We Must Examine Our Church Meetings to Make Sure They Are Truly Beneficial
In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he talks about worshiping God and then he talks about celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In between these two topics he slips in a condemning one-liner. He says that their meetings are more likely to cause harm than to do good.
Some Bibles attach a subheading just before this verse that references the Lord’s Supper. However, someone later inserted this information, and it wasn’t part of Paul’s original letter.
Disregarding this added text, leaves us to wonder if this condemning warning is a reference to worship or to the Lord’s Supper. It might apply to both.
Therefore, we should consider both our worship services and our communion practices. Do they do harm or do good?
Do Our Worship Services Cause Harm or Do Good?
Have you ever left a church service feeling empty, spiritually drained, or emotionally beat up? This could be the result of the Holy Spirit at work in your life, but it may be more likely that the church service itself caused you harm.
I’ve been to services like this.
Sometimes they are void of spiritual significance. They may have provided an entertaining concert or a saccharine lecture full of humorous one-liners or tweetable sound bites, but was God at work? Do we leave feeling rested and refreshed or bruised and broken?
Some church services mistake loud worship music for Holy Spirit power. I’m not against loud music. I grew up on rock and roll. Some music needs to be listened to loudly to appreciate it. But when the volume level detracts from our worship experience, something is wrong.
Despite having been to church services with music that was too loud, and painfully so, it’s never produced a headache in me. However, the volume level of some pulpit-pounding preachers has given me a headache, their content notwithstanding.
Other services come across as self-congratulatory, not celebrating what God has done but boasting about the accomplishments of the church and its leaders. And still other services have agendas that have little to do with God and much to do about some human objective.
And don’t get me started on pleas for money, with an offering or two; an altar call that drags on, even though no one responds, and everyone is bored; or announcements that take up time but offer no meaning.
What about long prayers that aren’t talking with God as much as trying to impress the congregation?
Some church services have sucked the life out of me. They have done more harm than good. My soul would have been better off had I stayed home.
Does How We Take the Lord’s Supper Cause Harm or Do Good?
Often, taking communion is part of a church service. The frequency may vary anywhere from weekly, to monthly, to quarterly. These are usually solemn affairs, steeped with reverence and ritual.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but shouldn’t the Lord’s Supper be a celebration?
What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper? It’s something we do out of obedience to remember what Jesus did for us. Yes, he died. But more importantly, he overcame death by rising from the grave. His victory can be our victory, and it’s worthy of a party.
When I take communion at church I try to focus on the why, but I often struggle. The process distracts me, especially if I’m visiting a church.
I become so focused on how that church practices communion and not embarrassing myself should I deviate from their tradition, that I often forget that Jesus is the reason we’re doing it in the first place.
Though I have expectations that celebrating the Lord’s Supper will produce a highly spiritual experience for me, I’m often disappointed. At most churches, most of the time, communion causes me more harm than good.
It’s not until I go home, that I can shake the negativity from my soul and rightly reorient my focus on God.
Make Our Meetings Do Good
Despite these many concerns, I still go to one of today’s church services every Sunday. I still partake in communion every chance I get. Some meetings are good, and I appreciate them.
Though I’m not currently in a leadership position at church and can’t influence the overall structure of the service, I can do my part to help make them be good and not cause harm.
This is through each interaction I have with people before the service, after the service, and to a lesser extent even during the service. I can offer encouragement. I can pray for them. I can listen to them. Sometimes merely acknowledging someone’s presence, produces a smile that the service failed to do.
Each Sunday when I go to church, may my involvement do good and not cause harm.
[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 11-13, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 11:17.]
Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.