How Then Should We Worship?
It was an unusual comment. He was with a group who came to our church to use our facilities for a civic event. I was fairly new at the church and he told me he went to a neighboring church. "We don't worship like you do," he said with a smile. I got the impression he was making a judgment about our worship.
His comment, however, reminded me that every church I've known worships differently. Every church is a unique mix of folks with unique social and denominational traditions.
I've been to a few Episcopalian services over the years and I appreciate the grand reverence of their worship. The readings and prayers highlight the majesty of God and their services remind us of the holy God Isaiah saw in his call experience (Isaiah 6).
I had the happy experience of being stated supply at a PCA (Presbyterian) church for nearly four years. The Book of Church Order prescribed how services should be conducted. I was forced to think through the prayers I offered since the pastor prayed four or five times in each service. I appreciated the mandated petition to God for forgiveness and the assurance of pardon spoken to the people as we confessed our sin. The PCA minister ends the service with a blessing instead of a benediction, and a kind lady gave me a document with several blessings on it after seeing my unfamiliarity with this tradition!
Donna and I served an American Baptist church in Indiana when I was in seminary in Louisville. The folks there enjoyed putting her on the piano bench and singing the gospel songs of the South. They loved gospel preaching, too, and told me their best pastors always came from Alabama and Georgia!
I have a cousin who preached in Africa and he showed a film of the people dancing and celebrating when one of their number accepted Christ. He said the celebrations sometimes would last an hour. I've wondered how this would go over in our time-conscious American services!
When I was a child my mother's only sister took us with her to a revival service one night in her Nazarene church in Georgia. I still remember my aunt running down the aisle testifying of God's goodness to her.
Another unique phenomenon in the South is the cowboy church. Ranchers and rodeo folk enjoy worshipping together and the music is most often sung with guitar rather than organ or piano or synthesizer.
So many worship styles, yet all offer praise to the same Lord.
If we bring people into his presence, welcoming all without partiality, and if we offer a word of hope and encouragement, I believe we've worshipped well.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., and adjunct instructor of speech at Jefferson State Community College, Hoover. Permission is granted to use this material with attribution.