"Remember your leaders, who spoke God’s message to you; reflect on the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:7-8)
Do you remember those "Old Time Religion" services ? If so, then you must be one of those " Religious Dinosaurs". You know the ones. Old fashion "brush-arbor" type services, lead by the 'Holy Spirit". Services where the "Amen's" and the "Hallelujah's" echoed, as the spirit led. People throughout the sanctuary raising "holy Hands" unto the Lord. Preaching that all important simple evangelistic message of God's free grace. ( Ephesians 2:8-9)
In support of this evangelistic message, was our old fashioned church altar. I realize the physical make up of that old alter was no different than any other construction. However, that old fashioned alter was very special for many, as life decisions became reality.
I am now very concerned with the direction our modern day church is taking. And I feel very strongly that God is unsatisfied, as well.( Revelation 2:4-6) In today's topsy-turvy world we tend to worship any number of philosophies. Ideologies such as the environment, nature, famous celebrities, sports and on and on. I have even know people make such remarks as, " I just worship the ground he walks stands on". However, If a child of God honors any god other than the true living God, then God will judge. ( Matthew 4:10)
So how do you worship ? ( Psalm 105:1-6) Sadly to say, however, the church of day is missing one important spiritual ingredient, that being the "Holy Spirit's conviction and comfort. Churches are meeting, Sunday after Sunday, doing their own so-called religious things -- singing hymns, reciting the Apostles, Creed, even doing some good works in the neighborhood -- but having no spiritual impact, seeing no change in people's lives, and no one being convicted of their inbred sinfully nature. ( Genesis 3:1-7)
Worship is not limited, as God is not limited. ( Romans 11:1-36) Worship should not be limited, as God is not limited, ( Romans 11:1-36) and not necessarily regulated by the temporary provisions of Old Testament law. With the coming of Christ, all mankind had equal access to God through Him.( Matthew 27:51) Worship became a matter of the heart, not external actions, and directed by truth rather than ceremony. ( John 8:32)
This "old time religion" worship concept has always been very important in the life of any Christian, be it in the still quietness of a home or collectively with a body of believers. However, the writer of Hebrews prompted by the Holy Spirit, has penned the importance of corporate worship. There's just something about meeting together that influences and lifts each other up in the Lord. ( Hebrews 10:25)
Worship could be any day of the week, but most Christians generally meet on Sunday because of the resurrection; because Jesus appeared to His disciples on Sunday, and the early believers met on Sunday. Maybe some did it so they could still attend Sabbath services; or maybe to distinguish it from the Jewish religion, whose leaders rejected Christ.( Acts 20:7) ( 1 Cor 16:1)
The main concern is not when we meet to worship, but how we worship. Psalm 99:5 I have been in many church services within the last half century, some in which I have taken an activity part. And I have seen all variations of worship service formats, some good and some bad. However, the only true service format is one guided by God's Holy Spirit.( Romans 8:26)
Worship services should be the high light of our entire week, for it is the "Lords Day" service. The service should be conducted reverently and orderly. It should not be a place dedicated solely to social fellowship, but have an atmosphere of God's Holy presence.( Psalms 143:10 )
Services are usually divided between the "praise and worship" and the pastor's message. Here is my service forte.
CONCERNING THE LENGTH OF SERVICE- There seems to be no clear cut answer, as the service should be lead by the "Holy Spirit". ( Romans 8:4) The purpose being the growth of the saints and saving the lost. All glory and honor should always go to God. ( Isaiah 42: 6) ( Isaiah 42:8)
CONCERNING VISITORS- Although the service is primarily for the spiritual growth of the church membership, visitors should not be completely ignored in corporate worship. This one task, of making visitors welcome, seems to be very difficult task for many churches.
Visitors should immediately feel and see the love of Christ among the membership.( Philippians 2:5) As visitors enter the church building, the members should reach out and greet them and introduce them to the other members of the church. This first impression will then make the visitors more comfortable, and will allow for a smooth transition as they listen to the service.
CONCERNING THE MEET AND GREAT- This should be short and blend, as not to hinder the Spirit of the service.( Ephesians 4:30 ) It is best to have the pianist or organist play through the next upcoming hymn, during this segment. Then, the music director should just start leading the hymn. The congregation will get the subtle hint and the service will move without any confusion.
