Bored-Audience

Think about it

First, I need to be clear. When worship is done to be seen by men, it is not worship; when its purpose is to titillate, to entertain, then it has not reached deeply enough to be worship.

One does not evaluate worship the way a movie critic evaluates a Hollywood film. Worship is far more about self-evaluation than performance. Our worship would not be improved if the singing was done by Celine Dion, or if the sermon was delivered in the mellow tones of James Earl Jones. The purposes of worship, its benefits, are deeper, more abiding, more relevant than mere showbiz.

If people come to your church because you put on a better show, know this, someone soon will put on a better show than you. What brought them to you will also be what you lose them to.

But our worship should have these two qualities:

First, could we please act as if worship is a vital and deeply rewarding moment in our week? How do we explain row upon row of members yawning, checking their cell phones, or stonily refusing to sing the hymns? Outside of laryngitis, is there an adequate explanation for this behavior in the presence of Almighty God?

Second, could we make worship more thoughtful? I don’t mean more sensational, simply more thought-out and edifying. Can it be done with a little prayer and thought without it becoming unbiblical or self-serving? We would think poorly of a preacher who had not prepared his remarks. Why do we put up with (yes, this is the term I want to use), conducting worship continually the same way every time?

  • Why could a song leader not select his songs along a biblical theme?
  • Why could we not assign four prayers, one of thanksgiving, one for the sick and those in need, one for the church and her prosperity, and one for the souls of the world?
  • Why could we not use four or five short Bible readings on a theme, perhaps even the ones the preacher will use?
  • Why do we not make the offering “separate and apart” from the Lord’s Supper by, well, making it separate and apart with an appropriate song?

There are a multitude of ways that we could, biblically, make our worship well thought out. This is not cold and calculated; planning can be carried out from the deepest recesses of our hearts. Why do we think that the terms spontaneous and sincere are synonyms? The term “random preparation” is an oxymoron.

I am ready for worship that is thoughtful, edifying, yet biblical. I think we owe our congregations this kind of worship; I think the Lord deserves the best that we have.

“So what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also. I will sing with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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4 thoughts on “Think about it

  1. Good thinking on worship. We gather to participate, not to be entertained. We may be too timid to “experiment” with our worship assemblies. By that I mean we are timid and fearful of making any change to our format of worship.We are to stay “scriptural,” but need more heartfelt participation.

    Also, we are too time conscious. This limits our ability to fully participate in what we call the “acts of worship.” A silent time for meditation would be good. Encouragement from the song leader, from the shepherds of the flock, from the preacher would be good.

    Last, but not least, where in Scripture does it indicate hat the lion’s share of time spent in worship on the Lord’s Day has to be given to the sermon? More time in prayer, in songs,
    in Scripture reading would be most beneficial.

    Just some thoughts from the Old Hoot.

    God bless B. Abney

  2. Excellent thoughts. I think one of the most spiritual things one can do is to think. You have thought and expressed well!

  3. We are too set in our ways and resent any type of change. The order of worship has been “set in stone” for many years and any change in that order is met with resistance. When serving the Lord’s Supper, I always mention that the offering is separate but a convenient time for all to give back a portion of what they have ben blessed with materially. Unfortunately, this is not carried forth when others have the privilege to serve. This is a change. We need to welcome changes as long as they are scripturally correct and are in accordance with worship. The very last scripture in 1st John warns us to beware of idols and what we place before God.

    Very good article!!

  4. I have just this year tried to get our Elders and Deacons to change the order and content of the worship service. The Lord’s Supper has become just something we do. I suggested we have it first with more attention and content. All of the things you listed above, are great suggestions. We have been cast in the proverbial rut…no attention to what we are doing and how we do it. Old habits are hard to break.

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