More from our series on church and worship. Some musings on what it really means to come to a service “prepared”. (A) Arrive early
We encourage our team to come early to our Sunday gatherings to pray together for the gathering, to ask the Holy Spirit for a corporate infilling, and to get a feel for the communal sense of expectation.
There are a few anomalies that are fairly predictable prior to church gatherings. Husbands and wives will typically have their worst arguments just as they are about to leave for important meetings. We encourage couples to be on the lookout for this area of attack and to come along to the pre-meeting prayer and ask for prayer so that they can find relief and be able to participate with clean consciences. Also, first-time visitors are typically early. We need to be ready to welcome them, grab them a bagel, tell them a little about the community, give them a heads up about the after party, get their email address and phone number, and invite them into a casual gathering in the next couple weeks.
Those who come first are usually the last to leave. (B) Bring something to share
The list of suggested ways we can contribute in meetings in first Corinthians chapter fourteen is nothing more than a teaser. For curiosity’s sake, let’s explore a little further. We could come prepared to read something from the previous weeks daily readings; we could bring twenty dollars to buy a newcomer lunch at the after party; we could come ready to take someone aside during the worship and pray for God’s goodness to overtake them; we could come ready to lead out in prayer for a corporate infilling of the Holy Spirit; we could come ready to bring everyone’s attention to a world issue and then lead us in intercession of God intervention; we could come ready to call everyone to offering up a sacrifice of praise if the atmosphere is heavy; we could come with a poem to read; we could bring a prophetic word which we have run by the elders in advance; we could bring a card with a written encouragement for someone; we could bring a special financial offering, and we could go on and on.
All in all, we encourage our team to come to meetings with generous hearts, more focused on what they are hoping to give than what they would like to receive; and being prepared to lay aside their personal desires to be ministered to so that they can minister to others. Jesus did not come to be served but rather to serve. If we have a particular need, we can always ask for ministry after we have attended to others.
Not only do we want to build up those in attendance at our gatherings, but we also want to find ways to bless others in our orbit, whether it be praying for them or signing a communal greeting card to send them our love.
Some of our team will have their contribution spelled out for them for the Sundays that they are on the roster to do production or kids ministry. For scheduling reasons, we discourage people from serving in both of these two activities. (C) Come convicted
It is tempting to hold off sharing what we brought to the meeting until we are 100% sure that we are in the flow, and, in so doing, we miss out on the opportunity to inspire the body as we step out in faith. If you come with something to share, please be encouraged to share it confidently in the same way that you would join in a regular conversation, and not feel like you need to wait for a certain amount of extended silence before plucking up the courage to jump in. If you dilly-dally and then someone else shares something similar to what you had on your heart, please avoid redundant verbal reinforcements and confirmations late in the game when you realize you have been sitting on something relevant.
If your contribution is verbal, please be encouraged to speak loudly, slowly and clearly, and to use the microphone. And, when others have difficulty in using the microphone, be encouraged to jump up and help out. Pauses are O.K. when you find yourself tripping over yourself. Take a minute to regain your composure rather than stumbling over your words and battling to finish your sentences. Pace yourself. Try not to apologize or ask if people understand what you are trying to say. Humor can be a wonderful thing, but please be sensitive when joking around.
If you feel you have something that would be good to open up a time of worship, please submit this to the elders in advance of the meeting. (D) Discriminating
This boldness needs to be balanced with an intelligent sensitivity. Not everyone who comes prepared to contribute will have the opportunity to do so and we need to have discernment. If a theme emerges in the meeting and it becomes clear that God is addressing something specific, please stick to the plot and do not throw in something from left field. If the atmosphere is reflective and people are taking stock of their lives, please do not choose that moment to ask for prayer for your cousin’s recurring knee problem. If the community is distracted and struggling to break through spiritually, please do not tell a joke to loosen the atmosphere. Please be commonsensical. We would never think of moshing at a symphony concert or adding a dollop of humus to our stir-fry noodles. Let’s keep this same basic sensibility when it comes to worship, and teach others to do likewise along the way.
Let’s behave in God’s house in the same way that we would like for others to behave in ours. In Malachi chapter one the prophet challenges the nation of Israel to take a look at the nonchalant way they have been approaching God. He insists that they would never think of engaging with an important political dignitary with the same sloppiness with which they have been approaching God. A culture of honor begins with the way that we engage with God.
If in doubt about your contribution, or if you have a prophetic word that could impact the future of the church or someone’s life or the meeting-at-hand, be encouraged to submit it to an elder before stepping out. (E) Eagle-eyed
There is something to be said for asking God to give us eyes in the back of our heads so that we can become “omnipresent” hosts. We encourage our team to be aware of the dynamics in the room prior to and during our meetings. When a visitor walks in, we should find a polite way to postpone conversations with family so that we can welcome them. If a visitor has kids, we should let them know about the kids’ ministry and walk them over to the facilities to introduce them to the kids’ ministry team. We never want newcomers to be left floundering. Equally as important, when the meeting is over, we need to continue our hospitality toward newcomers before continuing conversations with the core community.
There are a number of things we need to look out for during the meetings as well. We ask you to keep an eye out for latecomers and to make sure that they find a chair and are given a bottle of water. We also ask our team to be alert as to who ministers over individuals and how they minister. We encourage the team to not be shy in bringing adjustment when they see a person laying hands on someone of the opposite sex in an inappropriate way. We ask the team to learn to anticipate the domino effect of things that happen and to be one step ahead of the game.
We do not want people that we do not know ministering personal prophetic words in an unaccountable fashion. We ask our team to be very aware of this dynamic and to be guiding people to prophesy in a biblical way, allowing for words to be judged. When we feel like we have something prophetic to share, it is always best to have another person alongside us to help all parties remember what was said and to keep everyone accountable. But it is best to share first with the elders.
Community life is inherently messy. Similarly, learning together is an irregular activity. We are constantly ministering into a wide range of situations – all the way from caring for “new babes” to training up leaders. So, while one person might be feeling challenged to their core, another might be feeling as if we are only scratching the surface. While someone is struggling because we are moving too fast, another will be bored with repetition. Let’s be aware of this reality and be looking for ways to encourage grace, and to help people develop a wide-angled view of what God is doing. (F) Filled with the Holy Spirit
One of the greatest privileges in knowing Jesus is living in the presence of his Holy Spirit. Let’s come to our gatherings having asked for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit over our lives.