Imagine a church that was advertising a worship service like this……….would you attend?
- Service will last 3 hours in total.
- The typical posture being standing throughout the majority of time if you are physically able.
- There were no musical instruments. (Sorry no piano, drums, guitars, band, choir or orchestra.)
- The Lord’s Supper is observed every single week.
1st Segment of the Worship Service – “The Service of the Word”
- This will be open to three groups of people:
- Baptized believers
- Those needing and receiving instruction and leading in the Christian faith
- We will also allow those who were merely curious about what we believe. Possibly seeking Christ.
- Order of the 1st Segment
- Opening greeting from pastor and response from the congregation.
- Old Testament scripture reading by a deacon.
- Singing of a song (usually a psalm)
- New Testament scripture reading by a deacon from one of the 4 gospels.
- Sermon will be delivered by pastor, congregation can be seated.
- Dismissal of all but baptized believers.
2nd Segment of the Worship Service – “Prayers and the Lord’s Supper”
- Only open to believers who had been baptized. The rest will have to and be given time to leave.
- The church body understands congregational prayer as “participating by the Holy Spirit in the glorified Christ’s own heavenly ministry of prayer”—something unbelievers could not share in since they did not have the Spirit.
- Order of the 2nd Segment
- Prayer time
- Pastor will announce prayer topics and the church will pray over/about them silently.
- Pastor will ask for prayer requests from congregation and voice prayers for these petitions.
- Pastor will repeat this pattern with new topics.
- The Lord’s Supper
- The church will participate in communion by breaking bread and taking of juice. (wine)
- Closing Prayer and Dismiss
- Prayer time
Now if you are being honest, based upon what I have seen and experienced in the last 17 years of ministry in the church, I think I lost most of you at 3 HOURS IN TOTAL and STANDING MOST OF THE TIME.
Let me go ahead and ease your fears, this is not our plan for a new service at FBJB, it is the order of service and description for a typical church service in the late 1st century to 2nd century.
Honesty time here….One of my greatest struggles as a pastor who is called to serve the church with the Word and in love has been to look around at the church in the 21st century and realize that it looks so different from the 1st church in so many ways; how we worship together, being only one of those areas. What defined the early church and early Christianity is not what defines Christians today in my opinion. What I read in scripture is not what I see in His people by and large today…..and that is concerning and troubling.
In my experience, the 21st century church here in the West is characterized by:
- Having very little compassion for the poor.
- Very little motivation to share the gospel and personally fulfill the Great Commission.
- Not faithfully giving of their time, treasure or talent for the work of Christ and furtherance of the gospel.
- Having a very rudimentary understanding of the bible, if not being somewhat biblically illiterate.
- AND YES….having worship services that are more for entertainment purposes than honoring Christ Jesus on high and drawing into Him.
Reasons People Go To Church : Which one is yours?
I would imagine another great difference in our worship services from the 1st church would be our reasons for attending. In my experience, I see several reasons that people will attend church on a somewhat regular basis.
- Many go because it is all about them. They go to be entertained or to get a spiritual warm fuzzy or to feel good about themselves. And if the church does not entertain them or is “boring” they shop for a more entertaining one.
- Some go for primarily social reasons. A chance to talk to old friends and to meet new or just to be seen as a “Christian.”
- For others it is primarily to gain business contacts and network, or because their job is somehow associate with the church.
- Still others because of the kids programs. And if these programs disappeared, they would “church shop” to find a parish with comparable or better programs.
- Many go primarily because the pastor is charismatic or a good speaker, and if the pastor left so would they, to church shop again.
- And others still, because they are new Christians and have never been anywhere else and do not know the difference.
- And finally there are those who attend a church or The Church because in their heart of hearts, they know it is teaching the One Faith, the One Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Apostles to Christ’s people. And it is in this Church that they worship God as they are commanded to do. “There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God.” (Eph 4:4) They attend Church “primarily” to worship God, not to worship themselves or their kids. Again, the primary focus is on Christ, not on themselves.
The 1st century church went to church first and foremost to worship God, not primarily to feel good about themselves. It was not about them, it was about worshipping Almighty God. It was not about being entertained, hymns or praise choruses, illustrations or examples, getting out before lunch, programs, bands, choirs, big screens, or even leaving with having a “good” feeling about yourself. (Although that usually happens) It was about worshiping Christ.
For 1st century Christians, the Church was not a mere get together or formality of the weekend. It was more than an organization, it was a family. It was not something they endured, but something they rather cherished and expectantly waited for. It was Christ centered not self-centered.
- Oh, how I long for the days when people will write me emails and letters with questions of how to know Christ more deeply, how to share the good news more effectively, how they can be of greater use to the kingdom.
- How I long for the day when the church is more concerned for the lost and honoring and glorifying the King of Kings and Lord of Lords than bickering over having to sit for an extra 15 minutes in a service than they want to.
- How I long for the day when the church is more concerned that the words of their mouths and meditations of their hearts are pleasing to God, rather than focusing on the style or preference of music they desire.
Then again, this is the 21st century and not the 1st century, maybe this is unrealistic to expect. I am told often in church circles that we cannot expect this of believers today. There is no way our time together could be this way, there is no way that we could see a worship service with people that are this dedicated and sacrificial in the worship of their God.
People today cannot get so excited, dedicated, invested, sacrificial, about God that it would cause them to give up their hard earned money, scream and cry out until they have lost their voices, to sit through temperatures they don’t like for hours and hours on end! That’s crazy!!
……………………………………………and so I just go home………………………..turn on the Packers vs. Chiefs Monday night football game …………………………………..and watch 73,000 dedicated and sacrificial people do these very things.
Oh, how I long for a church like that…
*N.R. Needham’s 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power, Vol. 1: Age of the Early Church Fathers. pg 66-75