These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. PSALM 42:4
Prepare: Make something ready for use or consideration.
Friends - My wife and I have been priviledged to attend a number of churches in various states. I have been honored to preach for a number of organizations and serve in various capacities over the years. We want to point out a startling and expanding problem in our Apostolic movement; one that is having a direct effect in the success and growth of our churches. That problem is the lack of proper preparation for service to our God. The volume of conversation, the tone and focus of it, is beginning to drown out the moments of reflection, worship and praise that sets the tone for the remainder of the service itself. We are being distracted from God and giving God our best, and it is having a direct impact on our results (growth and spiritual endurance).
While the Bible does urge us to make a joyful noise before the Lord, there is a noise that serves little purpose in the church-house, but it is a noise that is arising separate from the good report, the worship and the spirit that God wants to find in His house. Psalms 95:1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
NOISE: (n.) Loud or continuous talk; general talk or discussion; rumor; report. In so many assemblies we are seeing the social interaction of a church overtaking the preparation of worship and service. Time and again we hear the conversations, the 'catching up' consuming what should be the true focus of our time in pre-service - God. It seems more and more that the time we used to spend worshipping, praying, and focusing has become a time instead to do what we should be doing all week long - checking up on our brothers and sisters. God is shoved into the last two minutes prior to the "service starting", with a hearty "PRAISE THE LORD", which ironically we should have been doing all along. Suddenly there is music and everything falls into place - we shove sudden and unprepared worship at God, expecting that he'll be pleased with our "sacrifice", when all we are doing is performing a ritual of repetition from one Sunday to the next.
PSALM 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. His gates (the doors of the church) should be entered with thanksgiving - his courts (the sanctuary) entered with praise. Be thankful UNTO him and BLESS his name. Ask yourself this: "When you sit silently before the actual service (which we have somehow convinced ourselves is a separate time and event in living for God, rather than an extension of what we do every day), what do you hear?" Listen to what is happening inside the sanctuary, on the inside of the gates, just before service. How much time is being given to God, and how much time is being given to your neighbor? What does the sanctuary sound like? There is such a difference between the sound of corporate worship, and the noise of general conversation.
It's time to remember the art of preparation. 2 CHRON 5:13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD. Working as ONE - making ONE SOUND. What a difference! In preparation for God's house being visited by God Solomon sets his trumpeters and singers in order first. He gets them doing the very thing they are set to do - worshipping. They begin to focus, to zero in on the spirit realm and sure enough God shows up. When they lifted their voice WITH (ALONGSIDE, IN CONCERT WITH, IN UNION WITH) the trumpets, a unified effort got God's attention.
Now we are not saying that you don't enjoy the anointing and visitation of God during services in churches where conversation has replaced preparation. But we ARE saying that your visitation could be so much deeper, and so much more anointing could be realized, if we reversed ourselves and got back to PREPARING an atmosphere for God. Atmosphere is the key. JOHN 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. I suspect that God is not in heaven chatting with his angels until moments before he comes to get us, then throwing something together that he can call heaven! It sounds funny, maybe sarcastic, but I expect God is truly making something ready for us! I believe he is focused and establishing something that will be unlike anything we have ever experienced down here. And if he is doing that for us what should we do for him?
Think about the souls of visitors or backslidden or lost folks who will come into the gates with you. Think about the one that needs a miracle, or deliverance, or salvation! What of them? How will they feel the God they need to feel if we don't set the proper atmosphere for him to work? If we continue giving him second-best, back handed worship, how can we expect his best? Are you seeing more or less victories than you used to before the sanctuary became a social networking site? Isn't it easier to pray someone through to the Holy Ghost in an atmosphere of praise and preparation? We think so. More importantly, it is a requirement that we enter with thanksgiving and praise, rather than handshakes and conversation. There is time for that later. Give God his due.
We are in the endtimes, friends. We are fighting distractions on every level. From children running and playing havoc during the preached Word, to adults having their minds wander onto the conversation just prior to service. Shepherd's Flock's motto is "Don't begin your worship here, just perfect it." This means our time before service is reserved for prayer, reflection and worship. I don't allow conversation in the sanctuary until after church. Why? To set the minds of members on God and let God set the pace. Instead of coming in fixed on what has happened over the past week, we are trying to focus on what is going to happen today! Check yourself about this issue. Not controlling our environment is causing many to fall away. It is allowing Satan to get a foothold in our service and forcing God to accept second place in our lives. We urge you today to reconsider how you enter the sanctuary. It has gotten so bad in some services that my wife and I were forced to go into the fellowship halls just to find a place of peace and quiet, where we could clearly hear God and focus our minds. Is this what your church has allowed? Do you recognize this? If so, you can be the one to make the difference. Enter and kneel. Worship and pray. Get your spouse to help, then your friends. Before you know it the church will be with you and on its knees in prayer! God will pay attention, and the spirit will rise.
Want revival? Revive the lost art of preparation!
IN love -
Elder Mark and Elder Dana Neddeau