You know, as congregations go, each one has their own way of doing things, not one is exactly like the other.
Some congregations have the Lord’s Supper towards the end of their service, while others have it towards the beginning, some right before the sermon.
Some congregations have the contribution collected by posting some kind of receptacle at all exits so that folks can leave their contributions on the way in or on the way out of a service.
There are as many different ways of formatting a worship service as there are the number of different congregations who do them.
But, there are some things in our brotherhood that are exactly the same, no matter where you go in our fellowship. Most of these similarities can be heard in the things we say.
I am going to mention just a few of them to you, listen and ask yourself, if it is not a language peculiar to our brotherhood.
I call this; “You can well be a member of the churches of Christ if . . . “
# 1. You’ve never been to a revival but have attended a lot of gospel meetings.
# 2. If you have ever planned to be back to the church building at the next
# 3. If you were eighteen years old, before you understood that the
phrase, “Guide, guard and direct us” was not one word.
# 4. If you have never seen a mourners bench, but have seen a lot of people
come down front.
# 5. If you have ever wondered what would happen to the preacher if he did
not have a ready – recollection of the things he hath prepared.
# 6. If you have to be reminded weekly that the Contribution is something
separate and apart from the regular worship service.
# 7. If you think that tithing is wrong, but everybody ought to give at least ten
# 8. If you stay out of sanctuaries, but spend a lot of time in auditoriums.
# 9. If before you buy a new bible, you always turn to Acts 2:38 and check out
their interpretation of that one verse.
Turn to the book of Acts 2:42.
“They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts, they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.”
The book of Acts does not describe for us what the church used to be like, it was written so that we would know what the church is supposed to be like!
These verses point out three characteristics that every healthy growing congregation ought to have.
# 1. Is the characteristic of reaching out. This was a church that had a message, they had a witness and they were sharing that witness and people were responding to that by surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This church was enjoying the favor of all the people and because of that, people were being added daily to this church.
In any healthy church there must be an aggressiveness in reaching out with the gospel. It will have an evangelistic mindset.
It will be a witness and a testimony to the reality of God living in the hearts of those who call themselves Xian.
# 2. Another mark of a healthy growing congregation is that it will be a church that not only reaches out, but one that reaches in as well.
The Text tells us, that this congregation ate together and they had everything in common and they gave to anyone who had need.
Any healthy church is going to have that kind of dependence and emphasis on fellowship and on loving each other and on keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
A healthy church will be busy in reach out, in reached in and in # 3 reaching up.
It says: they were devoted to prayer and every day they came together to Praise God.
Now all three of these elements are critical in maintaining a healthy growing congregation.
You take away any one of those elements and the church will not be able to advance as Jesus said we should be.
Now, there are some congregations that emphasize one of these elements over the others. There are some churches that are so evangelisticly motivated (Reaching Out) but very cold to new people and visitors.
Don’t know what to do with them, once they get them.
There are some churches that focus so much on taking care of their own needs (Reaching In) that they are ignorant when it comes to understanding the needs of the community around them.
And there are some churches that are so heavenly minded (Reaching up in worship) that they are no earthly good.
All three of these elements are important and all three must be working in the church in order for it to be healthy.
Now, this church does a pretty good job in reaching out. When we had that door knocking campaign in the summer of last year, this church did very well in reaching out.
We contacted over three hundred of our neighbors, by flyer and by phone. Some larger congregations don’t ever reach out to that many people in all of their years of evangelistic efforts.
Also, I think this church does a wonderful job when it comes to reaching in. You respond very well to the needs of those around you, members and non members alike.
But, Today I want to talk to you about that third element.
About the Reaching up Part
Now, over the past three Sundays, I have been preaching on the idea of Praise and Worship. I have mentioned things such as prayer and fasting, humility and mourning over the way things are.
And I have mentioned some things that may have been hard to accept about our heritage, about our traditions, about our lack of prayer and enthusiasm in our worship to God.
But, in saying all of that, I do not want anybody to misunderstand what I have been saying as a call to dismiss logic or study or intellect in service to God.
God has called some of his people to be left brain thinkers. Left brain thinkers are people who like to Study.
They like to ponder things, they like to analyze things and scrutinize them and study things in great detail.
They are not very touchy, feely kind of people. But, God has called people like that into his Kingdom. I remember when I was like that. Not very touchy or feely.
Bob Forehand, hugged me all the time.
Like, I Shared with you last Lord’s day, I was OK with being left brain.
And to be honest with you, I didn’t feel like I needed changing or fixing.
God was using me and God continues to use left brain thinkers in his Church.
