2. Greet Others Cordially. Many congregations talk about being friendly but I honestly found few that are. Some congregations where my family and I have attended as visitors showed only cursory interest in our visit and some were, well, creepy. We visited one congregation several years ago where my grandfather had served as an elder. We hadn’t been to this congregation since his passing more than 10 years prior and we were anxious to visit again. We arrived well before services began and lingered for several minutes in the pew where we had sat…not one person spoke to us. We won’t be back.
3. Worship Soulfully. Sadly most worship experiences are not meaningful for the visitor or newcomer because the congregational worship isn’t meaningful. The prayers are dry, canned, and in some cases unintelligible (“What did he just say?”). The singing is dull and uninspiring and some of the members are engaged in other behavior. The sermon is not filled with the word of God and application but “fluff” and contemporary psychobabble. When the congregation is not actively involved in worship, with great praise and adoration, the mood will not be conducive to a meaningful experience for the member or the visitor.
4. Leave Thoughtfully. The church doesn’t cease to be the church once we leave the doors of the local congregation to return to our “respective places of abode.” The early church did life together daily (Acts 2:46). When we leave the assembly we go into back into the world but not to be of the world. We need to use our worship times as motivation to live lives of brotherhood and discipleship. Who can I encourage, serve, visit, or teach this week. How might I create more fellowship opportunities with others?
I truly believe a sound, faithful, loving congregation of the Lord’s people can (and will) grow while holding to the “Old Paths,” doing “Bible things in Bible ways,” and “calling Bible things by Bible names” if we will embrace the church as family, truly love and appreciate others, seeking to glorify God, go to heaven, and let other know we care and want them to come along on this wonderful journey with us.
One last thought: Being right with God and helping others go to heaven is impossible if we only live it while we are together. More importantly we must “Live Faithfully!” Every day striving to be a better disciple, sharing the message, living the Way! We can’t take others to heaven with us if we do not go there ourselves. Be faithful!