(or, Ideas to Prevent Staleness & Dead Tradition from Prevailing)
I would like to state as clearly and firmly as I can right at the very outset of this article: There can be no substitute for warm and prepared hearts toward the Lord Jesus Christ, free from unconfessed sin, and all malice and bitterness toward fellow believers, so that the Holy Spirit may do His work of leading and moving in hearts unhindered . Any attempts to bring greater enthusiasm or participation into a worship meeting where these are not in order, will fail miserably. There is a trend in some places to solve the problems of deadness by mechanical means such as prearranging the service, importing things that appeal to the flesh etc.
The suggestions below are not written to such, but are for the enjoyment of those who believe that as important as rights hearts are, there are external things to which God’s people may also give attention. I am frankly surprised that this point could ever be challenged as I have yet to meet a company that did not first set up seats, place a table, put bread and the cup on it, etc. along with many other externals which they rightly believe will be blessed of the Lord in the time of worship and remembrance. Neither is there any thought of requiring any of the suggestions below, nor even the suggestion that they are good ideas! The list was collected from a group of elders in an assembly having many new converts and young believers where an excellent spirit prevails and all were being exercised about simple ways to keep deadness from edging in through failure to recognize traditions that were passing as sacred.
1. It’s OK to announce before meeting starts; “Good Morning” and some additional encouraging statements relative to this meeting, e.g., all men are encouraged to share as the Holy Spirit leads…don’t quench the Spirit.
2. We ought to periodically caution all men about long “teachings” at this meeting which tend to intimidate younger in the Lord brothers. Encourage brothers that the Lord is just as pleased with short praises and prayers such as “I just want to thank the Lord for saving us.”
3. Women passing the elements, e.g., husband and wife? We talked about this a while ago with no resolution.
4. Music – if someone gives out a hymn that we don’t know; either read it slowly with understanding or attempt to sing it without embarrassment if we fumble. The brother who raises the tune does a great job at this, almost singing a solo for a bit till we catch on. I think we get an A for effort in this area.
5. We should all try to be aware of the time so that if we stand up after 10am or thereabouts we should also ask a blessing on the bread, rather than speak or pray and sit back down.
6. Begin the meeting with other than a hymn if that tends to become a tradition
7. Let the men know that it is sometimes helpful to read a passage of scripture without comment
8. Exhort brothers whose participation follows a predictable pattern to consider if they truly believe the Holy Spirit is leading them so.
9. Open with an appeal to young people to consider participating.
10. Remind people to examine their hearts before start of the meeting.
11. Ask that a meaningful verse of a hymn be repeated when appropriate.
12. Close the meeting with a brief encouragement or exhortation from the Word.
13. Close meeting with prayer for the sick.
14. Encourage the deacons to line up a young person to help pass out the elements.
15. In the case of an unusually large number in attendance, ask couples to share the individual cups of juice.
16. It’s OK to address some thoughts to the children during the meeting. The Lord’s supper is a family gathering!
17. Give thanks for the elements without reading a scripture; doing so can become routine.
18. Ask that a hymn be sung softly as a prayer, or joyfully as praise.
19. Suggest a few moments of quiet before the bread is passed, for examining ourselves.
20. On rare occasion it is appropriate to sing a hymn again.
21. Request that a brother who is sharing speak louder or repeat the reference or page number.
22. Read a short passage (e.g., part of a Psalm) as a prayer
23. Use the pitch pipe for starting pitches to each individual part (soprano, alto etc.) and ask each part sing the first note on that pitch before staring a song.
24. Stand for some of the songs of praise.
25. Never lag or sing the hymns too slowly.
26. New songs could be introduced by everyone singing the melody on the first verse. Then, starting the song over and singing it in its entirety with harmony.
27. Lift up hands to the Lord while leading in prayer
28. Are there times when it would be appropriate to kneel in prayer?
29. Be willing to adjust pitch or tempo (or both) of a hymn after verse one is finished as needed.
30. Join hands to sing at the close of the meeting.
Hopefully other ideas can be added as time goes on. But it has been refreshing for us to even consider such suggestions as we strive to do our part to keep deadness and dull routine far away from the weekly meeting of worship and remembrance.