I have observed many "meet and greets' become a regular social event, lasting several minutes, only to disturb the continuality of the service . When this happens, the Holy Spirit is almost always quenched.( 1 Thess 5:19) I must admit, I'm not a fan of the "meet and greet". However, I would not debate this issue. Only to say, that it seems to be a good tool in meeting visitors.
CONCERNING THE PRAISE AND WORSHIP- Singing should be a combination of the old hymns and the newer praise songs. A good idea is to sing an appropriate soft prayer chorus leading into the prayer time. Caution should be taken, in structuring the singing arrangements, as this portion of the service will often times causes division between the older members and the younger folk.
Yes, it's OK to keep time with the music by clapping occasionally. In Europe, the churches will clap on chorus, when the music is appropriate.
CONCERNING THE PRAYER TIME- I miss those open prayers, whereby the people would kneel to pray all over the sanctuary, only to be supported by others joining in with a soft "yes Lord" or "let it be so Lord". ( Psalm 99:6)
CONCERNING THE SCRIPTURE READING- The scriptures of the Old and new Testament, as verbally inspired by God, were inerrant in the original writings. They should be the supreme and final authority in faith and practice. ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17) ( 2 Peter 1:20-21) If scripture is read aloud in the presence of the congregation, the congregation should stand in reverence to God's Holy Word.
CONCERNING THE ANNOUNCMENTS- The main emphasis should be placed on recognizing visitors, giving the schedule of upcoming church events, and announcing the prayer requests. Caution should be given here, as to not use this time as an overture to the sermon.
CONCERNING THE OFFERING-Some offerings are taken in conjunction with the announcements, while others are taken at the conclusion of the service. My personal opinion. The concluding portion of the service, after the sermon has ended, should be reserved for a time of solemn reflection and soul searching. This time of prayer should not be interrupted.
CONCERNING THE BULLETIN- The bulletin should be a written extension of the churches philosophy. It's agenda should contain the order of service, church prayer requests, a schedule and times of current activities, the sermon notes and a statement of "what we believe'.
The bulletin is not a good media for current events, not associated with the gospel, as it can serve as a good witnessing tool for visitation and to pass out to prospective church visitors. Be sure and include your church web site, email address and a 24 hour telephone number available for spiritual assistance.
( A note of caution. When you do include the web site, please make sure the site is up-to-date )
CONCERNING DRESS- This issue alone, often times, will lead to confusion ( 1 Cor 14:33), but should never cause division in a church. If it does, then Satan has won a victory by distracting from God’s vision for our church. ( 1 Cor 7:5) You see, as a church we have more important things to talk about, that being witnessing and spreading the gospel.
It bothers me when people look down on certain dress standards, ( John 7:24) without knowing the individuals circumstances. However, clothing should be modest and acceptable by the standards of God rather than by the acceptable standards of the world. ( Romans 12:2) If the Holy Spirit convicts against any habit of a Christians life, then it's best to heed God's call. ( Deuteronomy 28:1-3) If God directs you to eat no meat, then do so. If God convicts against wearing a certain type garment, then do so. After all, you don't want to miss a "blessing" by not obeying God, do you ? ( 1 Cor 6:19-20) ( 1 Cor 3:17)
CONCERNING THE SERMON- The Word of God should be the ultimate authority of any sermon. And in no way should the teachings of the Holy Scriptures be pre-empted by a "watered down gospel". The preacher is charged, according to the scriptures, to preach the Word ( 2 Timothy 4:2), and not simply give a dissertation on nursery rhymes . ( 2 Cor 11:4) The sermon should always be directed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. ( Psalm 143:10 ( Galatians 5:18)
Equally to the length of service, the sermon duration is not as important as its content. The important thing is to stick to the subject, and quickly cover the main points so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements. And most importantly, is the leading of the Holy Spirit in this phase of the service. ( Psalms 25:5
A very important conclusion to the sermon is the invitation or alter call, as the old timers would exclaim. This segment of the service is strictly under the control of the "Holy Spirit" ( John 16:7-8) A time of decision for the unsaved to come to repentance, an invention for the believers to renew their faith, and an invitation for those who wish to join the church.( Hebrews 8:12)
In conjunction to the invitation, what has happened to our " old time religion" alters? Why, the " old time religion" pastors would often times give an invitation at all events, including weddings and funerals.
Well, this is my "old time religion" "forte". Your thoughts may differ mine, and that's OK. Together, our main theme should be getting people "saved" and edifying the "saints" ( Colossians 3:16)
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