By Dr. Harold Sala
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Psalm 96:9, NKJV
When a dad mentioned that his son had died in the service, a little child hearing the comment asked, “Was it in the 8:00 o’clock service or the 10:00 o’clock one?” Few would deny that there are times when going to church becomes perfunctory and–yes, let’s admit it–pretty boring.
Do you ever ask yourself, “What’s the purpose of going to church, anyway?” Hey, pastors ask themselves the same thing. I’m thinking of the time that a conversation took place at the breakfast table when the husband said, “I don’t feel like going to church today. I’m tired, people are unfriendly, I’m bored with the routine, and I think I could get more out of staying at home, reading my Bible, and singing a few quiet songs here.” Turning to his wife he said, “Give me just one good reason why I should go?” With a smile she answered, “Because you are the pastor!”
Reading the book of Acts is exciting. Things were happening. Nobody slept through the hour or two as the case may have been. Have we grown bored because the competition is too great or because our focus is wrong? While we don’t have the entire order of service that was used in Paul’s day, we do know some of the ingredients that went into the mix of worship. Borrowing from the synagogue worship, there were readings from the law and the writings–in other words, the first five books of the Old Testament and the Psalms. And following the reading of Scripture, someone expounded on what was written, helping them understand how to apply these truths to their lives. Then as letters to the churches were circulated, these, too, were read. They prayed, and they also sang the psalms put to music. We’re not sure about announcements, pitching for the women’s auxiliary or the sleep-over for teens the following Friday.
So how do you worship when you may be in a church which is somewhat less than exciting?
First–worship involves focus. No, not on the pastor, the song leader, or the worship team, but on the Almighty. He’s the one you have come to worship, remember? Worship looks to Him who gave His life for you. The more you know about God, the greater will be your desire to really worship Him. Worship is not a performance; neither is it a celebration. It’s an encounter, and keeping your focus on God is the beginning of true worship.
Then true worship involves posture. Worship is more than kneeling, or lifting your hands before the Lord, though both are biblical; it also involves lifting your heart in praise and your voice in song, and bowing in humility. When someone leads in prayer, they often say, “Let’s bow together and pray!” Why bow? Because even bowing your head is a symbol of submission, one of the fundamental elements of true worship.
Worship also involves your attitude. “I didn’t get anything out of that service!” I’ve heard people say, and I always ask myself, “I wonder how much that person put into the service!”
Your pastor may not be a great expositor. He may be doing His very best, however. He’s not the one you have come to see and bow before. Remember, you worship the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the Great I AM of Scripture.
I confess that I like to slip into a darkened cathedral when I travel in Europe and sit there, pondering the majesty and greatness of God, and I bow my heart in worship in quietness and simplicity. Ah, yes, let’s return to the simplicity of worshiping in the beauty of holiness, as the psalmist put it, with neither program nor pageantry. Yes, worship the Lord.
Resource reading: Revelation 5