Summary: part 3 of 4 of our series on worship as a lifestyle
In a television program I watch there is an episode in which the minister stood up before the congregation. It was a vast sanctuary -- but it was almost empty. The minister looked out upon all of the empty seats and surveyed the 4 lonely people in the congregation -- one young man, and three elderly women.
The minister begins to speak.
"I give thanks to God that there are at least a handful of us who have made the effort to come to worship, who have come to feed on the Word of God, and who don’t believe that God is less important than the football game on television."
Suddenly, the young man in the back pew jumps up. "Oh no, I forgot about the football game." And with that he runs out of the sanctuary.
I look around and wonder; don’t we have anything better to do right now than to come to worship service?
There are chores to be done at home, books to read, movies to see, games to watch, and web sites to surf. What motivates us to abandon the television and postpone a visit to the mall in order to worship?
I suspect that for some, the answer is "habit." And to tell the truth, not all habits are bad -- although we tend to speak in terms of good habits as discipline. Study habits, proper exercise routines, and good financial management and budgeting are all good habits -- good self discipline. And attending worship is a good spiritual habit. Some of us are here because it is our habit.
But there is something lacking in that answer, because some time earlier in our lives, we didn’t come to worship out of habit. We had to make the decision that this was a discipline we wanted to follow. Why did we make that decision?
Others of us may come to worship because we are struggling with God. We are grieving or we are hurting. We are lost, or we are lonely. And our attendance at worship is part of our search for answers.
Still others may be here against our will. You come here because your parents make you and they are bigger than you are. Or your wife made you come - maybe she’s bigger than you are. Or maybe your wife made you come here and if you want your life to go smoothly over the next day or two, giving into her about coming to worship is the thing to do.
The story is told of a man who was enjoying a pleasant sleep in bed when his wife suddenly yanked the covers off the bed and announced, "Time to get up and get ready to go to church."
Meekly, the man told his wife, "I don’t wanna go to church today. Just let me stay here and sleep in this one day."
Without any compassion, his wife looked at him and said, "Look Bozo, you have to go to church today. You’re the pastor."
By the way, that is NOT an autobiographical story.
The first Christian believers met in homes. Any assembly of the Church was an intimate, informal and joyful gathering. It usually featured a meal and was designed for total inclusion and participation. Every member was a vital and cherished part of the whole experience of worship. Paul described it well:
When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Cor. 14:26)
The environment in which the Church flourished was not an easy one. It was very hostile. "The testimony" was the primary mission of the Church. If the members weren’t telling others than the Church was going to die.
Looking at today many believe that we are in a birthing period of the Church. Births are messy. A baby’s arrival is anything but elegant; his or her advent is well lubricated with primordial slime and the air is filled with screams.
Future poets, priests and prime ministers all come sliding into life in the most unglorified posture and ways. Be glad that your future worth was not given at that moment.
And the Church is going through that same process. There are new ideas, attitudes, technologies, and structures. Some of them don’t look or feel like they will ever amount to anything.
Radical change is shaking our cultural, financial, political, scientific, communications, and moral pillars upon which civilization rests. Consider the following changes that have occurred in the last 10 years:
· Collapse of the Berlin wall.
· Collapse of the World Trade Center
· Disintegration of the Soviet Union
· Free elections in South Africa and the dismantling of apartheid
· Global increase of terrorism (Lockerbie, Oklahoma City, World Trade Center)