“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The various worship services offered in American churches reflect the culture of the country, they are diverse.

There is the traditional service which begins with a call to worship, confession of sin, congregational singing of familiar hymns, a pastoral prayer, the receiving of an offering, special music, an extended sermon based on a Bible text, an invitation, and a closing hymn, followed by a benediction.

There is the non-tradition worship service which emphasize entertainment, a fast-moving pace of lively, and extended, singing of a chorus, in some congregations a liturgical dance routine, a video clip, a drama presentation, a short message from a passage in the Bible, and a closing invitation.  In non-traditional worship, freedom is found to focus attention on a particular area of ministry, or favorite topic such as doctrine, missions, spiritual gifts, politics, or counseling. 

The therapeutic worship service flows out of the acceptance by Christians of non-traditional forms of worship, because, in keeping with the spirit of the age, worship is not about God, but self. People love to talk about themselves. “Pastor, I have needs. I have problems. Help me. Tell me what to do. Give me what I want. Affirm what I want to hear, say, and do. And pastor, if you don’t, I will withdraw my fellowship from you. I will be angry with you.” So, many pastors succumb. During the time designed to worship God, and to turn the hearts from self to the Savior, and spiritual matters, pastoral counseling takes place from the pulpit, and self-help messages are gladly given. People are told that God loves them, just as they are. The message is received and people think, “I do not need to change. I do not need to behave. I do not need to do right, or become a better person. God loves me as who I am.”

One practical problem with a therapeutic style of worship ministry, is that it does not change lives. The gospel changes lives, but therapeutic worship leaves the heart dissatisfied, and stunts spiritual growth. The evidence abounds this is the case. Religious people abandon the holy assembly whenever they do not feel like going to church. Some will engage in religious activity during the week in some form, such as having a daily devotion, studying the Bible, or engaging in “God talk” with someone, but this is done to salve their conscience, not to honor the Lord. They are too busy living in rebellion, disobedience, and anger, to be bothered with Biblical holiness.  Life is all about them, and their need for happiness, and personal satisfaction.

The seeker sensitive worship service attempts to be evangelical, and appeal to the unbelieving community, those who are said to be seeking after God. The Bible teaches that the Church, when it meets, is to minister to the saved, who are then to dispense and go out and evangelize the world. However, the modern-day Church has taken upon itself to focus the worship service on evangelism and bringing an audience, mainly of unbelievers, together to sing, and listen to a message from a Bible that is not believed by many congregated to be the Word of God.

The liturgical service does not concern itself with the lost, but values formal prayers, Scripture reading, and a strict order of worship. Some pomp and ceremony, along with burning candles, smoking incense, various processions, and a few incantations make the liturgical service bearable, and initially, interesting.

There is the spirit filled worship service which delights in lively music, and the manifestation of speaking in tongues, or unintelligible ecstatic utterances, with an emphasis on signs and wonders, and miracles. Of all the modern forms of worship, the spirit filled worship service can be the liveliest, and most sensational. People can bark like dogs, laugh like hyenas, roll on the floor, writher in escasty, and get slain in the spirit. Women can become as emotional as they want, and immodestly fall down while wearing a dress. This is not an issue, for a church worker can stand by to drape their legs and cover up their shame. That act of thoughtfulness adds to the show, and keeps the service moving. “Somebody shout, ‘Halleluiah!’”

In contrast to the spirit filled service is the doctrinal form of worship which is intellectually driven. Many important points are made, and then multiple subpoints. Notes are encouraged to be taken. Technical words are used, and detailed attention is paid to ideas, history, proper exegesis, and theological constructs.  

The doctrinal form of worship is not for the faint of heart. It requires a willingness to sit through long sermons, and concentrate. Noise of any type is discouraged, with the possible exception of a polite, and spiritual, “Amen”, following a musical special, or a good point made in the message.

At the end of the service there is some natural noise to be heard. It is the sound of people groaning as they unlimber their legs, and try to stand. There is some natural movement, not produced by the Spirit, but the shaking of the arms and legs, and rocking of the body, to get the circulation back.  

As the various forms of worship taking place in modern day Christendom are reviewed, care must be taken to remember how worship services were once conducted in the early Church. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

How simple it was in the beginning. How Spirit filled the congregations were then. Those who gathered for worship came to forget about themselves, and worship Christ the Lord. They came to sing songs to the Savior, and to remember His teachings. Without question, the early Christians would have be happy to sing with the saints today the lovely song composed by Bruce Ballinger.

“We have come into His house and gathered
In His name to worship Him
We have come into His house and gathered
In His name to worship Him
We have come into His house and gathered
In His name to worship Him
Worship Him, Christ, the Lord

So, forget about yourself and concentrate on
Him and worship Him
So, forget about yourself and concentrate on
Him and worship Him
So, forget about yourself and concentrate on
Him and worship Him
Worship Him, Christ, the Lord

Let us lift up holy hands and magnify His
Name and worship Him
Let us lift up holy hands and magnify His
Name and worship Him
Let us lift up holy hands and magnify His
Name and worship Him
Worship Him, Christ, the Lord.”

It was all so simple in the beginning.

“Lord, bring back the simplicity of worship. Let your people know once more the refreshing joy of coming together in love, forgetting about themselves, putting away all wrath, and anger, and continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Amen.”

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