What makes a good worship service?
Often, people will evaluate a service based on the quality of the music, the comfort of the seats, the freshness of the coffee, the personality of the preacher and other elements which the congregant is able to observe.
However, what if the impact of a worship service is not dependent upon these uncontrollable and sometimes subjective factors? What if there were a way to engage in a gathering of believers where the impact was determined by something more objective? By something more internal and intentional?
I suggest that when someone attends gathered worship on a Sunday morning, there are four R’s that not only should guide a believer’s experience, but also will make the investment spiritually profitable.
In the Old Testament, the Lord continually admonished the Israelites to remember. The focus of their memory was not to be on what they had done for God, but what he had done for them, especially in their momentous deliverance, when they were saved from slavery in Egypt. When they celebrated feasts such as the Passover, they were to remember that they were objects of mercy upon whom the Lord had set his affection.
The same is true for us when we gather together in the presence of God. We are called to remember. Not to remember the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, but to remember our own deliverance from sin an death by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Simply put, we are to remember the gospel.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says that when we come to him, it is not to work, but to rest, “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As we remember his work for us, we are able to rest from trying to save or sustain ourselves, knowing that we belong to him as adopted children–his beloved whom he will never let go. We are secure in our salvation, which is a gift that we were not able to earn or deserve. We can only receive such a gift.
As recipients of such grace, we gather to rest.
As we remember the gospel and rest in God’s grace, we receive fresh power as we abide in Jesus. Worship is not primarily about my giving to God, but about his giving to me.
After all, the Lord does not need anything from us. Oh, yes, the Bible speaks of giving God praise and ascribing to him worth and honor. No doubt.
However, those expressions are not to get, but are the overflow of a heart that has received, much like drinking from a cold spring may elicit a deep and satisfying “Ah!” from the one who is refreshed by the waters.
It is the same with worship.
We come to receive grace upon grace and be filled anew with the Spirit.
It should not come as a surprise that the final R is the praise which is that overflow of a satisfied soul.
The praise which we utter in song can be seen from two perspectives. One perspective is the law, where God demands our adoration. Does he deserve it. Absolutely, and we reveal a deep resistance to true goodness and beauty when we neglect the adoration of God. But rather than the demands of the law, the perspective that fuels the greatest praise is the gospel, where having remembered grace, rested in grace, and received fresh grace, we can’t help but to rejoice in our God of grace.
This final R does not flow as a requirement, but as a compelling response to the majesty, glory, goodness, justice, mercy, wisdom and kindness of God, which is embodied in the One whom we now call Father.
So, what makes a good worship service?
Let’s not put the pressure on the worship leader or even the preacher.
Let’s bring with us our four R’s of remembering, resting, receiving, and rejoicing, and we will be in a position to leave saying, “That was a really good service.”