Silence, it has been said, is golden, but silence can also be deathly. There are times when meditation demands quiet solitude. There are times, however, when worship demands words.
How sad it is to sit in a Breaking of Bread meeting enduring long unhealthy silences which indicate spiritual poverty, and which are only broken by the few whose voices are regularly heard. What must godly sisters feel as they wait for a brother to lead the saints! Quiet times in such a gathering can be precious, but more often they are the result of a lack of exercise in worship. Hymns, also, well chosen, can raise the hearts of the saints as they present their worship, but hymn after hymn simply given out to fill in the time is not only tiresomely repetitive, but indicates that so many brethren have nothing to say to God.
Why is it that we often hear a call to reduce the time allocated for the Lord's Supper, the opportunity to fix hearts and minds on the wonders of the Lord Jesus and His work? The late J Charleton Steen wrote, "Worship will be our theme throughout eternity. Let it be our theme for this short hour and a half (far too short)…".
Why should this be? One of the features of a poor relationship is that there is very little in common about which to converse. When this occurs between husband and wife or mother and son there is an air of sadness surrounding a relationship with few shared interests. How much greater is the sadness when this is true of our relationship with the Lord. Where our interests are not His, and when our time is spent in occupying ourselves with that from which He is excluded, we will have little to say in worship and have a low appreciation of His worth.
But worship cannot be manufactured by a quick glance at Scripture on a Lord's Day morning to pick up a verse or two for use in leading the saints. For depth and reality there can be no substitute for daily consideration of the Lord, and daily obedience to His Word. May we all give ourselves to daily reading of the Scriptures, prayer and godliness, so that when we gather we approach Him with pure hearts and clean hands (Ps 24.4) and with our hearts full of Christ.
Younger brethren must not be afraid to lead the assembly publicly when they have on their hearts an appreciation of the Lord which He has given. It may be that the contribution will only last for a minute or less, but length of time does not indicate quality of worship. There may be a feeling that what is on the heart lacks the maturity and depth of that which is offered by those who have been longer in Christ. This must not lead to silence. A parent loves to hear the stumbling, lisping words of the young as well as the developed speech of those who are older. Let no one discourage the young brother who brings his turtledove (Lev 1.14)!
But what of those who are more mature? There may be physical limitations which prevent a brother leading in worship as often as he would like and that can be understood. It may, however, be fear of appearing less able than others. It may be that after years of silence there is the fear of embarrassment at breaking that silence. Such fears should be brought into the presence of God with prayer for power to overcome them.
Deeper, however, is the problem when the limitations are spiritual. The problem is not limited to a Lord's Day morning. What, for instance, would a wife feel when she hears her husband pray publicly, but never hears him pray at home? It is a daily problem which requires a daily solution. Lack of reading of the Word of God, lack of prayer and lack of desires after godliness have brought the soul to barrenness. For this there is no "quick fix", but there is an answer.
Start by seeking His face daily in the sanctuary. What a difference this makes to each day! Make time for His Word and seek to please Him in all that is done. Do not let fear of failure prevent this, for "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved" (Ps 121.3). Then, when it comes time to remember the Lord, there will be the warm response of the Psalmist, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord" (Ps 122.1).
Worship must not be the constant repetition of the same expressions. Freshness is vital. It used to be taught that brethren ought to come to the gatherings prepared, but not determined to take part publicly; good advice for all brethren to heed.