Growing Up: Maturing Worship
Throughout the Titus series I want to post some follow up thoughts about a maturing church and what that might look like in the context of Stone's Throw Church.  This week, I would like to encourage readers to think about what a maturing worship gathering might look like and to think about how each of you might be able to take part.  If you don't go to Stone's Throw Church, that's quite alright.  I think your pastor will appreciate the words that I have to say.  


I might as well get the most unpopular part that will garner the most snarky comments out of the way.  But it is simple.  Maturing Christians want to be around like-minded believers.  As a result they make Sunday morning worship with the church where they are a member a top priority.  Before you list your excuses of sick children, sports activities, you were drinking too much the night before, a sunny day, you just didn't feel like it - read what I have to say.  And here comes the Jesus Juke - if you had tickets to Disney World and your child was sick, would you go?  Throwing up?  Probably.  Runny nose or cranky?  Don't be a liar - you'd be there.  I've seen the kids and parents at Disney World.  That's commitment.  Church attendance in the USA is down but it is up worldwide.  In China, Africa, India, South Korea and South America, the Christian church is growing - fast.  That is because the Gospel is going out and Christians in those countries are maturing in the common faith.  Jesus died and rose again for one institution - the Church.  The Church gathers on the first day of the week, to celebrate a risen Savior and to gather with the community of God's people.  A maturing Christian who is committed to Jesus above anything else is also committed to Jesus' people as well.  When I was growing up, the only reason I missed church was if I was throwing up - literally throwing up.  Believe me, I tried other sicknesses.  I even tried the move from E.T. when Elliott heated up his thermometer under a light bulb to trick his mom into believing he was sick.  My mom didn't buy it.  Today, our children aren't the ones convincing us.  Many of us don't even try.  Church attendance doesn't save you.  But in Scripture we are told to not forsake the worship gathering.  


Worship is a corporate event.  That means that we are there to worship the one God.  But we are also there as a group of people to encourage one another in worship.  We sing together.  We pray together.  We share the Lord's Supper together.  We give of our treasure together.  We listen to and react to God's Word being preached together.  We are together for a reason.  A maturing Christian goes to church on a Sunday morning not just for herself but to be an encouragement to others and to be used by God to work in the lives of others.  So maybe you don't know the song that morning or the music isn't your style - grow up in the faith and sing it anyway.  Boycott's of silence during worship do not edify the believers.  The person sitting one row in front of me might need my lousy voice to see something about Jesus that morning.  Watching church online is not church - it can be a substitute in case of emergency, but it is not church.  God came in bodily form for a reason.  It was important for Him to be physically present with us.  Church is a physical thing that happens when two or three are gathered together to worship Jesus.  You are a vital ingredient.      


If you are in a Gospel-centered church, someone will get up and preach for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour and will show you Jesus from the Scriptures.  Ultimately, you have come to church to be told something about Jesus.  It's great that your kids are learning to sing songs and dance in unison - but do they know something about Jesus.  It's great that your pastor tells stories, or is super serious, or wears a suit or jeans and that your worship band is getting their lead singer ready for her next audition.  But are they showing you Jesus?  Have you come to meet Jesus?  Stories are funny.  Pastor's can be funny and engaging.  But at the end of the day, if all you remember is a funny story about your pastor, or a tear-jerker viral video shown in church, but you have not been shown the person and work of Jesus, than you have not really gone to a worship gathering - at least not one about Jesus.  Pastor's aren't perfect.  There have been times where I have become so wrapped up in a story that I forgot the reason why I was telling the story.  Thank God that the Holy Spirit's work doesn't depend on me.  If you are a maturing Christian, spend some time in prayer before the worship gathering and ask God to visit with you and to work through the music and the Word to show you Jesus.  This is what we mean when we say things like, "Prepare your heart to hear God's Word."  A sermon is a cooperative event.  The preacher is declaring God's Word and you are listening and responding to it.  If you are hungry in the worship gathering and you will be fed.  The worst preacher in the world could get up before a person who is hungry and feed them a bountiful meal if he is declaring the glory of Jesus Christ. But the congregation has to be hungry.  I have witnessed the difference between a gathering that is hungry and a gathering that is performing a religious duty.  I have preached the same message to different groups of people, almost word for word.  In one setting people were distracted.  In another, there was a spirit of anticipation and the Gospel was received.  If you want to mature in your faith you must mature in your preparation for worship.  


To sum up, if you want to mature in your worship - make the Sunday worship gathering a priority every week, participate for the benefit of others and yourself in worship, and prepare your heart to hear about Jesus.  In this post I have only listed a few of the marks of a maturing Christian in the context of maturing worship gatherings.  My prayer for Stone's Throw Church is that we would continue to mature in our worship and that we would have a renewed commitment, every week to Jesus Christ our Lord, the body of believers that he died for, and the edification of the Church.  
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