True, genuine worship of God is the motivating power of the church. Power for service is derived primarily from a vision of God obtained through worship and wholehearted devotion. Many problems of pastoral work are largely solved when worship becomes the dominant feature of our Sabbath services. Before leaving the States, while I was pastor in the St. Louis Central church, we wrestled with the usual pastoral problems, and not the least was the problem of reverence and quietness in the house of God. How frequently we have sought to lecture, to educate, and to legislate in order to produce reverence in our churches. But we have failed, because reverence cannot be obtained in this way. It must come from the heart.
At our union conference session that winter some studies were given on the subject of how to inspire reverence and the significance of true worship as the underlying experience of all acceptable service for God. Upon our return we determined to pursue a new course in the St. Louis Central church. A new order of worship was inaugurated for the eleven o'clock hour. All announcements and distracting items were brought in before the service began. The first part of the hour of worship was held sacredly for worship. Nothing was allowed to distract. The hymns were carefully selected to contribute to the spirit of worship as well as to the theme of the hour. The Scripture reading, the prayer, the offering, were all sacredly held as a part of this worship. Immediately a new spirit of reverence and quietness took possession of the congregation as a result of true worship and wholehearted devotion.
Later we were confronted with the Ingathering campaign. This is usually a disruptive period. In fact some feel it to . be perfectly legitimate to disrupt all usual reverence and decorum for a campaign so tremendously important in our work. But we were determined that Ingathering would not be allowed to spoil this new era in our worship. Therefore the Ingathering campaign was quietly and carefully organized, with its respective bands, leaders, and goals all arranged before the opening of the campaign.
On the opening Sabbath of the campaign the leaders of the bands were quietly instructed regarding the procedure. We' used the Sabbath school class-band organization for the Ingathering campaign. No goal device of any kind was used! A few brief remarks about the opening of the campaign and the work of the singing bands were made at the missionary service following the Sabbath school. Then at the eleven o'clock hour on this opening Sabbath the usual campaign, fanfare, and pressure were eliminated. A very quiet, sacred spirit of worship characterized the hour. At the close of the sermon a consecration call was made by the pastor. Almost the entire congregation joined , in this consecration service. The power of God was manifestly present in this sacred and worshipful service.
The church went to work in Ingathering. The singing bands worked faithfully too. The leaders of the respective bands quietly took their reports each week at the close of the Sabbath school. Through careful organization the pastor kept in touch with the leaders of the bands and was thus conversant with the progress of each band. During the campaign the usual announcements about goals or the amount raised were entirely eliminated. The entire time consumed in announcements during the missionary period or at the eleven o'clock service probably did not amount to more than ten minutes for the whole campaign. Strangers attending hardly knew there was an Ingathering campaign on.
The campaign was scheduled to close on the fourth Sabbath. Some were afraid of failure. It just did not seem like Ingathering without the usual noise, promotion, and competition. We were confident of success, however, because of careful organization and loyal band leadership. Our goal was $2,200. The final day of the campaign arrived. Quietly, at the close of Sabbath school, the leaders of each band totaled the amount brought in. Nearly every band had a sizable overflow. No amounts were placed in the offering plate at the time of the regular offering. Added to the small amounts that had previously been turned in, the total amount of cash was in excess of $2,900.
Think of it ! An overflow of $700 from a campaign lasting only four weeks. Before the enthusiasm had died out and the singing bands had finished their territory several weeks later, an amount in excess of $1,000 beyond the goal had been reported. Needless to say, the church was happy. This was the most successful In-gathering campaign in the history of the church, and I firmly believe that it was the result of a new power for service derived from wholehearted devotion and true worship.
When our people are led in worship and devotion to get a vision of God and His righteousness, a new spirit of service will take hold of the church and, like Isaiah of old, they will be quick to respond with a ready, "Here am I, Lord ; send me." Let us as leaders of the flock of God determine first of all to lead the church in true, genuine worship. This is our first work. All the rest of the usual promotion campaigns will then be accomplished much easier. Let us put first things first, and God will abundantly prosper the church as we move forward in genuine worship and wholehearted devotion.