While on vacation, I read two new books on the subject of church in America. A Pew survey showed a decline of around 5,000,000 members from 2007 to 2014! Yes, that is FIVE MILLION!
What has happened? Young people are not going to church. I understand this in our family. Though our three children attended church, Sunday school, and went through confirmation class, they do not attend church.
When I have asked them about church their answer: “The church doesn’t offer me anything.” “ I don’t find any people our age in church,” “ The services does not speak to me.”
We (Anne and I) attend worship services on some Sunday mornings so I understand. While leaders in churches talk about importance of prayer, I discover that there is no prayer except maybe the Lord’s Prayer. (Oh, yes, the minister offers a blessing over the gifts and titles).
Church signs offer contemporary worship service or traditional services. What does that mean? In the contemporary service there may be a band or recorded music with the words on a screen. People will stand up and clap in the contemporary worship. While at the traditional they sing out of the hymnal. (The bulletin will tell you which color of hymnal to use.) Another church sign says we have “blend worship”.
I have discovered that some music in hymnal and some music maybe recorded or a band.
After the music has finished and the offering has been taken what can we expect? Perhaps a reading from the Bible or the pastor express/share some thoughts found in Old Testament of New Testament without reading the scripture.
The pastor message is often shorter in the contemporary worship than in the traditional worship. The music has taken longer and the minister has limited time. Worship has become a feel good time. This may be good or bad.
Life has good times. Life has hard times, too. There was a book written suggesting that bad things can happen to good people. I can feel guilty about the “good life” that we have been given when I hear and know about others. (A friend had a heart attack this week. My wife’s friend discovered that she has cancer. Two policemen were killed in a shooting. ISIS in Syria killed 143 Christians!)
From attending worship services and from reading I have shared some thoughts with you. Hopefully these are not your experiences. While in St. Paul we attended a “blend worship” near the RV park. They sang a song, “The Heart of Worship.”
The words from the chorus were:
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus”
What does that mean?
Acts 2:42 provide us with an important truth about the early church and the followers of Jesus. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer.”
Should this be “heart of worship” for the church today?
“Devoted the teachings of the Apostles,” means studying and gaining understanding of the word of God. It is vitally important that the word of God becomes an important part in every worship service. We need to know the word of God if it is our intention to know God!
Several years ago a book was published entitled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I think we need to learn in “God’s Kindergarten Classes” from his message we may start to live our lives.
In times tragic, sickness and death we gather with people for support and comfort. In the same way we need the “fellowship” of people in church. We can mentor each other in the learning of God’s word. We can provide support that surely will be needed in the path of our lives.
As we come together as a community and gather at God’s table we are at mountain top moment of worship in the “breaking of bread.” In the “breaking of bread” we are fulfilling the last moments of the life of Jesus. With the “the breaking of the bread” we meet with Jesus and his disciples. “The breaking of bread” is a holy act that we share as community of faith and with Jesus our savior.
Finally, the church worship is about prayer. Silence fills our worship as we come to our God in prayer. It is in silence that we flush our minds and free our souls to be in the presence of God in prayer.
Worship cannot be worship without time of prayer. Silence brings us together in the community of faith in our worship. Hearing God among us cannot happen with noise taking place in our minds and souls. Hearing God in worship happens when we have closed our eyes and shut down ourselves to experience God.
The heart of worship brings us to the church as community of faithful people with our God. Acts 2:42 contain the words for meaningful worship in our church. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer.” Amen, Amen, Amen.