The event that happens in many sanctuaries every Sunday morning is called a “worship service.” The Spirit is convincing me more and more everyday that this is not an accurate description of what actually occurs during that time, at least not in the biblical sense of those two words. For a few it is a worship service in the biblical sense, but for many, it is not.
What is it called when I take my car to my mechanic? It is called getting my car serviced. My mechanic is the one performing the service. Service is action and participation by a person or group for a goal. I am not part of having that service completed, unless of course you consider payment as participation. Actually that money is payment for “services rendered.” Payment is not part of the service; it happens in response to the service performed.
What if I offer my mechanic some suggestions of what might be the problem with my car. Would that qualify as participation? Maybe in some small, very minor way, but not really. The only way that I would truly be participating with my mechanic is if I were there at his side helping him accomplish the goal of fixing the problem with my car.
In order for a gathering for worship to truly be a service, those there must be actively involved in seeing that the goal for worship is accomplished. What is the goal of worship? According to I Corinthians 14:26, the purpose for the gathering of the body is the “building up” of the body. This is accomplished through the Spirit sharing with and through His people in a variety of ways. Inside this goal is praising and glorifying God as we encounter Him and what he is sharing with us.
Now, in light of the last three paragraphs, evaluate the worship event at which you were present yesterday morning. Was it truly a service by you? Did you render a service to the body by participating in accomplishing the goal of having the body built up or did you go, sit in a pew, chair or seat, sing a few songs, listen to someone else pray, listen to someone else sing, listen to someone else talk for 20-30 minutes and put some money in a plate as it passed by you?
That question is the difference between being at what is truly a worship service or just being at a performance. Saturday night, I was in attendance at a combined concert of the Fort Dodge Senior High A Capella Choir and the Nordic Choir of Luther College. It was a wonderful and moving performance, but as wonderful, moving and powerful as it was, it was not a worship service; it was a concert, a performance. I watched; they sang. I appreciated; they rendered a service to my heart, mind and soul. Their part required preparation; mine required just showing up and sitting down.
Sadly, what has become known as today’s normal and typical “worship service” is a performance, a service rendered, by a few in attendance. Those few have prepared and bring something. Everyone else needs no preparation for this time because all that they do is sit in a pew, chair or seat, sing a few songs, listen to the few and maybe put some money into the collection plate.
It is time for the worship service to be returned to the character of the New Testament. Everyone prepared beforehand as the Spirit spoke with him/her in order to know what it was the Spirit wanted him/her to bring for the building up of the body. It might have been a word of encouragement, a word of comfort, or a word of exhortation. It might have been the sharing of a song that touched the person’s heart deeply as the Spirit spoke through it. The list could go on for a long time.
For a worship service to truly be a worship service, active participation of the body, the whole body, is required. Otherwise, what we have is a poor substitute which in reality is a performance, a type of concert, by a select few.
I wonder, if Jesus showed up a “worship service” as it is defined and done today and he wanted to share something for the building up of the body but he was not one of the few scheduled to participate, would he be allowed to share? Or, would he not be given the opportunity to share? And if he tried to do so, would his actions be frowned upon and cause eye-rolls by those in attendance because they view his actions as inappropriate?
If you think that would never happen, remember this: because of the presence of His Spirit, Jesus is with and in His people. He speaks through us. When people are not giving others the opportunity to share what Jesus is sharing with them and such activity is actually discouraged and frowned upon when someone actually dares to share even though they were not of the few scheduled to do so that particular day, is not the same thing occurring?