Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28b-29)
The Frozen Chosen?
An icy worship service—for the most part, we’ve all experienced it. The preacher is unconvincing. The singing is barely audible. And the people? Well, frankly, they don’t look very happy to be there. Looking out across the congregation, you witness a yawn, some blank stares, and a man who keeps falling asleep during the sermon. It looks less like an exuberant, Gospel-enjoying church and more like a group of people awaiting root canals at the dentist’s office. It’s a depressing scene. (And for the record, I’m not talking about LifePoint.)
This has convinced me that coldness—or apathy that causes a lack of expressiveness—in worship doesn’t adorn the Gospel. The longer I lead worship, the more it occurs to me that Sunday morning ought to be the most thrilling time of the week for the people of LifePoint. After all, we gather because Jesus is alive and, therefore, we have endless reasons to burn with a white-hot enjoyment of God.
Now, at this point, perhaps you’re wondering, why make a big fuss about this? Does it really matter if corporate worship isn’t a non-stop thrill-ride? I believe it does.
For starters, a church’s lack of expression in worship can affect how profoundly it experiences God and the Gospel. Many frozen-chosen congregations have hindered one another from experiencing the full impact of His promises by watering them down with their stoicism. Conversely, when you’re surrounded by people who are on fire with gladness in the Gospel, you become eager to join in. In other words, an atmosphere of corporate worship is contagious for better or worse.
Bring Some Gasoline
To get a little metaphorical, it may be helpful to think of the church as being gathered to worship around an unquenchable flame. Picture the flame. Get it into your mind, for it is the blazing center of all times, places, peoples, and events—the glory of God manifested in His mighty works throughout history.
It burned when God called Abraham out of Ur to become a father of many nations. It burned when Israel smeared a lamb’s blood on their doorposts in Egypt, and when they passed through the waters of the Red Sea. It burned when Moses ascended Mount Sinai, when David reclaimed the ark of the covenant, and when Solomon dedicated the temple. It burned when Nehemiah led Israel to rebuild the wall and when they mourned over their sin as Ezra read the Law. It burned that night in Bethlehem when the immortal Son of God showed up in an infant’s body. It burned at a hill called Skull where He cried, “It is finished!” as He died alone on a cross. It burned three days later when an angel stood next to His empty grave, asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” It burned—quite literally!—when the Holy Spirit showed up at Pentecost and made group of nobodies into world-changers who refused to stop spreading the News about their Friend from Nazareth. It burned on the road to Damascus, in a Philippian jail, and on the island of Patmos.
And, yes, it continues to burn each Lord’s Day at LifePoint when we gather to worship God. Therefore, we must ask ourselves as Sunday approaches: Will I bring gasoline to the flame this Sunday? In other words, will I joyfully magnify the glory of God in worship? Will I praise human history’s blazing center from the inside out? May the answer to that question be written on every smiling face and every raised hand. May it be told in every loud voice and every warm greeting. The manner in which we participate in the gathering will either cause freezer burn or create a tinder box among us. For you, what’s it going to be? I pray we’ll make the right decision.
Liturgy for Sunday, August 16, 2015:
Testimonies and Baptisms
Reading for Pastoral Prayer:
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 24:3-6)
May the Lord, who is always faithful, establish you and guard you against the evil one that you may not grow weary in doing good. (based on 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 13)