It’s a common theme in many congregations to talk about how to make worship more meaningful, more encouraging, even more exciting. Suggestions might include: change the time of worship, drop the announcements, begin with a period of silence, change the order of the service, cut down the sermons, have more prayers, pray shorter prayers, sing more songs, sing fewer songs, sing more songs with a quicker tempo, start on time, et al. The list goes on... When carefully considered, most all of the suggestions have something in common. They’re almost always suggestions for what other people can do to help make my worship more meaningful.
Probably without realizing it, and certainly without meaning it, many have a somewhat skewed concept of worship. They’re looking for something to be provided, to be done for them in their worship experience. For them, worship is an external force that happens to them, similar to being in an entertainment setting. Again, this attitude is not intentional, and it’s probably not even realized. It’s simply is a product of what our culture has become in this country.
Worship is not supposed to be an external force. Worship is personal, it comes from within. Worship has to do with reverence, obeisance, homage, devotion, awe. All of these come from within. Worship is expressed from an individual to God. It’s not what somebody else expresses for them in their presence.
A brother leading a congregational assembly in prayer is personally worshipping God as he also leads those in the assembly in their personal worship. Any individual within that assembly who is not praying along in that prayer is not worshipping in that prayer. The prayer only becomes a part of their worship when the prayer becomes their prayer. The same can be said of the song service, the Lord’s Supper, the giving and the preaching and teaching. The most effective adjustments that can make worship more meaningful, fulfilling, inspiring, even more exciting are adjustments that need to be made within the heart and mindset of the individual worshiper.
First, prepare yourself for worship. Preparation begins with a mind set. Make up your mind well ahead of time that you are going to worship God. If you go through the week, even go to bed Saturday night, without knowing that, if you are alive and able, you will be in worship service on Sunday, then you are not preparing much for worship. You need to set your mind on worshipping God. You need to focus on that worship experience and plan for it.
Second, participate in worship. Don’t just sit like a bump on a log. Pray those prayers with the prayer leader. Sing with enthusiasm those songs with the song leader. Concentrate on the meaning of what you’re doing as you partake of the Lord’s Supper. Pray about and plan your giving. Follow along with the preaching and teaching. Read the scriptures that are being used. Make notes. Think about what is taught and about appropriate applications on your part. The more personal you make the lessons, the more meaningful they’ll be to you.
Finally, practice what you have committed to in worship. Live your dedication to God day in and day out. Conduct yourself among others in such a way that the focus of your life is apparent. Apply to your daily living what you learn from the scriptures. Take your worship experience home with you and to work with you. Let it encourage and guide you throughout the week.
This is not to say that a congregation cannot make improvements on the way it plans its worship services. However, the greatest area for improving our worship begins within each one of us. Let’s give proper attention to preparation for, participation in and practicing what we experience in our worship to God. We’ll find that we ourselves are the most important factors...
Gary L. Hutchens