Storming the Castle – Preparing for Worship

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Disney WorldOur daughter was five years old the first time our family vacationed at Disney World. After months of planning and days of travel, the final preparations for and anticipation of the first day at Magic Kingdom were almost too much excitement for her to contain.

She selected and laid out her clothes the night before for a quick change the next morning. Sleep eluded her with the anticipation of what was to come. She awakened early, quickly dressed and inhaled breakfast so she would be ready to depart hours before the park even opened. All conversation traveling from our resort to the park entrance centered on what she would observe, experience, eat, participate in, enjoy and then take home at the end of the day.

As we pushed through the turnstiles of the park entrance…she saw it…the icon of Magic Kingdom…Cinderella’s Castle. She, along with thousands of other children dragged their parents by the hands and screamed, “C’mon mommy, C’mon daddy” as we all stormed the castle like medieval knights.

What if our preparation for and anticipation of our worship gatherings exuded a similar excitement that could not be contained? Understanding the necessity for personal worship preparation is radically different than abdicating that responsibility to our worship leaders to create worship through song selections and worship actions.

Consider the following three suggestions for worship preparation from Norma de Waal Malefyt and Howard Vanderwell, Resource Development Specialists for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship:

1. Internal preparation of heart. Each worshiper carries the responsibility for personal preparation of his/her heart. If God calls us to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), then we must ask questions about the state of our spirit. Yet, how often do we ask ourselves questions about our readiness of our hearts for worship?

2. Pre-arrival preparation. We may want to call it “pre-Sabbath” preparation. We can learn from the Jews who believe Sabbath begins at sundown. Our activities on the evening before worship will have a formative affect, positively or negatively, on our readiness for worship on Sunday morning. Also, our personal schedule between rising and the beginning of worship on Sunday morning will have a great deal of influence on our readiness of spirit.

3. Pre-service preparation. The short period of time between our arrival at church and the beginning of the worship service is also a critical period of time. Our interaction with friends reminds us that we are here as part of a body in relationship with others. A short while to quiet our spirits will enable us to leave some distractions behind and center ourselves in God. A time of reflective prayer can open our spirit to engage in conversation with God. Even the visual appearance of the worship space will have an impact on our readiness. How conscious are we of these critical minutes?[1]

Since worship does not start when we enter the worship service, it should not stop when we leave. With that understanding I would recommend a fourth suggestion to their previous list:

4. Post-service continuation. Worship continues as we leave the worship service. It continues in our homes, at our schools and through our work. This final step leads the worshiper in a continuous circle back to step one. Harold Best calls it “unceasing worship.”[2]

An old proverb states, “We only prepare for what we think is important.”

 


[1] Malefyt, Norma deWaal and Howard Vanderwell, Database online. Available from http://www.calvin.edu/worship/planning/insights/13.php

[2] Harold M. Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003).

 

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4 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Elaine on 10.11.13 at 7:22 pm

    I read this with an increased interest as our worship team, tech team and pastors are setting about to lead our church into a more vital experience of God in our worship services. It is an exciting quest and involves both the personal preparation noted here, as well as the group changing some priorities to focus on prayer, empowering people to follow God’s leading, and seeking to better convey our passion for our Savior to the people entering the room. Already I see God honoring/meeting with those who are seeking Him with all their hearts.
    He is amazing.

  2. [...] Storming the Castle – Preparing for Worship [...]

  3. Posted by CARadke on 10.11.13 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you for your post. Worship with a body of believers should be something that we look forward to. Instead of enjoying the anticipation and preparation, though, all too often we overlook its central–and centering–role in our lives. Just as Cinderella’s castle is a joyful and exciting place where children experience a part of Disney’s “magic kingdom,” the sanctuary is a joyful and exciting place where God’s people experience a part of the Lord’s Eternal Kingdom. May we all look forward to and prepare for worship in our words, our songs, and our prayers.

  4. Posted by Mark on 10.11.13 at 7:22 pm

    Preparing for worship is an ongoing challenge no matter the size of a congregation, but I would think in especially larger churches the anticipation becomes more about seeing each other instead of seeing God. No disrespect to Norma de Waal Malefyt and Howard Vanderwell, Resource Development Specialists for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship intended, but I do not think we need to consult any specialists to know how we should prepare for worship. This is God, the Creator of the world!

    Thinking that we can just hop in our favorite pew or chair then turn on the switch and begin to worship is almost disrespectful to our Lord. Each congregation has its own personality of course, but nothing is bigger for me than just being silent before worship.

    The phrase “be still” is used many times in the Bible, but most people do not realize the true meaning. The word “still”, like many other words in the Bible, is not the correct translation. Why we have so many translations of the Bible and none are totally correct I do not know, but that is another discussion altogether. It actually means to be weak or the surrender of your spirit. Can we be still before God if we are talking about the Sunday football games before the service begins? Can we be still before God if moments before worship we are talking business, recipes, dinner plans, etc…?

    The only way for true worship to exist is if we set the example. When someone tries to include you in a conversation just before the service all you need to do is tell them that you are preparing your heart for worship and you will talk to them after the service. Maybe it will catch on to others and long before you know it the whole congregation has a more respectful presence when they enter the sanctuary.

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