But, in the Kingdom of God there are also some people, who are right brain thinkers.
These people like to express their feelings. They are expressive people, you can see it in the way they talk.
Their hands move as much as their lips do. Some talk at the rate of five hundred words per minute. They are the one’s, who can be heard in a large crowd laughing or talking over everyone else.
And when it comes to praising God, they like being demonstrative in their worship, they like to be expressive in some physical way to show their love and devotion to God..
And guess what? They don’t need changing either and they don’t need to be fixed. God uses both kinds of people in his Kingdom and we need to let him use them!
Now, what kind of a chance do you think you would have of winning an argument, if you were put in a room full of Right brain thinkers, you know, those touchy, feely kinds of people.
And you were a left brain kind of person?
You were one of those studiers, one of those thinkers, an analyzer kind of person?
What kind of a chance do you think you would have of winning a discussion over some controversy in a situation like that?
If it were me, I would have to say that the odds of you winning in that kind of a situation would not be in your favor. And do you know why?
Because, right brian people think through their hearts, while you feel through your head. God uses both kinds of people in his Kingdom and we need to let him use them!
The bible says: That we are to Love God with all our mind, as well as with all of our heart. They are both legitimate expressions of worship that are acceptable to God and they are both necessary!
He has told us, Love me with all of your heart and with all of your mind. A healthy church should honor both of these expressions of worship. Neither one needs fixing and neither one needs changing.
So, I do not want any of you, to take anything I have said thus far, in any of my sermons, as a call to dismiss your mind or intellect from worshipping God, but at the same time, I do not want you to leave out your feelings or your heart, let God touch them both. Let God use them both.
Let him have all of you, your Heart, your Mind, your Soul, your body and all of your strength.
And here is something else, I do not want you to hear what I am about to say this morning as a call to endorse a particular form or style of worship. We all have our preferences.
Some like slow songs. Some like lively songs. Some like the newer songs and some like the older songs.
We all have our preferences, but the point is, whether it is an old song or a new song, if it is being sung in praise and worship to God, we must give all of our heart and all of our mind to it.
When we assemble together as a body of believers, it is in our praise and worship that God says, he likes to dwell in. It is in praise and worship, where God wants us to grow the most.
Psalm 138:1 “I will praise you o, Lord with all of my heart, before the gods I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word, when I called, you answered me , you made me bold and stouthearted.”
David tells us in this Psalm, that if we will worship God and call on his name, He will increase in us a spirit of boldness and stoutheartedness.
We need boldness and strong hearts in our lives. But they will only come when we give of ourselves to God in worship. In worship, that comes from the heart, as well as from the mind.
After all, the Bible does tell us that the Father seeks those who will worship him in Spirit and in Truth.
(The Heart) (The Head)
God promises that if we will worship him with all our hearts and with all our minds, he will make us bold.
Let me tell how and why the church is called upon to be bold. In the gospel of Matthew 16: 18, Jesus said that, he was going to build his church and that the gates of hell would not overcome it.
Some think that verse means, that the gates of the church are closed and the devil will never be able to knock them down and defeat the church, we may be battered and beaten and bruised, but we will hang on and hold on until Jesus comes to get us.
Question: Are gates are an offensive or defensive weapon? Gates are a defensive weapon, right? They are to be closed, to protect. But, Jesus said, that his church was to offensive!
That’s why in Matthew 28:18 he tells his church: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations.
God’s church is to be a church that is on the attack, on the offensive team, not on the defensive team.
God’s church is to go and storm the gates of hell and take back what belongs to God. And those gates, which hell has closed to defend itself against the advances of God’s church, will not prevail!
They will come down and we will be victorious, because greater is he that is in us, than he who is in the world.
I think we should all want to be that kind of a church. A church that is making hell feel threatened. A church that is bold and stouthearted!
As we grow in our worship of God, A great blessing that we will receive from the Lord is an increased anticipation of public worship.
Have any of you ever been on a youth retreat or an activity that is primarily aimed at young people?
You know how they sing a lot of songs first, and then they are presented with a devotional thought?
What that is, is the building up of anticipation to receive truth. We do that also, when we sing a song before the Lord’s Supper and say: “To prepare our minds for the Lord’s Supper, let us sing . . .”
The people of Israel did the same thing, they would sing a group of songs, that the Bible calls, “Songs of Accent”.
While they were singing them, they were getting ready for the great time of worship that was coming and that is why David would say in Psalm 122:
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to Praise the name of the Lord . . .”
They have been singing now for two, three, four days as each tribe came from their own homeland. And as they journeyed, they sang these songs of accent, of Praise.
