"Then all the multitude ... gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them" (Acts 15:12)
When we compare our present carefully programmed meetings with the New Testament we are reminded of the remark of a famous literary critic after he had read Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey: "It is a beautiful poem, but it is not Homer." So the fast-paced, highly spiced, entertaining service of today may be a beautiful example of masterful programming - but it is not a Christian service! The two are leagues apart in almost every essential. About the only thing they have in common is the presence of a number of persons in one room. There the similarity ends and glaring dissimilarities begin.
Throughout the New Testament after Pentecost one marked characteristic of all Christian meetings was the believer's preoccupation with their risen Lord. Even the first Church Council was conducted in an atmosphere of great dignity and deep reverence. It is of course unthinkable that such a meeting could have been held without some kind of agenda. Someone had to know what they had gathered to discuss. The important point to be noticed, however, is that proceedings were carried on in an atmosphere of Christian worship. They lost sight of the program in the greater glory of a Person.
Thank You, Father, for the commitment to excellence in many churches. But don't let us lose sight of the glory of Your presence, which is so much more important. Amen
The Program Instead of the Presence
"And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33)
Now, I freely admit that it is impossible to hold a Christian service without an agenda. If order is to be maintained, an order of service must exist somewhere. If two songs are to be sung, someone must know which one is to be sung first, and whether this knowledge is only in someone's head or has been reduced to paper, there is indeed a "program," however we may dislike to call it that. The point we make here is that in our times the program has been substituted for the Presence. The program rather than the Lord of glory is the center of attraction. So the most popular gospel church in any city is likely to be the one that offers the most and best features for the enjoyment of the public. These features are programmed so as to keep everything moving and everybody expectant.
We'll do our churches a lot of good if we each one seek to cultivate the blessed Presence in our services. If we make Christ the supreme and constant object of devotion the program will take its place as a gentle aid to order in the public worship of God. If we fail to do this the program will finally obscure the Light entirely. And no church can afford that.
Like the apostles, Lord, I want to see the resurrected Christ in all His glory. Help us to focus not on the program of our worship but on the Lord of glory who is the object of our worship. Amen
~A. W. Tozer~