Brothers and sisters who have grown up in the Sarawak Methodist church know that services begin with singing “The Lord is in his temple”, and end with “Amen chorus”. In a typical service there are also many other prayers and hymns that have been repeated countless times, unchanged for decades. Is it good or bad, or not good and not bad? What do you say?
In my opinion, there’s good and there’s bad.
Good and bad worship
The good is familiarity. Everywhere it is the same, which feels more welcoming. No matter which church you go to, there is always the sense of coming home. The hymns, prayers, liturgy during the service are all familiar and easy to follow. And in special times, these rituals and words bring comfort and encouragement.
Once, a friend who had been overseas for many years joined a service where a SCAC pastor had come to conduct Holy Communion, using the familiar communion liturgy brought with him. As the pastor began to read from the liturgy, the friend was very touched and started to weep. Another time, a friend was in some trouble at sea. When he began to loudly sing the “Lord’s Prayer” and other common hymns sung during services, he was greatly encouraged and felt the presence of God, gaining strength in his trials.
The bad is getting so used to it that everyone becomes numb and bored. It is the same at every church. With the liturgy practically memorized, people then daydream or doze off. Not to mention the comfortable air conditioning, providing a good chance to catch up on some sleep. Once the Amen chorus begins, it is an instinct – the service is over, time to wake up.
The other bad: The liturgy and hymns may be difficult to follow for a newcomer. Once, there was a newcomer who said that during the service people would stand and sit, sing and pray, and he didn’t know how to follow along. I asked another newcomer if he understood the service or the pastor’s sermon. He said he did not understand anything at all.
The question is, how do we move from a place both good and bad, to something better? Hear the word of our Lord Jesus:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23 NIV)
Usually we assume that the Father is looking for the lost. That is not wrong, He is indeed looking for the lost. The lost returning is the Father’s greatest joy and satisfaction. But we must remember, besides the lost, the Father is also looking for those who truly worship him: “for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
Across all gatherings at a church, the attendance number for Sunday services is always highest. It is the most important service for everyone. Since many brothers and sisters attend Sunday service, and since it only happens once a week, this hour plus period of time will require pastors, the music director, and the worship and music committee to unite with a truth-based plan and adequate preparation, to bring the congregation into worship of God in spirit and in truth. Do not use the exact same
liturgy every time, but of course do not have a constantly changing liturgy either. We need worship with some creativity and the right adjustments.
In recent years some churches have been using different versions alternately in areas like the doxology and Lord’s Prayer. This gives the congregation a little surprise, encouraging their spirits so that they are more involved in worship.
The SCAC board of worship and music also provides different liturgies for a new experience. In some churches the praise team also leads very well, making the service more lively.
Some pastors have also put more work into their sermons in explaining the truth. This allows the congregation to become true worshippers, allows unbelievers to hear the truth of the gospel and turn to Christ, and also allows believers to hear the truth and grow.
Besides the preparation of the pastoral team, members of the congregation also need to prepare themselves for the worship service. The best preparation is that everyone should worship God every day in their own homes, so that personal worship becomes the first thing every morning. Sing hymns, pray, read the Bible, meditate, and wait before the Lord. If brothers and sisters in the congregation have a personal worship of God every day, then on Sundays, we would all bring a week’s worth of worship before the Lord, and so join the service with greater liveliness.
I wake up at 5 am to worship God, learning to wait before him, put him first, find joy in Him, and listen to his voice. Praise the Lord, in recent years, Methodist Theological School and some churches have also begun 5 am worship services. Long may it continue, grace upon grace, strength upon strength, blessing upon blessing.
The Father is looking for true worshippers, are you one that He is looking for? When you wake up every day, is the Father pleased with your worship? In every Sunday service, is the Father glad with your worship?
Lively worship is worship with vitality, it is worship in spirit and in truth. It needs corporate preparation, and it also needs personal preparation.