We are conditioned by noise. In fact, we are noise junkies. We have noise around us almost from the time we awake in the morning until we drift off to sleep at night. We hear road noise in urban settings. We enter a shopping mall and hear a roar of people’s voices echoing off of the walls and ceiling. As we drive down the road we have noise coming from the speakers in our automobile. If we travel by plane, a flight attendant walks down the aisle and hands us a little bag with ear buds so that we can listen to the movie on the screen in front of us. We are not only conditioned to noise, we are addicts.
In fact, many people are so addicted to noise they sleep with the television on or with some white noise app on their phone to break up the silence. We see people walking down the sidewalk, in the elevator, and at the coffee shop with air pods in their ears listening to music, podcasts, or watching videos. Life is filled with noise. Noise, noise, noise—that’s the sound of life.
According to the pragmatic playbook of church growth, the last thing that a church should do in order to grow and make visitors feel welcome is to intentionally design a worship service that would make people feel awkward. The typical evangelical worship service is designed in a manner that keeps people engaged. From the time of arrival with background music and flashing messages on the screens—there is little to no time for reflection.
That is one of the reasons why we have an intentional time of silence in our worship service. For those who are not accustomed to it, the moment catches them by surprise. Suddenly, they are encompassed by that awkward silence. The reason it makes some people feel that way is due to the fact that our daily activity has conditioned us to find comfort with noise. I chuckle when I look at the white noise app on my phone and see train noises. If you’re conditioned to sleep near train tracks, I assume you need train noise to be comfortable while traveling.
More Than a Moment of Silence
Our time of silence during our worship service is more than a moment of silence. As we arrive on the Lord’s Day, we engage in fellowship and conversations between our Sunday school gathering. However, when the prelude music begins, that’s our sign to bring all of the conversations to a close and to intentionally prepare ourselves for the public reading of God’s Word as we are officially called to worship. That is a time of intentional preparation and reflection upon the importance and privilege of worship, but it’s not silent.
After our Old Testament reading, we engage in a time of silent prayer and confession. This is a corporate act of worship. The silence could last for a couple of minutes or more, and it serves as a time to take a break from all of the noise. It’s a time for intentional confession of sin before God in a corporate gathering. The call is not to think of your neighbor’s sin, but of your own sin and to confess that sin to the Lord.
At this point, there’s no background music playing. We do not underscore the prayer time with a musical instrument. Everyone has to work hard to be quiet. Movement ceases. A time of silent confession allows us to focus on the heart and most importantly, the responsibility to confess our sins to God. What exactly do we hope to accomplish during this moment beyond the obvious confession of sin?
As we gather on the Lord’s Day for worship, this is a time of corporate worship. This is not private worship. This is not worship in our living room. This is not worship in our car on our drive to work. This is our public assembly with our local church for the purpose of worshipping God together.
In our corporate worship service, we are called to engage in worship together. This is unique and it’s designed by God for a specific purpose. We are called to sing together and to one another (Col 3:16). We are called to sit under the public reading of God’s Word together (1 Tim 4:13). We are also called to pray together (Acts 1:13; 2:1; 12:1-11; 13:1-2). Immediately after the sermon by Peter at Pentecost and the baptism of some 3,000 new converts, the church gathered together for worship and their worship involved corporate prayer together (Acts 2:42). Rebellious hearts that run quickly to the Lord’s Table without proper confession of sin and preparation of the soul for worship profane the Lord’s death and engage in worship that dishonors God.
Just as we sing together and worship together through the preached Word, we likewise engage in a time of silent prayer and confession together. In our silence we are confronted with our guilt before God. In our silence we are humbly bow before the throne of our sovereign God in a posture of dependence and worship.
Unity of the Church
As we arrive weekly in our worship service, there is a table in front of the pulpit where the worship of God’s people will culminate in joyful thanksgiving and intentional remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice and complete payment for our sin. The time of corporate prayer and silent confession of sin during our worship service enables us to prepare for the Lord’s Table. As we corporately draw near to God, we have confidence that our God is drawing near to us (James 4:8).
In this process of seeking the face of God, we not only confess sins that hinder our fellowship with God, but we likewise are mindful of how sin breaks fellowship within our church family. This time of intentional silent confession enables us to confess that sin and to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). A divided church is a poor representation of Christianity.
No noise. No talking. No music. No movement. Our time of silent confession magnifies the reality that we are called to stand before our Lord and give an account of every deed and every careless word (Matt 12:36). In our worship service that has a gospel shape, our silent confession is followed up with a prayer of confession led by one of our pastors. Finally, we engage in a song of confession before the Lord corporately. Following our time of confession, we are reminded of our hope in Christ as one of our pastors reads the Scriptures and provides a gospel proclamation. Our hearts are in motion together as a church as we in a spirit of unity continue in joyful worship to the God who saves sinners.
Do not fall into the trap of pragmatism that demands you pack your worship service with noise that creates a superficial condition of peace where there may not be true peace at all. Confession is good for the soul.