AS WE GATHER TOGETHER

Moraine Hills State ParkWell, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you. [1 Corinthians 14:26 (NLT)]

If you’re like us, when you visit a new church, you tend to sit toward the back so you can view the rest of the congregation and see when people stand, sit or kneel. If communion is served, you probably anxiously look around to see how it is done in that church. After all, we  want to worship “correctly.”

While there often appears to be a certain way to worship in a particular parish or a specific denomination, there is no one right way for us in our personal worship of God. At a church we recently visited, a young woman spontaneously stepped into the aisle and did a beautiful dance during a rousing praise song. The dance was her worship gift to God (and a blessing for the rest of us). While I pray silently when the pastor offers a prayer, I often hear people around me quietly adding their own petitions during his prayers. Recently, while the rest of the congregation sat, a woman stood and clapped her hands in praise during one of the songs. Some people shout a loud “Amen!” or applaud during the sermon when they heartily agree with the pastor while others quietly nod their heads. At our northern church, one woman’s “Amen!” at the end of every prayer can be distinctly heard above the rest of the congregation. At our Florida church, some people kneel and pray at the altar rail following communion while others quietly return to their seats for prayer. Kneeling in prayer, making the sign of the cross, genuflecting before entering a pew, or raising our arms during a praise song are all ways various people worship but not the way all people do. Nevertheless, if those actions come from the heart, they all are the correct way!

One size does not fit all in clothing and certainly not when it comes to either private or communal worship. Worship is an intensely personal act; we each bring our own unique worship style with us wherever we go. Some of us are staid and reserved while others are ebullient and demonstrative. The joy of the more expressive worshippers often enriches the worship experience for all and I imagine God prefers an enthusiastic “Amen” to a half-hearted one any day! Whether alone or with others, the important thing is to come before our Lord with love, passion, praise and thanksgiving.

In spite of my words, I’ll continue to play it safe and sit in the back when visiting a new church. After all, no one wants to be the person in the front row left standing when everyone else is seated! Then again, God doesn’t mind so why should we?

Worship is an inward feeling and outward action that reflects the worth of God. [John Piper]

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. [Psalm 89:15-16 (NLT)]

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