Real Spiritual Worship

Church Matters

Randy Bain

Randy Bain (Submitted Photo / March 28, 2012)

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”—Romans 12:1

When I moved my family to seminary, many years ago, we had to find a church to attend. Prior to seminary, I had preached for seven years, serving a small church in the Punxsutawney area, Albion Heights, for three years and then adding three more churches, the Sandy Creek Charge, for my four years at college. At seminary, we chose to attend the large United Methodist Church next door.

The first two Sunday’s were glorious worship experiences for me. Being led in worship and hearing the Word of God proclaimed by another was inspirational. On the third week, however, I began asking questions of the worship. Was it meaningful for me? Did I like the way the minister ended the service? Did he challenge me appropriately?

From that point on, my worship experiences during my seminary years went downhill. I struggled to understand where the glorious feelings of the first two weeks went. My worship of God declined when I began taking the pulse of every service. When I began measuring how much I was getting out of the service rather than how much of myself I was surrendering, my worship to God was neither holy nor pleasing.

Last weekend, I had the privilege and responsibility of interviewing possible candidates for Bishop. I asked one candidate what changes needed to take place in the United Methodist Church for it to continue to be a viable witness in our time. He responded with three changes: (1) We must change our thinking that the church exists for us to an understanding that the church exists for those who are not yet there. (2) We must change our understanding of worship from how much I like it to how much of myself I surrender to the Lord in worship. (3) We must change our concept of Christian growth from making members to making disciples.

I began to think about my understanding of worship. Last Sunday, we had a great kickoff service for our 100th Anniversary year. We combined our two services into one unified service at 9:30 AM followed by a pancake and sausage brunch. The service was awesome. Everyone I spoke with loved it. We sang old favorites and shared testimonies about how the ministry of Oakland Church had blessed our lives.

After all the dust had settled, I had the realization that the service was all about us and we loved it. We usually have four or five visitors per Sunday, but on our 100th Anniversary Kickoff, in the nearly-full sanctuary, I could identify only one new person. We didn’t advertise the breakfast to the public because we were completely overcrowded just feeding ourselves. No room for outsiders. Ouch! Did we really say that?

Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). True spiritual worship according to Romans 12:1 is to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” We should measure the quality of our worship by asking, “How much of myself did I surrender in service to God and others?” Giving of oneself, holy and pleasing to God, is our spiritual act of worship.

I don’t seek to ruin your worship experience or criticize anything your church does or doesn’t do; rather, I want to encourage us all to seek to be true worshippers who surrender our lives to Jesus Christ. It’s not about us, but it’s all about God and others. Remember Jesus’ two great commandments are to love God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Let us measure our worship by how much we give rather than how much we receive.

Randy Bain is the Senior Pastor of Oakland UM Church located at 1504 Bedford Street in Johnstown. You may reach him through the church website HYPERLINK "http://www.oaklandumc.com"www.oaklandumc.com.
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