Posted by: pastortomvabeach | January 20, 2016

Thought For The Week January 24, 2016

In a recent posting at Church Pastor Daily, David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, says that R.C. Sproul’s solution to large numbers of people leaving the church because they are bored, is to have more awe in our worship services. John Maxwell once said that if nothing is happening in church kick over a pew or something to get some excitement flowing.

I don’t know if deliberately trying to just make things exciting is what God has in mind for our gatherings but I do know that there is something about the evident presence of God when the church gets together that is both moving and appealing. Who doesn’t want to be in a place where God is showing Himself real and powerful? When you think about it, shouldn’t that be what happens every time the church comes together? I mean, if we knew that God would show up, big time, when we came together, would we be late to any gathering or decide to just stay in bed on the Lord’s Day?

I have puzzled about the current habits of Christians in the United States and in our church. Studies show that “regular” church attendees are in church about 2-3 Sundays a month and in almost every church I visit (including ours), it is common to see half or more of the congregation arrive after the service has started (that’s a nice way of saying late). After reading Murray’s article, I wonder if we have lost that sense of true awe at gathering in the place set apart for the Lord on a day set aside to honor Him expecting His presence to inspire, encourage, and energize us.

Let me share some of Murray’s article with you to see if it might resonate. He called it 6 Steps to a Worshiping Church. I may add some notes in italics and in parentheses.

“Sproul’s solution of more awe in our worship services puts significant responsibility on the pastor or worship-leader (I guess he means they must try to create services that are awe inspiring?). But it also places obligations upon worshipers if our churches are to be awed by the evident presence of God. Here are six important steps to a powerfully worshiping church:

“Preparation. Just as the worship leader has to prepare, so do worshipers. If we’re busy all Saturday, get to bed after midnight on Saturday evening, sleep long on Sunday morning, rush to church in mild panic, and arrive with little or no time to get ready for worship, we’re not going to experience awe or much of anything beneficial. If we haven’t met God privately, we’re unlikely to meet Him publicly. (What do you prepare to meet God on Sundays?)

“Enthusiasm. If we go to church reluctantly, dragging our heels and hearts, with little anticipation or excitement, our expectations are likely to be met. But if we go with eager optimism, prayerfully seeking God and pleading with Him to come down and bless, then God will often exceed our expectation. (What do you expect when you worship?)

“Participation. Worship is not a spectator sport but one in which all must take part. Joyful singing not only stirs up our hearts, but others’ hearts too. Engaged postures and lively expressions are contagious – as are mumbled songs, slouching shoulders, and sleepy eyes. When the pastor is praying, let’s engage our hearts and minds fully with him. When Scripture is read, let’s listen to it as the very voice of God. (Are you a spectator or partaker?)

“Unity. God delights to dwell where His people are united in love of the truth and love for one another. He will not honor churches with His presence where there is disunity and division. But when there is union around the truth and communion with each other, God comes down with His unmistakable presence.

“Reverence. When we realize who we are, what worship is, and who it is we are trying to worship, there will be a careful gravity and sobriety about what we do. It won’t be depressingly dull and dour, but it will affect what we wear, how we sit or stand, how we listen. It might even make us skip the Starbucks and candy in the sanctuary. Need help with this? Read The Holiness of God,(by R.C. Sproul) and you’ll never worship the same way again.

“Concentration. Some of the greatest impediments to awe in worship are distraction, noises, and actions that divert the congregation’s focus and concentration. I’ve been in services where I’ve almost started waving in the pulpit and saying, ‘Hello! Have you never seen a kid walk to the bathroom before?’ Or, ‘Do you all really need to know exactly which kid is crying over there?’ Having said that, parents of young children also have responsibilities to ensure that their children are not disrupting services too much or too often. This is a delicate balance requiring much wisdom.”

Murray ends his article with “the sovereignty of God. Yes, there are things we can do that hinder and obstruct awe in worship services. And, yes, there are steps we can take that God is often pleased to respond to with His presence (What do you do to prepare yourself for His presence?). However, we cannot create or produce awe; God alone can do that. And when He does, it is unforgettable and utterly compelling. We want churches that are places of the extraordinary, supernatural, different, abnormal, unusual presence and power of a holy God. We don’t want to just say, ‘That was nice.’ Rather we look for what the Apostle Paul described in the early church: An unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. (I Corinthians 14:24-25). When was the last time that happened in our churches?”

I don’t know about you but I come every Sunday waiting for and wanting God to show up. There is really no other reason to be here. Because I expect to meet God, I work at being on time, ready to worship when the first note is played or the first prayer is prayed, and I never want to hear someone say, “You should have been here last Sunday. You won’t believe what God did!” I’d rather be here to experience it myself. What about you? Just a thought.

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