In his book "Theology for Disciples", Gilbert W. Stafford makes some observations about Holy Communion. In these observations, Stafford lists the many ways that the Holy Communion is much more than partaking of the bread and the wine commanded by Jesus Christ, Himself, to His followers, as a remembrance of His death and resurrection (pgs 391-394).
Jesus was the host of the Passover meal that night. Everyone present was to listen to Jesus when He spoke as host. During the meal, Jesus gave honor to the Passovers of the past, and of those who had partaken of it down through the ages. The reason Jesus wanted to hold this meal for His disciples was to relate to them the future of their leader, and the future that He expected them to carry out. It was here that Jesus laid out His plan for the salvation of the world. Before His death, Jesus wanted to reestablish His relationship with His disciples, and to once more remind them that Jesus had a mission for them to carry out after He died. When Jesus washed their feet, He gave them an example of how they were to treat others and not to think of themselves as the focus of their mission.
The meal was given as a time of anticipation of the redemption of the world through Jesus' death and resurrection. Through the installation of the Holy Communion, Jesus made it plain that He was going to give up His life for all mankind, and that all believers in Him would do this act in remembrance of that death and resurrection as a reminder of what He had given for them and us. This also made the meal a time of great thanksgiving. Jesus was thanking His disciples before they took His message to the world, because He would not physically be there with them when they travelled the countryside proclaiming the Gospel to the masses. Jesus prepared them by instructing them that whoever wanted to be master must first become the servant, just as He would when He hung and died upon the cross.
Today, some churches make the worship music the main focus of their services. These churches believe that they and they alone must do the work of God without any outside help at all. Some churches get in the way of the Gospel by utilizing many rituals that are not scriptural, and by not teaching their congregants the way to true salvation in Jesus. These churches would have you believe that just knowing Jesus' Name and coming to church each week will save you, much to the chagrin of those who believe this and end up in Hell at the end of their lives. Jesus said that we must be born again His way, not just by doing good works and praying. Unfortunately, a lot of churches don't go far enough in proclaiming the truth that Jesus Himself set down, and use their own watered down version of salvation.
In many churches there are many bored people. The message is more the philosophy of men then they are Spirit fed. The pastor reads from a "script", and even gives everyone a paper copy to take home to re-read at their pleasure. The life of these churches is near dead and the Holy Spirit is not present even on the best of days. Where is the life Jesus came to give to these churches? Even the times of worship in singing seem subdued and still-born, the singing drab and boring. Does the pastor even have a relationship with Jesus Christ? If he does not, then he can never bring salvation to the people that Jesus has put in his care. Except for giving tithes, the work of Christ never leaves their doors and the world is not flocking to their congregation. As Jesus once said: Who will He find faithful when He returns?
Stafford also writes about the elements of worship and how they should be utilized in our churches (pgs. 394-405). During our church services, the Holy Spirit can rejuvenate our desires to continue our mission as believers to reach the lost. Our times of worship should always give us a renewed sense of God's Will for the world. Our minds should be turned from God into the direction of helping others find out about God's grace and Jesus' salvation. I am reinvigorated each weekend to study and to do what I have been called to do to reach my fellow man for Jesus.
In worship, we should be singing all styles of songs and poems as they can remind us of past and present glories of God, and what He has done and will continue to do for His people. Today's contemporary worship services are more about reaching the youth than they are about bridging the gap between the young and the old. Sometimes, these services are no more than Christian rock concerts than they are about praising God in a real sense.
If scripture is not being read in a church service, then it is a church of men and not of God. The reading of the Holy Scripture is the only way to teach, edify, and rebuke believers to continue in the faith and to help them through all kinds of trials. Hearing scripture from all places in the Bible, and not just one book or area, helps me to know and do the same thing in areas I use scripture for. I like to use the whole Bible to teach from because of the cloud of witnesses that learned it all before me.
Proclaiming the Word of God is not only performed through the message only. We proclaim the Word of God whenever we sing, pray, or participate in the Lord's Supper. All proclamation should point to the redemption brought about by Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. Each time I sing to spiritual music in my car, or when I am writing my next article on the Gospel, I am proclaiming Jesus to those who will listen and read.
When our Pastor's pray for us and our church in a congregational setting, his prayer should reflect his people's concern for the community and the surrounding area God has given the church to minister to. Saying Amen together as a church at the end of the prayer lets God know that all are in agreement with the Pastor in what he was praying for. If the prayer is spoken without giving all in the church a chance to participate in it, the focus and power of the prayer is lost and the satisfaction of being an honored part of the service is not achieved.
The time of the offering should be a time of worship. Some people treat this time as a time of irritation with many grunts and groans. Giving to God should be an act of honor to the God who has given us so much by giving us Jesus. It shouldn't matter when in the service the offering is taken, as long as it is treated with respect as giving to God for His purpose in the surrounding community, even if it is only to feed the Pastor and his family.
Greeting our fellow believers in peace is an honored tradition also used by Jesus during His time here on earth. Imparting peace is a way of letting others know that you are truly interested in their well-being. Imparting peace can also open doors for discussions that are never uncovered in any other way; others knowing that you truly care for them lets them know that they are important to you and can share their trials and troubles with you, which brings about an even greater peace than ever expected.
Our church services should not be so tightly ordered that the Holy Spirit does not have a chance to express Himself to His people. There must be room for a spontaneous outburst of the Spirit so He can edify and build up the church. If our services are too tightly packed without room for the Spirit, then we are worshipping our idea about church and not the Spirit's. Without the Spirit, the church will die.
Stafford, Gerald W. (1989, 1996). Theology for disciples: systematic considerations about the life of Christian faith (pgs. 391-405). Warner Press
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.
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