Preparing and preaching sermons takes diligent, prayerful preparation. Therefore, ministers must devote themselves to studying, explaining and applying the Scriptures. The minister must digest the Word for himself before he feeds it to others. Puritan John Owen said unless the preacher “finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others.”
This reminds us that worship through song is an act of obedience to the Lord. This gives singing perspective. We might ask, “If singing is an act of obedience, how does God want us to sing?” Here, is an order of priority for selecting Christian music: words, voices, delivery.
In light of Jesus’ counsel to pray in secret, I was once asked if public prayer is sinful. Do you break Jesus’ command when you pray with and for your family? In our corporate worship services, we offer many prayers. Sometimes the minister prays and other times we pray together. Should we stop doing that? Should we stop holding mid-week prayer services?
If you’ve ever wondered about this, you may find Jesus’ instruction in the Lord’s Prayer helpful (Matthew 6:9-13). He said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9). The Lord’s model prayer begins: “Our Father.” When I pray by myself, I never address God by saying, “Our Father.” Instead, I might say, “My father.”
If we truly believe Scripture is the life-giving Word of God, why don’t more Protestant churches read it to their congregations? Why is not our worship centered around hearing from the living God rather than making ourselves heard? As Christians, we need to sing less and listen more! Let’s make worship a Mary moment not a Martha one, and invite the congregation to sit and listen to Jesus speak.
Nehemiah 8-9 join Leviticus 10 and Hebrews 12 as significant to our development of a theology of worship. In verse 1, the people of Israel are described as gathering “as one man into the square before the Water Gate” (Nehemiah 8:1). When the people gathered before the Lord for corporate worship, they did so “as one man.” That moment focused on the individual as part of the body. Together, God’s people stood, listened, answered, said “Amen”, lifted their hands, bowed their heads, and worshiped (Nehemiah 8:6).
Some wrestle with making worship more “participatory.” What they mean is they want more people to lead. However, since worship is work, all of worship is an exercise in which the whole congregation participates. You are never passive in worship. This includes during prayer and preaching.
When we worship Christ, it’s a powerful temptation to think that whatever pleases us must please him. If I enjoy interpretive dance, neon lights, and little Suzy’s solo, surely Jesus must. Approaching worship this way is self-centered, not Christ-centered. As God sanctifies us, he aligns our affections with his, but we are never free to depart from the clear testimony of his Word. His Word becomes our delight (Psalm 119:14).
As I observe the practices of the church, I’m concerned that churches have stopped thinking about worship. It really does seem as though we’ve entered an era in which “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). That seems to be the premise of offering different worship styles, doesn’t it? Isn’t it to offer the people what they want? During the time of the judges in Israel, one particular condition is pointed out again and again: “there was no king” (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25).
An average of all 2021 Gallup polling revealed 69% of Americans “identify with a Christian religion.” That’s a majority, but I’d suggest many of these respondents are saying, “I’m not an atheist. I’m not Buddhist. I’m not Muslim. I must be Christian.” For these folks, though, Christianity is just a title, it isn’t a belief system.