the weblog of Alan Knox

A Successful ‘Church Service’?

Posted by on Dec 8, 2009 in gathering | 14 comments

Most of my readers meet together with other believers regularly as the church. This is a good thing. In fact, I believe we see this both described and prescribed in Scripture. The Spirit that indwells us draws us together with other believers.

But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself, what makes our church meeting (i.e. “church service” or “worship service”) successful? I don’t mean successful in our eyes, but in God’s eyes.

What does it mean to have a “successful” church meeting? Was the last “church service” that you were in successful? Why or why not?

By the way, abstract ideas like “we glorified God” or “we worshiped God” or even “we edified one another” are not very helpful. Anyone could say those things. The question is, did the things that were said or done “glorify God,” “worship God,” or “edify one another”? Why or why not?

While I would love to hear your opinion, I would also love to see you back up your opinion with Scripture.

Are you willing to take a stab at this task? Was your latest church meeting successful? Why or why not?


14 Comments

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  1. 12-8-2009

    Alan,

    I recoil at the word “successful” but I understand what you are getting at.

    On Sunday when we met in Oakwood:
    1. Songs were being sung (Colossians 3:16)
    2. Various people were proclaiming the Word and lifting up the work of Jesus Christ ( 1Cor 14 and Col 3)
    3. We gathered in smaller groups to pray for one another and there was confession of sin.

    I left very thankful to the Lord.

  2. 12-8-2009

    Phillip,

    Thanks for replying. I also recoil at the word “successful,” but I couldn’t think of another word.

    -Alan

  3. 12-8-2009

    I’m fine with the word successful, since one of the dictionary meanings is “accomplished what is attempted or intended.” And since I think the primary intention of the assembly should be to edify the saints, I’d say that our last church meeting didn’t come anywhere close to success.

    The Old Regular Baptist service opens with twenty minutes of singing, and then moves on to a corporate prayer and then preaching from multiple elders. This past Sunday the first preacher spent about fifteen minutes decrying people’s current habit of vilifying elected officials—a good point, but not very clearly made, with nothing new to say after the first five minutes.

    The second sermon was worse, much worse. The elder preached on the need to praise God. For sixty minutes. No exploration of why we should praise God, or the various ways in which we are able to praise God, just the assertion, repeated over and over, that we must praise God, and that all our troubles stem from not praising God.

    Now, in some sense the service “succeeded”. Some of the congregation enjoyed the preachers’ enthusiasm, and once again hearing things that they have heard over and over in the past. But I would maintain that the saints were in no way edified. Not one person in that room didn’t know that it was wrong to vilify elected officials, or that we ought to praise God.

    I’ve sometimes thought about suggesting that services begin with a brief quiz meant to determine whether the congregation already knows what an elder is about to preach; those who pass the quiz would be allowed to retire to the other room to talk among themselves.

  4. 12-8-2009

    I think that is a very important question Alan. One that before I was part of a simple organic church did not have much relevance to me. When going to church was just going, saying hi, singing some songs, listening to a sermon, and going home how successful the service was not even in my mind. I would talk to my wife about what I liked or did not like but that was about it. Now that we think of church completely different this question is very relevant. Instead of using the word church we have been substituting the word “family”. It has really helped us understand how we ought to think about church. So if your question read “What does it mean to have a “successful” “FAMILY” meeting?” I think it would help us understand what a successful church meeting would be. Here is my list off the top of my head.

    Each one of these could be unpacked further

    -Good food
    -Good conversation
    -Anyone having a hard time is helped
    -Everyone is loved and loving others
    -The wayward are brought back
    -Everyone is helped by sharing what God has given them and receiving from others what God has given to others.
    -When the family meeting is over you can’t wait until you can get together again.

  5. 12-8-2009

    I would say love is what characterizes a “successful” church meeting. Love that builds us up in truth and unity in accordance with what Jesus prayed in John 17.

    Practically, I think love (of/through God and each other) is the first thing required in order for open participatory meetings to work and not devolve into chaos.

  6. 12-8-2009

    I am no expert on the Church and what we should be doing when we meet but if we are talking about measuring effectiveness of the Church’s purpose then I think we have to measure our impact on the lost world around us. What we do when we are together must have as an end result some sort of impact on the lost. (Acts 2:47) (Matt. 28:18-20)

    I mean, at the top of this blog page you have a verse in Hebrews which states that our stimulation of one another is for the purpose of producing Love and Good Deeds. What are those good deeds? What kinds of things should we do to show love. I know you could make a list but one that seems to be missing in the discussions I have read on this blog is sharing the good news. In the Book of Acts the result of their meeting together were many but it says that daily God added to their numbers those who were being saved.

    If church is to be successful then we have to be reaching the lost as a result of edification, worship and glorifying God.

