Pastor’s Friday Comments (07.17.20)

In the email I sent with the worship material last Friday, I included these two sentences: “As you participate in worship, let me encourage you to utilize the entire service. Every element has its own value, and together they make a greater impression on us than any hymn or prayer or sermon can by itself.”

I believe those sentences are true, regardless of the medium, style, or place of worship, but I think they are an especially important reminder during this time when we are all worshipping in our homes. When we are worshipping corporately in the sanctuary, it would be unusual – and certainly noticeable – if someone came in about the time the sermon began and left as soon as it was over. When you are engaging in worship at home no one knows.

Except I can get a little glimpse. Most of you access the worship material through our YouTube channel. The good people at that site provide helpful analytics that give us a glimpse of how many times our worship material is utilized and the duration of each. Since the analysis doesn’t tell us how many people are worshiping together, it isn’t as clear a picture as it would be if we were all in one place, but it is revealing nonetheless. (After a few weeks, I realized I was bringing down the average viewing time because I check periodically to make sure everything is functioning, and only staying on for a couple of minutes.) 

Let me just tell you my personal experience. Soon after I upload the sermon, usually by the middle of the week, I watch it with a critical eye. I see points that could have been better expressed, illustrations that didn’t work as I had hoped, instances where I wasn’t confident in delivery. This is not a worshipful experience, but it may make me a better preacher.

On Sunday, however, I engage in worship. I read the call to worship, listen prayerfully as Glenn reads a Scripture passage and offers a prayer for us all. I sing, usually inaudibly, on each of the hymns. I am consistently moved by Carey’s solo. And, though it is something of a surreal experience to watch myself, I try to listen carefully to the sermon and glean some truth from it. Quite often I gain an insight that I hadn’t gotten from the biblical study, commentary work, or writing.

And through it all I experience the presence of God. It takes every element of the service to get me out of my own head and away from the distractions and concerns of the week. It isn’t something I can rush through or dabble in. I need it all.

I am extremely grateful for the work that Carey and Denise Huddlestun and Glenn Gray put into the elements of worship. I am always struck by how, through their intentionality and the work of the Holy Spirit, each part fits into the whole and presents a coherent theme. I hope you see the same thing.

Thank you for using the material each week for your own worship. One of the thoughts that has struck me as I have been compelled to watch the video of my own preaching is the level of commitment to discipleship you must have to sit through something like that every week. I pray it does you some good.

But I know, if you haven’t been doing it already, that your feeling of God’s presence will be greater if you take the time for a complete worship experience. Let’s continue to pray for the time when we can all do that again in God’s sanctuary.