As I reflect on my early years as a believer and a young pastor, I realize now how little I knew about worship. I think my worship would have been more focused and powerful had I known some of these things back then:
- Corporate worship really matters. COVID has reminded us of what we had taken for granted. The combined praises of God’s people are powerful, especially when we listen to each other worship.
- We waste a lot of time in worship services. The time-wasters, in fact, are numerous. Making churchwide announcements that apply to only one group. Preaching disorganized, rambling sermons. Talking too much between songs. I could go on and on. . . .
- Many hymns have great theology. As a younger leader, I grew weary with many hymns—but I judged them then more on their sing-ability than on their theology.
- Many praise choruses are straight from the Bible. I didn’t always recognize that fact, though, so I missed out on the connection with the Word.
- We who were raised on the repetition of “Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me” probably shouldn’t get stressed about repetitive choruses today. I’m not arguing for weak choruses; I’m simply saying that we’ve dealt with similar issues in the past.
- It’s okay to raise your hands to praise God in worship. I realize others may differ with me here, but I’ve grown comfortable with worshiping physically and publicly while also praying I not draw attention to myself (I trust).
- The worship event ought to be the culmination of our turning our heart to God—not the first step in that direction. If we wait until the worship service to get right with God, we’ll miss much of the point of worship: simply honoring Him as holy. Worship ought to be ongoing even before we gather with believers.
- It doesn’t take much to distract us during a worship service. I’m not surprised, as I know the enemy doesn’t want us to worship—but I still see churches building into their service things that are more distracting than helpful.
- Whether or not I truly worshipped God will become evident after the actual worship service. There was a time when I evaluated worship on its emotional appeal during the event; now, I know that genuine worship transforms lives long beyond the service itself.
- I may be the preacher, but I’m not the star. I cringe when I think of my ego as a young preacher, and I grieve the battle is still real at times. I constantly need this reminder to get out of the way.
What do you wish you had known earlier about worship?
This prayer in traditional or contemporary language is found in all Anglican service books since 1662.
“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, We thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks For all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; But above all, for thine inestimable love In the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; For the means of grace, And for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, That our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, And that we shew forth thy praise, Not only with our lips, but in our lives; By giving up ourselves to thy service, And by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days ; through Jesus Christ our Lord, To whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.”
It reminds us that worship is not what we do solely on Sunday morning in a church building but what we do every day of our lives in our daily living. If we do not live our lives to God’ s glory during the week, if our daily walk does not honor God and does not give full expression to the teaching and example of our Lord, we may as well as stay home on Sunday morning and not deceive ourselves with talk of going to church to worship God.
In Matthew 15: 8-9 Jesus says, “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain….” He is quoting Isaiah 29:13.
Our worship gatherings on Sunday mornings and other occasions should flow out of our worship of God during the week. If we have not praised God with our lives Monday through Saturday, there is little point in praising God with our lips on Sunday. As God asks in the first chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “Why are you trampling my courts?”