The Art of Working While Worshipping

The Art of Working While Worshipping

The Pharisees accused Jesus of “working” on the Sabbath for healing the sick and for plucking a few heads of grain while walking through a field on His way to spread the gospel. Jesus used common sense to refute the Pharisees, pointing out that there were several things that might seem like work, and yet were entirely appropriate to do on the Sabbath day—providing water for animals (Luke 13:15) and rescuing a child from a well (Luke 14:5).

Another example Jesus used is recorded in Matthew 12:5, “Have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?” Jesus’ meaning in the context is clear—the priests had to perform sweaty, messy work while conducting worship services for the rest of the nation. Outside the context of the temple, they would be breaking the Sabbath, but they were exempted because they legitimately were serving a greater purpose.

Though we no longer have a separate priesthood whose members collect the blood of animals and arrange hunks of meat to burn on the altar, we do have men who are entrusted with certain responsibilities during the worship service. I hope I’m not misapplying Matthew 12:5 when I say that these men work so that everyone else can have a seamless, comfortable, reverent time of worship. They also work so that the same reverence perhaps will lead a newcomer to honor the God we worship (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

I can testify from experience that it difficult to maintain an attitude of praise and thanksgiving when carrying out these duties. I am thankful that God understands, and I hope he will excuse me for not being in the best frame of mind for worship because I am busy enabling others to worship. I must confess that it is one of my greatest pleasures to slip into another congregation for a gospel meeting and be able to sit unrecognized and worship. It’s refreshing! Maybe that is why the priests and Levites rotated their tabernacle duties (Luke 1:8-9).

Let those of us who are called upon to facilitate worship do the best we can under the circumstances to worship God, too. Though God understands that our responsibilities are distracting, let’s not use that as justification to play around.

Song leaders, though you are concentrating on pitch, time signature, rhythm, and tempo, as well as advancing slides, try to devote just a little brain-space to making melody in your own heart. Practicing your songs ahead of time helps you to be expressive rather than methodical.

Ushers, though you spend half the service watching out the door for late-comers and visitors, try to hear what’s going on inside the auditorium. Maybe keep a songbook with you and bow your own head in prayer when you can.

Prayer leaders, though you are trying to formulate your prayer and remember all the sick people to mention, relax and remember that prayer is simple communication with God. If 

you have a long list to remember, consider writing it down. This way, your mind will not

have to tread water until your turn comes.

Sound system operators, though from start to finish you have nests of knobs and wires to monitor, microphones to switch on and off, and a live stream to manage, try as best you can to participate in what’s going on.

Thank you to all who volunteer to lead, who work hard so the rest of us may worship!

Preachers, though the words and illustrations you want to use are swarming in your mind, try to settle them down to worship God. Remember that He, not the congregation, is your main audience. Don’t get in the habit of finishing your sermon in the pew. A wise preacher once said to me, “if you don’t know it by now, you aren’t going to know it,” and he was probably right. And while I very rarely will send a text to someone who is out of “psst” range about something important for that hour’s worship, I try to do it quickly and without being seen. Let’s all strive to honor God without resorting to Facebook, Amazon, etc.

For the same reasons of needing to “work while worshiping,” let’s all be understanding of parents with small children, who try their best not to disturb the service, but often must break their own concentration in prayer to correct a misbehaving child or must walk out in the midst of the sermon. They are raising the next generation of worshipers!

I am confident that God is completely understanding. So we should be, too.

–John Guzzetta