Worship Under Construction

We’ve been thinking about worship for the last couple of weeks—that our worship of Almighty God should be done in Spirit and Truth, with reverence and awe for who God is. We worship THE awesome God and there is no one else. God alone is awesome.

This Sunday, we will turn our focus inward to discover that although our worship is TO God, it is also FOR the benefit of one another. God wants His people together, meeting regularly for the benefit of one another.

At the end of Acts 2, the church established at Pentecost met together. “All the believers were together” … “day by day attending the temple together…”.

In our Acts class, we saw Paul in Corinth, spending a year and a half there getting the church on its feet. But is there any church in scripture with more problems? In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul admonishes the church for their poor meeting practices: “Your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you!” It would seem that the easiest solution might be to stop meeting. But that is not an option, because Paul knows that church meetings are important to God.

Everyone benefits when God’s house is full. Everyone is built up when you show up.

Instead, Paul prescribes correction. “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14.26).

Now, that’s a principle we can all get behind, don’t you think? Let’s all strive to do everything for the “building up” of the church.

We often talk about doing something “for the greater good”—that although the practice may not benefit me personally, many others will benefit from it. There may be some traditions our community should hang onto because they are beneficial for building up the church. On the other hand, there may be a good amount of traditionalism that benefits only a handful. Will we be strong enough to abandon our traditionalism for the greater good or will we cling to our traditionalism because a few, highly-influential members don’t want to see it go away?

For example, in the picture above from a worship assembly in the 1940’s, you probably notice that every woman is wearing a hat to church and every man is decked out in a suit and tie. We’ve been brave enough to abandon such traditions because we’ve seen that it benefits the “greater good”. Twenty years ago, many were up in arms over the new practice of “screening” the songs. But we came to realize that getting our noses out of the songbooks made the singing better. We have a much greater variety of songs now because not all the songs we love are in the songbook. I am greatly encouraged when I hear all of you sing “There’s A Stirring”, “Surround Us Lord”, and “In Christ Alone”… none of which are in the printed hymnals.

We made a conscious decision to abandon traditionalism so that the church could be “built up”.

This week, we will take a look at what we’ve come to know as “The Five Acts of Worship”—singing, praying, preaching, giving and the Lord’s Supper. We would never think of abandoning any of these practices. These are foundational practices with roots in the early church and in scripture.

But we do need to ask some questions about this list of practices. First of all, Do these five cover everything? What about the public reading of scripture? That didn’t make the list, but I think we’d all agree that this is important in the building up of the church. Paul commands Timothy, “Devote yourself to the public reading of scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13).

The second question we need to ask is, How can we insure that these five acts will, indeed, build up the church? Can we do a better job with any of these practices so that the church benefits? I think this would apply especially to those who are involved in carrying out the worship.

  • Has the preacher put in the appropriate amount of study and prayer to insure that the congregation will, indeed, hear a word from God? Has he rehearsed the sermon not once, but multiple times to smooth out the rough spots and add some polish?
  • Has the song leader prayerfully selected songs that will add to the flow of the worship and provide encouragement to the singers? Has he practiced each song for flow and pitch?
  • Has the speaker at the Lord’s Table prayerfully prepared a compelling talk that will help the church focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus?
  • Have those selected to lead prayers put in prayerful preparation for what each of them will say? Speaking to the Almighty God of creation on behalf of the entire congregation is a daunting task!
  • What about the “behind the scenes” people? Is the PowerPoint right? Are the microphones working? Has the communion been prepared (Chuck and Roland can testify to a worship service where it wasn’t)?
  • And what about each individual church member? Have we been in solo worship all week long, preparing to bring that same worship here on Sunday morning?

May we prayerfully consider our corporate assembly practices. Of course, the first thing we must do is show up. Be here! A house full of God’s people is a great encouragement to all. It builds everybody up when you show up. Your attendance benefits the greater good of the church.

See you Sunday. And be prepared to worship in such a way that God will be glorified and the church will be built up.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

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Jim Hays

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Amen, bro. Jim !

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