I’m too young to remember the good old days wistfully, but I’m also old enough to remember how some things used to be done effectively. Church practices have changed quite a bit in my 35 years as a ministry leader. Many of those have been good changes, necessary improvements to better connect people with the gospel.
Nevertheless, I miss some things about how church used to be done. The first one is this: I miss going to church and expecting something to happen. These days, many church services include sing-along type worship music followed by a seminar-style PowerPoint presentation. The music is often uplifting (sing along if you want to) and the message usually informational (but seldom a heraldic presentation of the gospel and its implications).
What’s missing today – or so it seems – is challenging people to respond to God and inviting them to do so in response to worshipping him. In the old days, this was called the invitation. It’s not uncommon to discover 20-something seminary students who have never seen worship services like I am describing. That may be hard for the over-50 crowd to believe, but it’s true.
I miss going to church with the anticipation people will repent of their sin, confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and be saved. I miss going to church with the expectation people will request and receive prayer, turn from sin and seek counsel to move in new directions, and take a public stand for Jesus by requesting baptism or church membership. I miss the anticipation of God working – in the moment – to change someone’s life in the context of public worship.
In our zeal to separate genuine change from emotional response, we have relegated spiritual decision-making to checking a box on a card or going to a class. Few churches have trained Christians ready to serve as worship service response counselors. During my pastoral years, those were important worship leaders. We trained them regularly and used them weekly for personal work with respondents.
If your church still expects God to intervene in your worship services – to go “off script” and change people – keep it up! If not, think about what you may have lost and why – then adjust as needed to recapture calling people to respond to God as an act of worship.