In the February issue, we looked at worship as a “holy appointment” in which we seek to meet God at the place and time of His choosing—to honor Him as Lord and King. We continue the discussion in this issue by looking at how and where we can meet Him.
How Can I Prepare for Worship?
Maybe you’ve heard the Yiddish axiom: “When the bride can’t dance very well, she says that the orchestra plays poorly.” When our worship experiences are less than we hoped for, our tendency is to blame the pastor for his “shallow sermon” or the music team for “not being in the Spirit” that day. It is true that a pastor might occasionally preach a less-than-inspired sermon, and even the best musicians sometimes play a sour note. However, the quality of what we receive at worship services and how we respond, depends largely upon the quality of our own preparation beforehand. How can we be ready to meet the Lord for worship?
Come to services with a humble heart. Ask God to search your heart and show you any obstacles that might keep you from hearing His message for you. Come with a frame of mind and spiritual attitude that will permit an encounter with God.
Pray for the one who is preaching that day. Pray that the Word of God will be spoken with clarity. Pray that the speaker’s message will bring conviction to those who need it.
Read preparatory scriptures. At home, read through the parsha for the week or ask the pastor for the Scriptures he will be using.
Familiarize yourself with the songs ahead of time. Ask the worship leader what songs will be sung at services. Look over the words and meditate on them.
Pray through the congregational directory before coming to services. Ask God to guide you to those He would have you encounter for His purposes. Ask Him how He wants you to minister to them.
Be prepared to participate! Be intentional in directing your heart wholly and consciously to the singing, prayers and teaching of the Word. Be a bride who dances well to God’s orchestra.
Once There, How Can I Uphold the Speaker?
Arrive early and pray. In addition to praying for your pastor at home before you leave, it is good to arrive early and sit quietly in the pew and pray. Many spiritual leaders are encouraged by the prayerful “early bird.”
Don’t engage your pastor in conversation just before he will be giving his message. Give him the space he needs to concentrate. Encourage others to do the same.
Sit as close to the front as possible. It’s encouraging for the minister to be able to actually see the smiles and nods of affirmation in response to the Word. It makes the worship experience more personal for everyone.
Bring a Bible—and use it! Take notes if it will help you remember what you’ve heard. When you’re actively involved like this, it sends a message to the pastor that his words are important. Pastors thrive on such encouragement and you will too.
Bring your friends to worship with you. Your congregation is like your home, and its members are your family. Widen the gates of your house and invite your friends in! This carries an affirming message to the congregational leader.
In these two sections, we’ve suggested some spiritual homework you can do before coming to worship. We’ve given you a few guidelines for upholding your pastor or congregational leader while at worship. But what if you don’t know where to worship? It’s sometimes difficult to discern where the Lord would have youïthere are so many good choices! Perhaps The principles provided in the following section can guide you:
How Do I Find a Place to Worship?
The prophet Isaiah told us, “We have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). It was true in the prophet’s day and it’s the same today. Too often, in our attempt to find a place to worship, we think more of our own needs and wants than what God wants for us and from us. We think that if we could just find the perfect place, the one that meets our specific wants and desires, we will be happy. But pleasing oneself brings only momentary fulfillment and ultimate disappointment. Pleasing God by fellowshipping and building up His people in the place of His choosing has eternal benefits.
Therefore, think dedication, rather than diversification. Many people choose a particular church or congregation because they’re impressed by the number and variety of programs offered. Yet God wants our worship experience to flow from our dedication to serving Him and others, rather than being based on how well we will be served and gratified. Pray and look for a place where you can dedicate yourself to service. And even if that place already has a number of good programs and many people to fill them, God will have a way for you to serve Him there too.
Look for a place that is geographically practical. If the closest messianic congregation is 90 minutes away, it might be wiser to attend a nearby Bible-believing church and visit the messianic congregation for holidays and special gatherings. God wants to use you and your gifts on a regular, ongoing basis and that’s more difficult to do from 90 miles away! A close place of worship also facilitates inviting unbelievers to whom you are witnessing.
Find a congregation first, then plan your life around it. If you’re planning to move, locate a place of worship you’d like to attend, and make that the basis for the neighborhood you choose. If the Lord is the essence of your life and the purpose for your existence, you should do everything possible to put Him first and plan your life around worshiping Him.
Though what we’ve written in these two issues is probably more exhaustive than conclusive, we hope one message has come through: Worship is an act of service. Through it, we come into the presence of our God and King. He left His high position and condescended to come to earth in the person of Yeshua, the Servant of God. We are to be moved to serve and exalt Him through our heartfelt dedication, expressed in praise, song and response to His Word. We are to be moved forward to serve others because of His example to us.
There is no perfect way or place to worship; just a perfect God to be worshiped. May we be challenged and prepared to go and meet Him there.
My thanks to Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen—I borrowed some of his ideas in putting together this article.