Then suddenly, they come up over the last hill near Jerusalem and they see the Holy City and all the other tribes from all over the promised land, that have already gathered there to worship and Praise God.
Each tribe is there in order to join the others, for seven days of nothing but Praise and worship to God. Worship, was anticipated in the lives of these people and it must be so with us too.
But, let me tell you something, if you are not a private worshipper, if you are not doing something during the week to prepare yourself for public worship, to build up an anticipation for corperate worship, then you will not look forward to public worship like you should.
In fact, public worship will become something that you do, rather than something that you are. Private, Personal Worship will cause you to be eager, to be excited about the time that you will have together with the family of God
Ask God to give you a great anticipation to be with you brothers and sisters so that we can all praise his name and look forward to being with his body, when we come together.
You, know, by some of the attitudes people have about going to church or being involved in the activities of the church, one might think that some people believe that God gave us the church to punish us.
I mean, they have it in their minds that it is some kind of test of our faith to see how unenjoyable we can make it and then still leqve the building feeling better about it.
Some people would get suspicious, if people walked out of an assembly saying: Man, that was fun, that was good, that was an exciting service.
Most peoples first reaction would be, something wrong is going on in that church over there.
But growing in personal worship to God makes one eager to worship him in the assembly of his people.
God wants us to become as David was when he wrote in Psalm 42: . . . .
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with my God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul.
How I used to go with the multitude leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving, among the festive throng.
I don’t know about you but this does not sound like doing church was something painful to endure or a test to see how boring you can make it and still walk out with a smile on your face.
Hebrews 13: 15; “Let us continually offer up to God, a sacrifice of Praise, the fruit of our lips, that confess his name”.
I Peter 2:5, 9; “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ , , , You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.
Romans 12:1; “Offer you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship”.
Think about your life this morning, did you come here with anticipation to worship God? Or is this just something that you do, cause you’ve been doing it for so long?
Is this something that you do, just to make sure that you have accumulated enough points, so that when judgment day comes, you can at least squeeze through the pearly gates?
Ask God to give you that excitement and anticipation for worship that you first had when you came to know him.
But do it, as you grow in your own personal worship life and he will give it to you for corporate worship too.
Another blessing that you will receive as you grow in you personal worship life is a readiness to receive the word of God.
Worship should never be something that has to compete for your time. Because, worship, is able to break up the hard places in the heart, so that the seed of God’s word can be planted and sometimes that takes time.
How many times in the context of corporate worship has God spoken to your heart? How many times have you wanted to respond in some way to his prompting, but the invitation song was just three stanzas instead of five and time ran out before you were ready to let him have his way with you.
Worship should never be something that has to compete for your time. Because time is something God gives you, to spend on him!
Worship is more than just going through the motions, Worship should be a coming together of hearts and minds that have been prepared to receive the word of God, before they ever walked through that door.
You know what it’s like to preach for a congregation that has no anticipation no enthusiasm, no excitement for worship and praise to God?
It’s like being on a football team (Super Bowl Today) and being handed the ball at the other teams five yard line and then being told, OK preacher, your on your own, go and score a touch down.
What worship ought to be like for the preacher on Sunday’s, is like being given the ball on our own one yard line and the rest of the team lines up in front of me and tells me, we’re going to help you score preacher, your job on Sunday mornings, it just to not fumble the ball.
Hearts amd minds should be prepared to worship God with great anitcipation and excitement way before they cross that threshold and we should be able to see it and hear it.
Acts 13: (Verse 1) “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers” (Verse 2) While they were worshipping the Lord and Fasting the Holy Spirit said: “Set apart for me Barnabus and Saul for the work to which I have called them”. So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off”.
How, when, where did they receive the word of God concerning Barnabus and Saul? It was in the context of corporate worship wasn’t it? It was while they fasted and prayed together!
We too should never take a step in a new direction unless it comes after much prayer and fasting and worship.
In fact it is in the context of corperate worship and fasting that God is going to make our hearts and minds ready for what he wants us to do, as a body.
So lets give him our hearts, lets give him our minds, lets be eager to worship him, not only corporately but also in our personal private lives, let us be ready, willing and prepared to enter into worship and praise, before we ever walk through those doors on Sunday mornings.
Let us be a people who are filled with anticipation and excitement when it comes to worshipping him.
Lets do that today, do not any longer be afraid to worship and praise God in the way he is leading you too. Surrender your life to him. Get rid of the weight that you have been carrying around with you for so long, once and for all.
Come to the Lord Jesus Christ, heart, mind, soul, body and strength, do it now as we all stand and as we all worship him.