A Good Worship Servcie
I vividly remember the different moods that my father would exhibit depending on what happened in Sunday worship. If the experience was positive, he would smile and say, “Now THAT was a good service.” If it wasn’t so great, he would climb behind the steering wheel of the family station wagon and intone a couple of grunty sighs, “Uhhhh… uh....”
As a kid, I could never quite predict what my dad’s reaction was going to be. I lacked the adult brain to evaluate the quality of the sermon, and the music always seemed fun to me no matter what. And I typically got some candy out of the deal. I loved church for as long as I can recall.
When I grew up, I learned that any number of factors could wreck an otherwise “good” worship service. A bad sermon could do it. A lack of decent coffee could do it. An unprepared choir or lackadaisical organist could do it. But a unique power to sabotage worship was given over to the congregational song choices. If there were too many new or unfamiliar songs, or if there were too many old and stodgy songs — for my dad, at least —- it was not going to be a good service.
I don’t think my dad is alone. For many of us, our experience of a “good service” has more to do with our approval of the music and song choices than with any other element of worship.
As Elmhurst CRC follows the guidance of our Elders this fall and embraces a single, congregation-wide worship experience, I’m confident that music is NOT going to be the thing that unites us. We’ve been worshipping with two different musical styles for the past 20 years. It’s going to take some time for us to settle into a new musical language that feels like it belongs to everybody.
I’m suggesting a better way to tell when we’ve experienced a “good” worship service. This new evaluation can be defined in one word: Participation.
I believe a good worship service happens when worshippers participate in actively listening to the Spirit of God. It’s a good service if you can say “Yes” to this question:
Did I hear a word from the Lord today?
We also participate as we wholeheartedly sing, pray and give of ourselves. Here’s a second question to ask:
Did I give myself over fully to prayer and praise God today?
If you’re able to answer “Yes” to both of these questions, I believe that you can rightly conclude that you were at a good worship service. If the answer is “No” to either one, then some difficult follow-up questions need to be addressed:
Was my participation impeded by any of my own issues?
Was my participation blocked because I was poorly led or because I was distracted?
I am confident that God, by his Spirit, is faithfully present whenever two or three are gathered in Jesus’s name. I am hopeful that we at ECRC have some amazing worship experiences in store for us as we actively participate in prayer and praise together.
As I’m writing this on Thursday, August 26, Governor Pritzker has just announced a new indoor mask mandate for gatherings in Illinois. While the reintroduction of masks into the indoor spaces of Illinois will no doubt be inconvenient at times, that inconvenience pales in comparison to the spiritual energy and power that results when God’s Spirit and God’s people (that’s us!) participate together in honoring Jesus.
May you find great joy in serving and praising him, no matter what the circumstance.