Friday, May 19, 2017


 Standard 1991                                                                                                

Rhoderick D. Ice

        "Would you buy hair-restorer from a baldheaded barber?"  Dr. Flavil Yeakley is an expert on Church Growth.  A few years ago he surveyed a typical Church of Christ in my area.  He found: only 53% believed they were saved; 2% actually believed they were lost; the rest really did not know whether they were saved or lost.  This was among active members.  How can someone who has no assurance of his/her own salvation reach out with Christ to the unsaved???
        When both the tabernacle and the temple were built, the glory of the Lord filled them (Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11).  Ditto the Jerusalem church at Pentecost (Acts 2).  Should not we expect such to be true today when we are in harmony with the Lord???  How would this "glory" express itself?
        The story is told of a minister who visited one of the more exuberant churches.  He went home and arranged the Sunday service to attempt to capture this ebullience.  They failed.  He returned to videotape the exuberant service.  This time they sang the same songs, prayed the exact words, and he preached the exact sermon.  But they could not "fake" the "verve."  It is impossible to share what is not "real" to the one trying to share.
        Some seem to be rediscovering the Holy Spirit.  Paul wrote: "Do not put out the Spirit's fire" (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19).  "He [The Spirit] will be with you forever" (cf. John 14:16-17).  Joel spoke of both men and women, both young and old, being touched by The Spirit (cf. Acts 2). Christians are to be "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).  We are to "pray[ing] in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20)   We have accepted His blood - but have we accepted His Spirit?  Paul warns about "form" without "power" (2 Timothy 3:5).  The Pharisees studied the Scriptures intently as they searched for eternal life.  Yet they missed the most important point - JESUS (John 5:38-40).  It would be tragic to read "letter" but miss "Spirit" (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6-18).  It is by the power of The Spirit that we worship God.
        The "worship service  is the correct place to begin evangelism.  The "warmth" of worship helps to create the desire to share this great gift from God.  In personal life, praise generates worship.  Praise is thanking God, expressing our love, gratitude, appreciation.  Worship involves personal communication with God, centering on His person.  In worship we enter God's presence.
        "Revitalize the worship by practicing the presence of God."  Jesus said HE was right there when "two or three are gathered together in My name" (Matthew 18:20).  Do we think Jesus as we worship?  If we could see Him with our eyes, would it make a difference in HOW we worship?
        God wishes to meet with us and move among us, interacting with and transforming His People.  He does not give us a Bible quiz on Sunday, so that He can bless us the following week.  We focus so much on evangelism, that worship seems an optional activity.  Compare Revelation ch 4.  "You art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."
        Worship in living color!  Jesus thrilled with joy through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).  Paul commanded: "Rejoice always!"  We may worship acceptably, yet be denying ourselves a blessing we should receive.  It is the difference between black-and-white and color.  The black-and-white is accurate and satisfactory.  But color adds a valuable dimension.  Preaching the word is essential.  But we need the joyful participation of the congregation!  We need Holy Joy!
        First century worship certainly compared to the "pre-game rally."  Their Lord - and ours - has risen from the dead.  The Lord's Supper proclaims His death until He comes [again].  This is the Gospel message.  Historical, factual, real.  How can we not praise Him who made all this possible?
        If I were the devil: I would try to steal away all the praise, honor and joy from the worship of God.  I would emphasize duty and encourage form without power (2 Timothy 3:5).  If I were the devil I would try to see that worship was lifeless and spiritless [Spiritless], and that any who questioned this procedure were immediately "suspect" of abandoning the faith.    
        This from Logan Fox, former missionary to Japan and Family Counselor.  Apply this to the meaning of worship.  "I am now convinced that the church is failing in its mission of 'healing' because we have failed to heed Jesus' words: 'Judge not.'  We have relied on the power of social disapproval in trying to change people's behavior, rather than relying on the power of acceptance and love.  In this, we have shown that we trust the power of world more than the spiritual power of love and holiness."

        STRUCTURING WORSHIP.  Four types of structure may be seen in worship among the Churches in our religious world.  Each of these has some truth.  Each may relate in part to the worship we see in the New Testament Church. Notice that the New Testament carefully avoids giving a detailed description of a typical worship service.  Rather we deduce elements and patterns of what they must have done from things which are said.  The synagogue must have served as a model.  Yet certainly there were some differences in "worship" between Jews and Gentiles.  Even today among us, the basic elements are the same, but are worked out in individual ways as the result of many cultural factors and other such things.  We speak to God from the fullness of our heart, in the language of our own idiom.

        The Lecture Approach.  This has become our traditional form.  Bible study is the emphasis.  Worship is expressed in "classroom terms."  The sermon is the center and focus.  Worshipers are passive except for the few who serve.

        The Evangelism Approach.  This grows out of the "Workshop Movement." Worship is viewed in the context of "soul winning."  It is, to some degree, the re-creation of the "Gospel Tent."  The invitation becomes the center of focus.  The entire "sermon" may be a prolonged invitation to sinners to come forward to give themselves to Christ ["obey the Gospel"].  Other matters equally weighty are sometimes overlooked.  One such Evangelistic Church was said to keep only eight of every hundred baptized.

        The Self-Help Approach.  We may see this extreme in certain TV preachers. Worship is seen as individual-centered.  Each is encouraged to seek personal worth and success.  Some would say that this is the "ME generation in church clothes."  Yet notice how Jesus emphasized wholeness and self-help.  Healing of lives is as needed as salvation from sins.  Note Hebrews 6:1-3.

        The Entertainment and Numbers Approach.  The extreme of this is seen in some TV Evangelists.  Worship is structured as a TV Extravaganza.  There is a stage, with performers presenting a package to the audience.  This grows out of contemporary American culture, and we all understand this approach.

        How To Reach The Masses!  Paul "met people where they were" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).  He could be a "Jew," a "Gentile," a "vegetarian," and any other of the myriad forms which human culture takes.  Paul could "relate" to Onesimus, the runaway slave; "relate" to the very strict Pharisees; and preach to  Greek Philosophers on Mars Hill.  But in every case Paul's motive was to elevate Christ and His Gospel!

        WHAT KIND OF GOD?  What kind of God would demand worship from His creation?  As well ask: "What kind of father/mother would expect love and honor from his/her children?"  It is the normal order of things.  God loves us!  He gave us the gift of life & being.  We in turn were created to love Him and praise Him.  This basic idea of praise and honor is brought out in many ways throughout the Scriptures.  Psalms and Revelation stand out in giving form and language to our worship.
        SHAKE THE WORLD!  When the saints of old prayed, the house was shaken (Acts 4:31).  Faith is the victory - but faith certainly must find expression. Let's put worship back into the worship service.  Let's praise and honor God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and The Holy Spirit.  [Some may argue that everything is to be directed toward God the Father.  But we worship one God, not three: Father-Son-Holy Spirit.]  Let praise and joy fulfill the role which God intended for them!
        Then a voice came from the throne, saying, "Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!" (Revelation 19:5  NKJV).

        "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
        For His mercy endures forever,
        Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
        Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
        And gathered out of the lands,
        From the east and from the west,
        From the north and from the south."
        (Psalm 107:1-3  NKJV)