I just have to tell you that I have never been much of a "RULES" kind of person. While I recognize that rules are absolutely necessary in every part of our society so as to maintain order and organization, there is just something about a bunch of rules that makes my inborn sin nature flair up. Yet, what I know is that rules keep me safe. Rules keep me sane. Rules hold me accountable. Rules help not only me, but they help everyone around me.
When it comes to a church I have found that people run to one extreme or the other. On the one hand there are those that believe church, the Bible, and God are only all about rules. They look at something like the 10 Commandments which give to us by God to keep order and to give us freedom as something that is nothing but a bunch of unnecessary rules. On the other hand there are those that come into the church and for them "everything goes!" They come to church and do or say things they would never say or do at work or even in their own home.
It is this later group that I want to address today. What I have learned as a pastor is that Satan works in people's lives in one of three ways: Deception, Doubts, or Distractions. Some times Satan works in a combination of these things, even in a church on Sunday. So what I want to do is I want to help you and everyone around you have a better worship experience by giving you some "rules" or some suggestions related to worship.
Here is the question: What can make the worship experience better at my church?
1. Come to worship with a sense of expectancy!
I want you to realize that the reason nothing much ever happens in the worship service of a church is because people walked through the doors not really expecting anything to happen. Your entire experience will change if you come expecting God to talk to you, challenge you, motivate you, call you, or use you.
2. Come to worship prepared!
I am afraid that during worship a lot of people receive exactly what they prepared to receive...nothing! Worship is a special time in the presence of God where we can show God and express to God how much we love Him. So let me give you some hints that will help you.
>> Pray! - Spend time in prayer before you arrive, when you arrive, and during your time of worship. Open yourself up to God's leading and communication in your life.
>> Invite others to attend with you! - Research in recent years suggests that the # 1 reason more of our friends, relatives, associates, co-workers, and neighbors do not attend church is that no one has personally taken the time to invite them to attend with them. In fact 3/4 of unchurched people who were surveyed said they would likely go to church if a friend invited them to attend.
>> Be on time! - You wouldn't be late for work or school! Why would you not be more prepared to get up and be to church on time on Sundays? Certainly the Lord is worth a little of our effort isn't He?
>> Check your preferences at the door! - Worship is about honoring God, not about the church staff singing your personal preference song list or genre, what you think the temperature of the sanctuary should be, the décor of the building, the amount of lights that are on or off, or what version of the Bible from which the pastor reads. The focus must be on the Lord and not on us!
3. Intentionally look for and welcome guests!
Most churches think of themselves as being a "friendly church." In some cases it is true, but more often than not they are really only "friendly" to one another. Guests need to be welcomed, talked to, introduced to others, given directions, encouraged, prayed for, invited to a small group class, & have their questions answered. Who better to do this than you?
4. STOP the worship disruptions!
Ok...can we just get real for a few moments! Please...I beg of you...go to the bathroom BEFORE the services starts! The only time you need to get up and move around during the service is if it is welcome time, there is an emergency, you have a medical condition, or you are making a decision during the invitation. Otherwise, do not get up and down, walk in and out, and cause distractions. Remember...Satan works in distractions. A few more quick notes:
>> Babies...We all love babies, but unless you have a newborn then in most churches there is a well-staffed nursery ready and waiting to care for your baby. Here at FBC the workers have to pass a background check and you are issued a pager. If there is any kind of issue, you will be paged. If you need to have the baby in the service, sit toward the back so as to not be a distraction to others if you are forced to get up.
>> If you get up during the service...If for some reason you have to get up and walk out during the service, when you enter, sit in the back. Do not parade back down in front of everyone during the special music or sermon and climb over everyone on the row to get back to your seat.
>> Smart phones...These are great for taking notes or looking at the scripture passage, but is it necessary to check your Pintrest board during worship? Do you really need to be posting a cat picture on Facebook or setting the line up for your fantasy team? The phone not only distracts you, but others around you. Silence that phone when you walk in the building and do not use it except for worship purposes.
5. Make room for everyone!
If you really want worship to run smoothly and you want guests to feel welcome and at home, then one of the best things you can do is to stop walking into the sanctuary and "plopping down" in the back seats. Move forward and move toward the middle in the sanctuary. You will be making room for everyone to come in and be comfortable, as well as put yourself in a position to pay closer attention to everything that is being said, sung, or done in the service.
6. Respond during the invitation!
The invitation is not the church's invitation, nor is it the pastor's invitation. The invitation time is the Lord's invitation for you to get out of your seat and come to publicly do business with Him. Yes a person can make important decisions sitting in their seats, but you'll remember it more, build accountability into your life, and have others who will pray with you if you respond publicly. To sense the Lord calling you to come and to refuse to come because of pride or embarrassment, is to disobey God.