I would like to welcome you to the President’s Place. The President’s Place is a place on our website where you can find devotionals, news and current events with prophetic implications, and engage in dialogue concerning spiritual issues. You will be able to ask and get your questions answered from the President’s prospective.
“Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come” is one of the most beloved Christmas carols around the world. Written by Isaac Watts in 1719 and adapted and arranged to represent the Christmas season by Lowell Mason some 100 years later, creates a festive mood when heard, sung, or recited.
It is interesting to note that Isaac Watts wrote this song based on Psalm 98, which highlights praise. Praise in church has become the focus of worship services today. All too often, the litmus test for great worship is determined by how the choir sings or how the preacher preaches. While I want to hear good music, and I want to hear the preacher share the Word with great power and authority, I also want to come to church having practiced my worship on a daily basis.
Notice how Paul describes worship in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (English Standard Version)
True worship is comprised of not only saying amen, waving hands, shouting or quiet reflection, but true worship is about how we provide service to others. God gets more praise in how we live during the week than He does in how we act on Sabbath morning.
As we enter into 2016, let’s make a commitment to worship God by the way we live on our jobs, in our homes, in our cars as we are driving. Having the Holy Spirit in our lives and making a difference in how we treat one another will bring forth true praise.
What does a healthy church look like?
Recently at one of our Executive Committee meetings, this question was raised. Of the responses given, many fell within the traditional model of Adventist liturgy. I am often amazed that we give other practices all kinds of names; however, in principle we are doing the same thing.
I visited one of our more traditional churches recently and had the opportunity to participate in a discussion concerning music. Hold your horses, I am not going there in this document. The conflict was over having a praise team. I reminded the saints that praise teams have been around since the inception of our church. They were just called by a different name, Choristers! The general idea was to lead the congregation in songs of praise to God.
Let’s take a look at the five basic components of a healthy church:
1. SABBATH SCHOOL
Please don’t read into this, “9:15 on Sabbath morning.” While 9:15 is an acceptable time, it is not the only time Sabbath School can take place. Sabbath School was designed for the church members to have healthy dialog concerning the Word of God. The Sabbath School Quarterly will take you through a 7-year cycle of addressing the main theological tenants of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. While the church seeks to produce lessons for the general study of the Body, there is nothing wrong with special studies based upon specific needs or challenges within your context.
The idea of Sabbath School is akin to small groups which take dedicated time to study God’s Word, and its participants engage in dialog concerning the subject matter. Let’s not get caught up in what it is called or what time it takes place. A healthy church is going to provide opportunities for this type of study to take place among its members and friends.
2. DIVINE WORSHIP
This is a time for the church to come together in corporate worship, and praise God on His Sabbath Day. While there is no sacredness in a specific time, there is value in knowing that individuals of like faith in different time zones are meeting with the singular intent to worship the Creator of Heaven and Earth. This is a service that should be well planned and yet, have room for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide throughout the service. There is value when saints of God come together and sing songs of praise. There is value in the saints practicing their stewardship of giving, exercising their spiritual gifts, and planning their time of service. There is value in the saints of God coming together to pray for one another and the organization as a whole. There is value in hearing a prayed-over, well-thought-out, Holy Spirit-inspired message, and receiving an invitation to join the Body of Christ.
Divine worship also allows for the ordinances of the church, such as Baptism, Communion, and the Right Hand of Fellowship, to name a few. The assembling of ourselves together provides for support and encouragement of the membership. As a mainstay in the believer’s life, this time enables the members to identify those that are not present and gives opportunity for the pastor and members to seek out and be supportive of those that are missing.
3. CHILDREN AND YOUTH ACTIVITIES
Programming for our children and youth has been a staple in the Adventist Church. From Missionary Volunteers to the Adventist Youth Society to Children’s Church, Pathfinders and Adventurer’s, the church has attempted to provide specific time to nurture our young people. Successful churches in this generation must place top priority on our children.
Recently I had a conversation with one of the senior members of our church and we talked about the years of the Depression. She recounted with heartfelt emotions on how as children they would eat even when there was little or no food left for her parents. This is the kind of sacrifice successful churches will have to start making if we are going to maintain the interest of our children and youth.
The Sabbath School, Children’s Church and AY programs are going to have to be better funded if they are going to compete with the new learning styles our children are now exposed to. We can no longer believe that somehow the dominant culture will not attract our children and youth just because we bring them to church and they have to sit through a worship service that is designed to address the needs of Adults. Our Children’s Ministry department is ready to assist our churches in growing in this particular area.
4. CHURCH FELLOWSHIP
The early church spent significant time in fellow-shipping together. Healthy churches will have consistent prearranged opportunities for the membership to come together outside of scheduled worship experiences. These events should be designed to enable members and visitors alike to have wholesome recreations and socialization with one another. There is a commonality that Christian believers experience that helps to strengthen our faith as we mingle one with another. These social opportunities also help to integrate friends and visitors into our faith community that helps them to understand that you can have fun in the Adventist Church. Often, new believers are introduced to a whole new way of lifestyle that requires significant changes in behavior patterns. Fellowship helps to make the transition easier as they are exposed to a culture that should be Christ centered.
5. PLANNED EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH
Healthy churches are churches where Evangelism is a lifestyle and not just an event. This takes training and not just announcements from the pulpit. Members should be taught how to witness on their job, in their community through lifestyle behavior patterns. Acts of kindness! Joyful expressions that witness to the reality that Jesus is soon to come and that we have the assurance that our salvation is secured.
This is the model Jesus used in winning souls to the kingdom.
a. He mingled with people
b. He sought to meet their needs
c. He bid them follow Him
Our public evangelistic efforts will then serve as reaping meetings for the new friends and visitors that will start attending our churches as a result of the members’ involvement in lifestyle evangelism.
What kind of church do you attend?
Let’s Talk About it!
Let’s Make It Better!