I think a great deal about worship, corporate worship specifically. When I served as president of the Pastors’ Conference, I noticed something that disturbed me. While I am committed to minister to ministers, I do not think all ministers get it. In fact, I wonder why some are in the ministry.
During the Pastors’ Conference, there were “men of God” reading the newspaper, text messaging and talking back and forth while other men of God were preaching their hearts out on the platform. I found myself challenging my peers to “listen to these men who have a message from God the way you expect your members to listen to you.” Apparently, some of them pastor churches where the Sunday paper is the text for the day.
Revival will never come to a church where the pastor has no greater concern for the Word of God than that. You can’t expect the pew to react positively to the Word if you approach someone else’s preaching as nothing more than background noise while you text your lunch plans to your friends. I know for a fact that one former president of the Southern Baptist Convention spent an entire session sending text messages and talking while his peers were preaching. It’s enough to tick off a prophet.
Let me be clear—these men are in the minority. The overwhelming majority came to the conference to hear from God. This was evidenced by the several thousand who made it to the altar at the close of the sessions. There was weeping, repentance, crying out to God—a total contrast to the “let’s leave early and beat the crowd” group that started leaving before the last speaker was finished.
I’m not running for any offices, and I am content to preach at Sherwood so here’s my thought. If a “man of God” doesn’t care any more about the Word of God than some did, for the love of God, resign and sell shoes. Get out of the ministry. You are killing the rest of us with your “don’t give a rip” attitude. Quit making a mockery of ministry and move on.
Now let me be clear about the laity. We have a growing problem in churches among the so-called saints. Few bring their Bibles, and many have no intention of actively engaging. They are nothing more than spectators, waiting for the musicians and preacher to perform.
Douglas Webster said it well, “It’s almost comical—if it weren’t so bad—to watch some people come to church. The worship service might as well be a sporting event. The call to worship and opening hymn are treated like the opening preliminaries of a basketball game before the buzzer. They are so accustomed to running around, arriving late and leaving early that they have no patience for quiet preparation. They make up an audience of busy people who need music and sermons especially designed to distract them from their preoccupations. In the absence of self-discipline and personal devotion, worship is something done for people and to people. The extent of people’s willed commitment to worship amounts to showing up fifteen minutes late, rushing to a seat and studying a bulletin.”
Is that really any different than offering a golden calf and turning to false gods? After all, the people wanted a god they could see, feel and touch, and they were tired of waiting on Moses to bring them the Word, so they just decided to entertain themselves. They didn’t have cell phones, text messaging or newspapers, but they did have enough gold to make an idol. Could it be idolatry to think that anything and everything is more important than sitting at the feet of Jesus? To read the USA Today while the preacher is expounding the infallible Word of God is evidence of a heart that knows nothing about grace and holiness.
How’s your worship? Do you take it seriously? Let me ask a few questions, and you answer them for yourself.
Do you find yourself always running late? Would you do that for school or your job? If not, then your school or job means more to you than worshiping the Lord.
Do you look for ways to miss church? A quick trip to the beach or the lake? Company at the house? A few chores that you just have to get done? Isn’t that taking worship lightly?
Do you find yourself coming to church and never opening your Bible? When you follow along with the preacher, you are hearing and reading the Word for yourself. Your eyes and ears are engaged, and you double your chances of seeing and hearing from God.
Do you ever think about the personal application of the songs you sing? Do you just sing words, or do you allow the words to penetrate your heart?
Are you prayed up when you come? Do you expect to hear from God? Do you ask God to speak to you before you ever walk in the room? If you expect little, you’ll receive little.
Do you stand around and talk in the atrium as long as possible and then slip in, or do you get in and give yourself a few minutes to take a deep breath and get ready for worship?
Do you allow the offering plate to go by without ever putting anything in the plate? Do you repeatedly come to church and offer God that which costs you nothing?
Does the thought of prioritizing Sunday around the Lord hit your radar screen? Is one hour on Sunday enough for you? Is that all your faith means to you?
Are you ever tempted to leave early because you want to beat the crowd to lunch? Is worship something you are trying to get out of, or are you like Joshua who found a way to linger at the tent of meeting even after Moses left?
Are you like David, glad, rejoicing and celebrating when someone talks about going to church? I can’t wait for Sundays. They are the best day of the week. I get my spiritual love tank filled on Sunday. How about you?
One last word for all of us. We better take worship seriously. God is so serious about it that He’s planning on us doing it for eternity. Are you thinking about skipping out early, giving half-hearted praise or lip service in glory? If so, you might want to see if you even want to be there or if you are going. Why would anyone want to go to heaven and do for eternity what they have no desire to do a couple of times a week? Think about it and show up ready to worship this Sunday. No, I mean really worship—on time, engaged, focused and yielded.
(Michael Catt, copyright 2008)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.