What are the activities of the church? One list might go like this:
(1) Preaching and Teaching
(2) Evangelism, Missions, and Outreach
(7) Building Up Families
(10) Fellowship (MacArthur, Master’s Plan For The Church)
All of these have a New Testament basis. All of these are what every church should be doing. What do you think this church does well? What do you think this church needs to improve upon?
For many Christians, worship is what they would say is the most important thing that a church does. Or, at least what they think is worship. It may just be a certain level of excitement or entertainment or emotion that they are looking for.
Once at Longville, one of our Charismatic attenders told me that the worship was too dry. She said that one time (in about three years) I had led a good worship service, and I should do it that way more often. I was left scratching my head, because I remembered the service that she was talking about—it did seem especially powerful. But all I did was say at the beginning something like, “Do you want to just play church today or do you want to really worship?” Everything else I did was exactly the same!
But worship is deeper than emotions and entertainment—the Bible says that…
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23–24)
Worship is “in spirit,” in that it is not a physical system.
- True worship is not limited to a certain order of service. You don’t have to have three songs, a sermon, a prayer, and an offering.
- Worship has to affect the mind before the heart. Any kind of worship that consistently plays on the heart strings is going at worship backwards.
In the time before radios and televisions, many people came to church to be entertained by a powerful preacher who had a nice voice, in the same way many come to church today to hear a worship band. The Puritan
Thomas Watson had this to say about those who came just to be entertained:
Many go to the word to feast their ears only; they like the melody of the voice, the mellifluous sweetness of the expression, and the novelty of the opinions. Acts 17:21. This is to love the garnishing of the dish more than the food; it is to desire to be pleased rather than edified. Like a woman that paints her face, but neglects her health – they paint and adorn themselves with curious speculations, but neglect their soul’s health. (http://www.shortercatechism.com/resources/watson/ wsc_wa_057–062_b.html)
Worship is not about entertainment or emotions, it’s about offering ourselves before God. Worship isn’t something that works from the outside to the inside, it works from the inside out. John MacArthur writes:
When you go to church, do you really think about the songs you are singing or meditate on the things of God that you hear taught and preached? You need to cultivate a worshipful heart…Do you ever draw near to God in an unhurried way? Do you let your heart and mind ascend when you hear the hymns, Scripture readings, or prayer? Do you meditate in deep devotion? Remember, we are to be worshipful people. (John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Master’s Plan for the Church [Chicago: Moody Press, 1991].)
Prayer, as well as evangelism, might be the hardest activity of the church to do. In public, we’re too nervous to pray; in private, it’s hard to pray because no one is holding us accountable.
But prayer by the church and for the church is essential.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14) 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42) 11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. 12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. (Acts 12:11–12)
Paul is famous for his prayers that he included in his letters. Over and over again, in Colossians and Ephesians and Philippians to name a few, he prays for the church and asks for prayer from the church. His prayers and his prayer requests are good models for what we should be praying.
Consider the content of his prayers and prayer requests, what does he pray for:
3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: 4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3–4) 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (Ephesians 1:16–21)
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:16–19)
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18–20)
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
We also see that the church prayed when they chose and ordained leaders and missionaries.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2–3)
How do we pray as a church? Well, one way is to have a prayer meeting on Thursday night. Then there is the private prayers that we all should be doing in our homes. And then there’s the public prayers of pastors and deacons and worship leaders.
But when and how we pray shouldn’t be limited to the way that we’ve always done it. Some churches have a group of older people who meet together to pray for the church and it’s ministries.
Other churches have the women and men pray separately, or they break down into small groups spread throughout the sanctuary so that it is easier to pray and so more people can pray.
However we pray as a church, we must be committed to prayer. And, as you saw from the kinds of prayers the early church prayed, we must pray for more than just the physical needs of people. Their spiritual needs and growth are far more important in the light of eternity.