This is my second attempt at writing this article. I usually don't have trouble writing, but this time I'm struggling. I'm struggling because I have too much to say in the allotted space that I have in this newsletter. I want this to come across on two levels; first I am speaking to you as an individual and second I am speaking to the congregation as a whole. There are so many things I need to teach on, there are so many things we need to learn. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start. I will start with this statement: Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church needs to reform her worship.
No doubt some of you will quickly jump to conclusions and take offense. Let me assure you, you need not take offense, because there is not a church in existence this side of heaven that does not need to reform its worship. We should be always reforming, that is part of our reformed heritage. If ours were a perfect church then you would not be here and I can guarantee you that I would not be the pastor. So, that said, let us consider our worship of the living God.
Worship is about love. It is about a whole-hearted devotion to God. That is where we begin or is it? Maybe I should say that is where we should begin. The Session feels the weight of the responsibility of bringing the congregation before the Lord in worship and to offer up worship to the living God that is excellent. To that end the Session regularly takes time to discuss our worship practices. We ask questions of our worship:
1) Is it biblical?
2) Is it Christ-centered?
3) Is it God-honoring?
4) Do the excellencies of Christ shine forth?
5) Is the Spirit present?
6) Are sinners cut to the heart?
7) Is the Gospel presented clearly?
8) Do we exhibit attitudes that are worshipful?
9) Do we really worship or are we just trying to get a “x” in the block?
Those questions and many more inhabit my thoughts and subsequently I share them with the Session. They often share the same questions and they have others as well. That is a good thing. That shows that we don't take worship lightly. Coming before the living God is a joyous and wonderful thing and at the same time it is fearsome and terrifying. We are sinners seeking to worship a holy God. It is only by His sovereign grace that our worship is made acceptable because of the finished work of Christ in our behalf. Apart from Christ all that we have to offer is tainted with sin.
Two words that come to mind when I think of worship are “expectation” and “preparation.” Do you come to worship expecting to meet with the living God? Think about what would change in your life if you really expected to present yourself before God in worship. True expectation leads to preparation. Just the expectation alone is a means by which our hearts are better prepared to worship. What other preparations might be appropriate? Think of something small you could start with. Maybe a good night's sleep or a good cup of coffee so that you will be awake and alert, ready to participate fully in worship. How about going to the restroom before the worship service begins? How about reading the preparation psalm and quietly praying during the prelude? Those may seem like simple and insignificant things, but if you will discipline yourself to give your best in worship, even in the small things, it will bear fruit.
We are a covenant people serving a covenant God and He is serious about our training of our children to follow Him. Teach them good habits early and they will grow up knowing how to approach God in worship. Teach them the simple discipline of sitting for a short time through the sermon. You can teach them to sit through the sermon or you can let them teach you to get up and go to the bathroom every time the sermon begins. If you let them teach you, they will. The problem is they don't know how to worship so they need you to teach them. They will learn to value the things you value by your actions. Don't be discouraged if you are not 100% successful all the time. Be gracious with yourself and with your children, but do not give up at working to give your very best to God in worship. God will honor your commitment because it is a commitment to honor Him. He is zealous for His glory and He will give strength to the one who brings glory to Him.
We have many things to learn and there are a lot of ways in which we need to grow. I have so much I want to say. I will continue to address issues both large and small concerning our worship so that we might, by God's grace, be a church that worships God in spirit and in truth so that even unbelievers might come into our midst and be cut to the heart as they proclaim surely God is in this place.