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Sabbath: Unity in Worship — 10 Comments

  1. When we regard the church as a place to go on Sabbath and listen to a sermon, we have severely truncated the worship experience. Worship has to be participatory to be effective.

    Ellen White wrote:

    There are times when it is fitting for our ministers to give on the Sabbath, in our churches, short discourses, full of the life and love of Christ. But the church members are not to expect a sermon every Sabbath. Testimonies to the Church Vol 7, 19.2

    Perhaps we should be less dependent on preacher-centric worship and worship together with more participation. Time for some creative thinking here.

    I know that this is not the thrust of the lesson this coming week, but maybe who we worship has something to do with the way we worship. For many years I was involved in worship with an active role and spent some time each week thinking about and developing my contribution to the worship experience. Then I got the boot from my role and became a seated congregation member, standing up, kneeling, sitting and listening appropriately. If the community worship is the place where we develop unity, it is got to be more than behaving "decently and in order" in church.

    • Thanks for your suggestion, Maurice.

      I have been involved with some worship services that were more participatory. And they have been the most memorable and meaningful experiences of my many years in church. Here is how they are organized:

      Usually there is a chosen theme, perhaps even a 5-minute sermonette. Then members are asked to share on the chosen theme, often interspersed by worship songs.

      On a couple previous Sabbaths, members need to be notified of the upcoming participatory worship service and its theme, so they can be somewhat prepared. It also helps to specifically ask a two or three people to watch for lulls when people are a bit shy to speak and share their experiences then.

      It seemed to me that everyone went away with a great blessing, and all involved yearned for more of the same. (However, we found that some pastors and elders do not readily give up their "turn" to speak.)

      Some themes:
      Answered prayers
      Favorite promises (and why they are favorites)
      Blessings received
      Favorite Bible passages, and why they are favorites

      Not everyone will follow the theme exactly, but that's fine. The "theme" is just given to help people think of something to share, and it seems to work.

    • There is definitely a time and place for everything. God prescribes only one strict act of worship in the sanctuary service. David dancing before the Lord was another type of worship based on his joy and experience. And Jesus tells us how our worship must be composed of when he says it must be done in spirit and truth. Conclusion, sincerity of heart and a spirit of gratitude, love and adoration for Him, is what is required. Can we sin in our act of worship? Yes we can! "....for in vain do they worship me...." said Jesus in Matt. 15:9

      We ought to remember that when the temple of Solomon was being dedicated there was fanfare and noise (one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets), yet God responded with His glory filling the place 2 Chron. 5:14.

      We are also directed by culture: Moses and Joshua on two separate incidents could not come before the Lord in shoes because where they were, it was the custom to remove one's shoe in worship.

      What we are to leave worship with is a fulfilment of God's goodness and the joy of knowing that our worship has been accepted.


    • Maurice,

      I have heard members use the quote you used as an excuse for those sacred concert /music sessions where no sermon is presented.

      The quote you use reminded me of this one.

      "Often Make Sabbath Meeting a Bible Class—It has often been presented to me that there should be less sermonizing by ministers acting merely as local pastors of churches, and that greater personal efforts should be put forth. Our people should not be made to think that they need to listen to a sermon every Sabbath. Many who listen frequently to sermons, even though the truth be presented in clear lines, learn but little. Often it would be more profitable if the Sabbath meetings were of the nature of a Bible class study. Bible truth should be presented in such a simple, interesting manner that all can easily understand and grasp the principles of salvation." EV 348

      • I have no problem with a musical Sabbath. I would not want one every Sabbath. it is a bit like cake. Cake is nice but if it was the only food you had you would soon get sick of it. Every year the local Adventist School takes the service, featuring the school band and choirs. To see a large group of young people participating in an activity that gives glory to God is good for the soul.

        Your quote is a good one - and I am sure that more effort could be put into making the Sabbath activities Bible-based. Our church has a novel solution to this. They have purchased Bibles to be left in the pew so that those who do not have Bibles (Or their phones have run flat) have access to the scripture. During the sermon, the minister refers to texts in this "free" Bible by page number (recognising that nowadays some people have difficulty looking up standard text references). One effect of this approach is that the Bible is used a lot during sermons (the cynical among us might say they do that to get their money's worth out of the investment). However you look at it, the Bible is used increasingly as a result. (By the way, visitors are told that if they do not have a Bible at home they are welcome to take one with them.)

  2. What is worship? “Worship is simply giving God His worth: unreserved praise, unconditional, and absolute gratitude,” this according to John M. Fowler, in the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (2000, p. 236). Worship is an act of response to the eternal command of God: “Fear God and give Him glory . . . and worship Him who made heaven and earth” (Rev 14:7). We must not forget that Jesus made it His custom to go to church on Sabbath and so should we. \"As His custom was\" (Luke 4:16, NKJV). Worship at the synagogue entailed the reading of the Bible, praise, prayer, teaching and preaching. A sermon was a central feature and so should it be with us. At the synagogue Christ opened the book (Luke 4:17, NKJV). Going to church on Sabbath was in order to worship and to hear God’s Word. (Refer also to Mark 1:21, Mark 6:2, Luke 4:16-30, Luke 6:6-11, Luke 13:10-16, Luke 14:1-5). Going to church on Sabbath is not seeking to be entertained. I believe we go to church on Sabbath to worship God Almight; hear God speaking to us through the Spoken Word; be taught the greatest truths ever and be encouraged as well as challenged; inspired into action for Him and enjoy the fellowship with other believers.

  3. It is quite clear from a reading of the 1st angel's message, that worship is more than holding a formal service with group participation. Worship must become a way of life/living while "in this present world"(Titus 2:12). The Psalmist calls us to “worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness”. Without a holy life, can one truly worship the Lord by any other means? While many are tempted to despair over this thought, the good news is that the “exceeding great and precious promises of God” allow anyone to become a “partaker of the Divine Nature”, which is holiness. Our only reason for failing of this promised holiness is unbelief through harboring sin. So we could conclude that this 1st Angel's message is about breaking off our sin “by righteousness”(Dan 4:27), and being holy, as God is holy(1 Pe 1:15, 16)through faith in His promises. Attending worship services without this experience will never suffice.

  4. I really like the authors last sentence. We may not always come to church Holy as He is. But coming to Sabbath worship with gratitude to God expressed in community worship, or if you will once a month a participation praise service instead of a sermon, transforms lives into the character of God. Hay, we may come to Sabbath worship not thinking we need transformed, by the Grace of God we are transformed too.


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