There are clearly more than just five characteristics that are valuable to a worship service. The five that particularly stand out in my mind are; things are done right, there is an inviting atmosphere, there is engaging leadership, authenticity and truth.
The first characteristic to come to my mind is that a worship service should have things done right. Meaning, it shouldnít be sloppily done or looks to be rushed together. Structure can sound like a Ďbad wordí because it can sometimes imply that the Spirit isnít allowed to move. However, I think there needs to be some kind of structure or organization in services, but with the attitude and remembrance that God should be free to move the hearts of the people, meaning we need to not get trapped in the idea of structure.
A second quality is there needs to be an inviting atmosphere. If I enter a service expecting to meet God, but Iím greeted with scowls and stares, my freedom to worship Christ is going to be severely hindered. Perhaps Iím too focused on others, but I do believe that one of the reasons we have a worship service is so that we can gather with other believers and praise His name as one. Unity can often be a defining encouragement or discouragement in worship, after all we are called to ďlove our neighbor as our selfĒ (Matthew 22:39).
Thirdly, a worship service needs engaging leadership. Iím pretty human, in fact Iím more human than Iíd sometimes like to admit, therefore if my mind isnít engaged, Iím not going to pay any attention. This is definitely a two-way street. I first have to come prepared to listen, and be prayerfully asking for Godís help in doing so. Likewise, the leadership (singing and speaking) needs to be encouraging us to come in to a heart of worship. If the worship leader doesnít seem to be paying attention to the words, but just singing them out of habit or the pastor is droning on monotonously like Ben Stein, the attitude of worship is going to be sorely missed and chances are the act of going through the motions is going to reign in both the pastor and the congregation.
These last two aspects are absolutely necessary, in that I think I would refuse to attend a church unless these were absolutely visible to me. The first is authenticity. This, in ways, goes along with engaging leadership. When I enter the doors of a worship service, I expect authenticity. In the hearts of the people around me, the person giving the message and the one leading music. Without authenticity, every single thing that happens during that service is completely fake. Itís heartbreaking to think that there are churches so devoid of actually having fellowship with Christ, that nothing even seems wrong to them.
Lastly, and most importantly, is that the whole service needs to be based on truth. It doesnít matter if youíre Baptist, Lutheran or non-denominational, to be truly worshipping God, you need to understand the complete truth set forth in Godís Word for us. If truth is missing, than worshipping God isnít able to happen because God alone is the truth and anything else is false. Not a deep thought, but often its skipped over in favor of following traditions or making sure we stay within the boundary of Ďdenominations.í
Worship, in the end, is a personal choice. Even if a church has all these things going for them, itís up to you to choose whether or not you worship God or go through the motions or traditions youíre used to. However, when the defining moment comes and you choose to truly worship God with all your heart, nothing is more satisfying to God or fulfilling to your soul.