By Angie Howard

What do you bring to worship each week when you come to church?  I don’t mean physical things like your cell phone, your purse, or even money.  What I am really asking involves something much more important – what attitudes and expectations do you bring to worship?

As the new Director of Traditional Worship, I have spent a lot of time over the past several weeks discerning how our worship services can be transformed into an invitation to be in the presence of God.  I have looked at things like the flow of worship services, hymns, calls to worship, and corporate prayers. I have prayed that God would reveal His plan for our worship services and what enables Him best to communicate with us, His people.  And while as worship leaders we will continue to seek ways to make our worship services more meaningful, the real answer that keeps coming to my mind is that it isn’t about the various elements of the service that make the difference; it is how we come into worship that makes the difference.

I don’t know about you, but there are times that I come to church on Sunday morning with great expectations.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do for me.  I can’t wait for the blessings that He is going to give to ME.  I can’t wait to see how God is going to speak to ME.  Or, even worse, I come in to a service, look at the bulletin and think “why did they pick that hymn?” or “why did he pick THAT for a sermon”.  The bottom line is that I come into a worship service looking for what I am going to get out of it.  And when I do that, I have made it so difficult to praise and worship the one true God.  How can I praise God for who He is when I am only thinking about myself?

For the past few weeks, I have tried something different.  I have come into the church on Sunday mornings not thinking about what I am going to get out of a service, but rather, just preparing to praise and worship God.  And you know what?  It has made all the difference.  I find myself listening to the Prelude and praising God for what He is about to do.  I find myself singing the Hymns and really looking at the words and using them to pray to God.  I find myself listening to the sermon and not worrying about my to-do list for the afternoon, but praising God for sharing His Word and His will with me.  The less I worry about what I am going to get from a worship service the more I actually receive.

Now I have to admit that this has not been easy.  If I’m honest, I can’t do it on my own.  I need God’s help to teach me how to truly praise and worship Him.  I need God’s help to keep me focused on the right things.  And I need your help to keep me accountable. 

I would invite you to join me in prayer as we strive to continue growing in our worship and praise of God.  Take the focus off of you and turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.