Preparing the Worshiper for Worship
Has worship with the brethren become a bore? This is nothing new. In Malachi’s day he condemned the priests who viewed their worship to God as “contemptible” and a “weariness.” God told them, “You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible’ ..You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” (Mal 1:13)
Does this sound like your experience when worshiping? Would you like to improve your worship?
▸ Begin Early
Any good thing to be done requires some contemplation and circumspection. Worship is no different. When showing hospitality a lady will plan her menu, purchase the food, prepare the meals, put the house in order, etc. Sports teams prepare to meet their opponents by making preparations early in the pre-season practices. A winning team knows that preparation pays off! When we are well prepared, our lives are happy and smooth running. We have all learned that facing a test in school without study or serving guests after a long delay rattles us.
If you want to have a more exciting, fulfilling experience worshiping God on Sunday morning, do not wait until the announcements to get prepared. Start preparing yourself the preceding Monday. Saints who worship God privately Monday thru Saturday will look forward with greater anticipation to congregational worship come Sunday morning. Christ told His disciples to seek God, His kingdom, and righteousness daily (Mt. 6:33). Christians as true worshipers of God are instructed to pray to God daily (1 Th. 5:17); study the Word of God daily (Acts 17:11) and sing daily (Js. 5:3).
Furthermore, worshipers will not be dog tired on Sunday morning, if they do not allow Saturday activities to hinder Sunday Worship. Sometimes Christians are so involved in filling Saturdays with recreation and work that worship on the Lord’s Day is impaired. Go to bed early enough on Saturday night, so that one can worship God with a fresh mind and body.
▸ Attend on Time
Worshipers are commanded “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (Heb 10:25). Empty pews cannot offer up songs of praise, petitions and thanksgivings, contributions or follow the preaching of the Word by turning the pages of the Bible. Until the worshiper shows up and joins in, the empty pew merely testifies to the importance you place on worshiping God. Christians will show up on time, if they are making the most of their time (Eph 5:16). If the family plans to leave on time, they will most likely show up on time. If they really love God and believe He is worthy of worship, they will not allow anything or anyone to hinder them from being there. Of George Washington it was said, “No company ever kept him away from church.”
▸ Focus on the Father NOT Feelings and Fun
Worship is not a feeling, but a way to express our feelings. Many have worship and feelings backward. The modern worshiper arrives on Sunday morning hoping the worship service will create in him feelings of desire for God. Worship is a verb. It is a action to be performed and not an emotion to be felt. True worshipers need to show up to worship with others already emotionally prepared to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Although other worshipers may encourage us through their actions in the congregational setting, they are not responsible on how we feel toward God. Modern efforts to improve worship often end up focusing on how the worshiper feels and what is enjoyable to him and not on how God feels or wants.
▸ Put Your Heart into Worship
If our worship involves a mindless body going through the motions, it becomes vain, empty, and a mere formality. A fervent heart will warm the congregation and Heaven, otherwise all we do is warm the pew. Take control of your own mind and then drive it in the direction of God. Give God your undivided attention. Make sure you are singing, praying, partaking, giving, and listening. Christians are commanded to worship “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). Both singing and praying are to be done in the spirit (1 Cor. 14:15). When worshipers partake of the Lord’s Supper, it must be done while discerning with the heart and remembering with the mind (1 Cor. 11:26-28). While listening to the sermon Christians must show reverence for God’s Word by taking to heart the inspired scripture and studying along with an open Bible. They should prepare themselves in worship to take home with them the message preached, so they can “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11b). This can only be done if the worshiper “received the word with all readiness” (Acts 17:11a). The idea of readiness implies that the worshiper has prepared his mind. Failure to prepare the heart beforehand is a failure to worship.
Unlike football and baseball, worship is not a spectator sport. Elton Trueblood called church going the greatest spectator sport in America. True worshipers realize that God is the spectator in worship and they are not the audience. Spectator worship brings no benefits to the worshiper and no glory to God. Sermons must be listened to. Remember Eutychus? The only time he is mentioned in the Bible is when he fell asleep during one of Paul’s long sermons. Kind of makes you glad that the New Testament is complete or else quite of few may have received well-earned dishonorable mentions in the Holy Writ. Eutychus lost his life when he feel asleep. Of course, Paul came down and raised him from the dead. If the same thing happened to sleepers today, every church would have to build a morgue in the basement. Active listening to the lesson is necessary for us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” and to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21,22). Furthermore, by listening to the sermon one is able to determine whether or not the truth is being preached (Acts 17:11). Most preachers make it a studied effort to learn how to get and keep the attention of their fellow-worshipers. Those who sit in the pews need to make a diligent effort to give attention to what is presented. Just as presenting God’s Word effectively requires practice and skill, so the saints must hone the skill of listening with a view to learning.
▸ Don’t Rush Devotion to God
Do we rush through our worship, so that we may hasten to feed the poor, preach to our neighbor, or lift up a fallen brother? NO! Christians hurry through worship so they can stampede out into the parking lot and speed off to their meal, the wide-screen TV or just to take a nap. Whatever happened to “Take time to be Holy”? It is the Lord’s Day all day long. You have six other days to rush and speed through life. So do not make plans that will over-fill the Lord’s Day to the point that the Lord is forsaken.
▸ Linger After Worship Services
The “amen” at the end of the last prayer does not mean, “Everyone stand clear – STAMPEDE!” True, no one has been trampled to death in the foyer – yet. Saying “amen” at the end of services can cause some worshipers to move faster than a crowd at a theater when someone yells “FIRE!” Why not stay and visit with those you just worshiped with and are spiritually related to? Paul told the church at Corinth when they were not waiting for one another in partaking the Lord’s Supper “wait for one another” (1 Cor 11:33). This is good advice for the entire service.
▸ Cultivate an Appetite
There was a time when preachers could speak for two or three hours and no one would get up to leave. Now people become very concerned, if the preacher speaks longer than “the allotted time.” If you do not have an interest in worshiping God down on earth for a few hours, what makes you think you will be interested in worship Him throughout eternity in Heaven? If saints would work at working up an appetite for worship they would not have to ask, “Do I have to go worship God?” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt 5:6). Interest in worship grows like interest in a bank. You get out of it, what you put into it
▸ Take it With You
There’s no reason why the public worship services cannot supply you with some fuel for meditation as you leave to go home. Every worshiper and every service needs to leave with a doggie bag. After services, stay and gather up the baskets of leftovers to hold you over till you meet again. If you intend to leave your praise and devotion for him at the building when you leave, you will most likely not find a reason to go back. Worship services are not intended to be the end of your devotion to God for the week, but the beginning of worship for the new week. Remember, just “showing up,” may keep your name on the church roll, but it cannot etch your name in the “roll that’s called up yonder”.
– Daniel R. Vess