Featuring Robert Locklear Posted on May 24, 2008
Starting well. It is why we spend 12+ years in grade school and then move on to college and sometimes we seek higher levels of education beyond that. Schooling is also the framework through which we get life experience. Along with what is being fed to us through books and lectures we are picking up life lessons and learnings from the periphery of our lives: those comments from our parents, faint memories from our favorite TV shows, things that happened when we were with our friends. All of these experiences not only shape us but create the lenses through which we will forever view and interpret the world around us. How we start our lives dictates a lot about how we will receive and interpret life experiences for years to come.
Starting well is not something we always think about when it comes to church. Parking lots are without direction, doors are without greeters and places people should go for information are empty. By the time some of our congregants reach the sanctuary they are just thanking their lucky stars it really was the biggest room in the place and thus, easiest to find! But once there, they are given little direction on what to do. Or, worse yet, we don't expect them to do anything. They simply sit. Many times we take our elementary church goers and throw them in with the college grads.
Hospitality is a far too often overlooked aspect of worship. And if it is considered, it isn't thought of as worship at all.
What comes to mind when you think of "hospitality" in the worship service? The first thing I thought of was greet time. But for God it is something else. You see, if we truly believe that when we gather for worship we are the temporal joining with the eternal then we should let this shape our services and how we start them. All too often, we view worship as a dry place where people gather. After some singing and praying we hope that God is sufficiently pleased with us and comes into our presence. The bible tells us something different.
My big framing scriptures for worship (thus, what I will write a lot about) are Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 & 5. Take a look at those passages and see how the worship begins.
Isaiah 6:1 (NIV)
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Revelation 4:1 (NIV)
1After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."
In both instances, the worshippers (Isaiah and John respectively) are invited into the worship of heaven. The worship is initiated by God and the attendees are brought into the holy presence of the living God to be shown truths, to be compared with the perfection of His holiness and to be strengthened in their faith. God is the initiator of worship for it is already going on and, because of the work of Christ, we are invited to participate in it.
So what does this mean for worship? Dream about this a little bit: how can we lead in such a way that we express the hospitality of God to those who are gathering in His name in our worship services? How do we show the single mother getting out of her car that she has been invited by and is, in fact, answering the invitation of God to be in our parking lot and in His worship on Sunday morning? How do we greet the busied suburban family in such a way that they recognize that in Heaven there are no clocks or appointments and that we are slowing down and entering the eternal at the invitation of the Father today? How do we, as the representatives of God's leadership in our services, facilitate in such a way that the sovereignty of our host is made known?
As you plan the start of your next service, think about these things and remember who we represent and what His ultimate role is in our services. If we start well, people will know why we are singing, listening and being sent out. If we begin to start our services well, it will show fruits in the way people come to worship. It will show fruits in the way people recognize their place in God's story.
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