    When I leave our church service most of the time I feel a great encouragement and strength to go out and share my faith with those I come in contact with and to love the lost right where they are. I am encouraged to live my life in the power of the Holy Spirit and in me is produced the fruit of the Spirit, Love, Joy, Peace, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness and self control…and these things bring a testimony to the greatness of our God which glorify’s Him. Our church continually has new people who have decided to be followers of Jesus and are baptized as such and our numbers of new believers grows.

    I apologize for getting a little preachy here but it seems that when I read this blog it has very good information and it challenges me to do better at assembling as the Church but so far it seems the element of reaching the lost is missing and I think we have to be about reaching the lost and that our assembling together to edify one another is supposed to produce an effect on the world around us and the Kingdom will grow in changed lives of lost people.

    I hope to see some future posts here about how assembling as a church has impact or should have impact on the lost and dying world around us.

    God Bless You as you follow the Lord,
    Jeff

  7. 12-8-2009

    Rick,

    I’m not familiar with the practice of Old Regular Baptists, so thanks for sharing. Do the elders allow others to talk about what God is doing in their lives or teach something that they’ve been studying?

    Darrell,

    I also think its helpful to think of the church as a family. Your list is helpful, thanks.

    Wes,

    What are some examples of how you’ve seen love demonstrated when the church is meeting?

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, in this blog, I focus on the meeting of the church, which I do not think should be primarily for evangelism. However, I have written several posts in which I say that evangelism/mission is our purpose as the church. “Proclaim, Teach, Serve,” “Newbigin on Church and Mission,” and “The Gathered and the Sent” are a few examples.

    -Alan

  8. 12-8-2009

    I’ve seen love demonstrated in a number of ways including,
    -during discussions, listening and honestly trying to understand other points of view
    -submitting to (allowing yourself to be persuaded by) elders
    -coming together to pool time, money, and other resources to care for the needs of others (members, friends of members, and local ministries)
    -forgiveness when careless words are spoken or misunderstandings are had
    -willingness to give when others want to “do things differently” when it comes to the direction of the meeting, the songs we sing, the direction we take with topics, etc.

    Those are a few of the concrete examples I can think of at the moment. Hope they help,
    -Wes

  9. 12-8-2009

    My first thoughts went to Matthew 18:20 Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst. But then my focus went to Isaiah 6 where the prophet was in the presence of God and said, Woe is me, for I am undone. Then to Job 40 when Job answers God after hearing from Him. Behold, I am vile.
    My take on a church meeting as being successful is that the people come away with having met with god and being in the rightful place before Him. Then can love as God has loved flow through us whereby we will desire to go from there to serve Him with our whole hearts.
    Clarence

  10. 12-8-2009

    Alan,

    Is there such a meeting, that it could be called “successful” even including Rick’s dictionary definition?

    Surely the whole life/lifestyle ( loving,one anothering etc., etc.) of an assembly of disciples of Christ would be a more likely candidate if we want to include a questionable word like “success”?

  11. 12-8-2009

    Do the elders allow others to talk about what God is doing in their lives or teach something that they’ve been studying?

    No more than in any other church I’ve attended. Only those who have been licensed to preach can preach. The presiding pastor usually asks at the very end of the service if anyone has a “word”, which usually results in silence, occasionally in a forgotten prayer request, and infrequently in a mention of a blessing someone has experienced.

    The Old Regulars are a little unusual in that the members are seated separately from nonmembers, up front to either side of the pulpit, and members will offer brief comments or words of encouragement during a sermon. But I’ve never seen any true interaction, such as a question or a disagreement.

    I don’t mean to single out the Old Regulars here. Their sermons are no more or less interactive than those of any other church I’ve attended. But the focus on preaching makes any deficiency in the preaching stand out starkly; if the preaching is bad, you’d better hope the singing is good, because that’s all there is.

  12. 12-8-2009

    Wes,

    Thanks for the descriptions of how you’ve seen people demonstrate love to one another during the church meeting.

    Clarence,

    How do you think believers “meet with God” in a church meeting in ways that are different from other times of their lives?

    Aussie John,

    You’ve hit on something very important. The fact that we attempt to share life with one another throughout the week means that an “unsuccessful” church meeting fades behind day-to-day service to one another.

    Rick,

    My experience was similar to your experience until a few years ago.

    -Alan

  13. 12-8-2009

    I apologize Alan if it sounded like I was being critical of our blog or if it sounded like I was saying that your blogs have never said anything about evangelism. I simply said I had not read any yet.

    However, the point I was trying to make in answering your question, “What does it mean to have a successful church meeting” is that in my opinion, if our church meetings don’t have as an end result the salvation of the lost and positive impact on the society around us, then I don’t think we are being successful!

    I think we can love and encourage each other so much that we forget about the world around us that is dying and going to hell!

    God Bless you and your blog,

    Jeff

  14. 12-8-2009

    Jeff,

    If we are not encouraging one another (both with our words and our actions/example) to care for those outside the church (which must include proclaiming the gospel) as well as those within the church, then we are not loving one another nor are we discipling one another.

    -Alan