We have been dissecting our worship service to learn more about why we do what we do in worship, and about what we should expect. We have studied about the Gathering, when we come purposefully into God’s presence with praise and confession. We have discussed the Service of the Word, where God communicates to us through His Word read and preached.
This brings us to the Time of Response. This is very important because it is our opportunity to act in response to what God has said to us in the service, to answer the question, “now what?” The elements of this part of the service vary because of the variety of things God may be saying to us. At least once a month Communion will be celebrated. We will discuss Communion more fully in the next article. In this issue we will talk about the other elements of the response time.
The first of these is a song of response. I generally choose a hymn which expresses one or more responses we might need to make to the sermon. Often these are songs of thanksgiving or commitment. Sometimes they express trust, or the need for some action. Pay close attention to the words of these songs. Often they are prayer songs, and, when you sing them, you are singing them directly to God. If you sing them purposefully, they can serve as a prayer of response for you.
The offering is taken up during the Time of Response. This is because an offering is a response. We do not give because we are good people or just because it’s the right thing to do. We give because God has given to us, and we want to respond to Him by pouring out gifts of our resources, which also represent our time and talents.
We also usually have a time where we share our joys and concerns. You may not think of this as a response, but that’s exactly what it is! Because God has spoken, because He has richly blessed us, we must share what He has done. The Bible says God’s mercies are new every morning. That means that each week each one of us has experienced at least seven new mercies from God. We need to become more willing to share those for three reasons. First, it gives glory to God for the mercies He has given us. Second, it builds the faith of others in the congregation. Withholding our testimony actually is a rather selfish act. The Scriptural norm is that each of us comes to worship bringing something for the common good. (I Corinthians 14:26) Since we all come with struggles, it may be that someone really needs to hear about the mercy you received this week, just as you may need to hear what God is doing for them. The third reason is that it strengthens your own faith. Telling what God has done helps to solidify it in your own mind.
After sharing joys, we share concerns, and this is right. Our concerns often have to do with those who are sick or bereaved or in financial need. We need to learn to express and feel concerns about other things as well. If we couldn’t identify a mercy to share, for example, we may need to express a concern that God would help us to be more aware of His activity in our lives. We need to be concerned for those who are lost or hurting, concerned that we move into our calling as a church, and concerned that we more fully partake of the mind of Christ. That’s just a beginning. Our vision is very small, and our God is very big.
We move from the sharing of joys and concerns to an intercessory prayer time. In the bulletin it says “Intercessory Prayers of the People.” This is because we believe in the priesthood of all believers. There is no priest who has God’s ear more than any one of us. We are trying to find more ways for the congregation to be participants in this prayer time. This is happening when different people pray for specific needs, when we have “bidding prayers” where people are invited to pray for specific types of needs, and when people are invited to come to the altar to represent certain needs. The most important thing here is that we understand that the church is praying, that each of us has a responsibility to be praying. I believe that this church will grow when we began to pray earnestly and honestly.
When God speaks, it is awesome! He reveals Himself and His purposes in new ways. He does not do this for no reason. When He speaks, it is to show us what is next. The Response part of the service provides us with ways to say, “Yes” to whatever God has told us.