Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

The needs of the congregation are numerous─buildings, budgets, training programs, education. Yet here is something that overshadows them all: the need of worship and "practical results of [true] communion with God" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 47).

Worship is more important than anything else in the church program and the elements for doing it are worthy of our most intense study. "The song of praise, the prayer, the words spoken by Christ's representatives, are God's appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship into which there can enter nothing that defileth" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 491). "Our meetings. .. should be pervaded with the very atmosphere of heaven" (Review and Herald, November 30, 1886).

But are they?

It seems that in vision Ellen G. White was contemplating Adventist worship services when she wrote: "There has been a great change, not for the better, but for the worse, in the habits and customs of the people in reference to religious worship. The precious, the sacred, things which connect us with God are fast losing their hold upon our minds and hearts, and are being brought down to the level of common things" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 491).

Surely this is a challenge to every leader of worship, and the elder is an integral part of that leadership in the local congregation. What is happening in your church? Is the service led in harmony with the clear principles of worship found in the Bible or is the concentration more on human experiences? "The reverence which the people had anciently for the sanctuary where they met with God in sacred service has largely passed away. Nevertheless, God Himself gave the order of His service, exalting it high above everything of a temporal nature" (Ibid., p. 491).

At the very heart of the Advent message is a call to "worship him that made heaven and earth." True worship is more than organization, musical style, the incorporation of skits, or any other techniques. These are peripheral elements. Some of us, in an attempt to address the real issues of Adventist worship, are just dealing with the peripherals. True worship springs from the depths of the human soul and must be inspired by a sense of power outside of and beyond its control. It had its beginning when man communed with the Creator in the "cool of the day." That intimate exchange was broken by sin, yet the human spirit can still commune with God, and that is what worship is all about.

At the heart of worship is the fundamental need for God. Worship restores our communion with Him, opening the doors so that the needs of our souls are met. The result of such a relationship with God is that the worshiper feels the inner desire to be like Him and to conform his life with the life of the Saviour.

In this issue we focus on the importance of several elements of worship and how they affect our religious experience. We firmly believe that to help a person child or adult to sense the presence of God is the greatest service an elder or anyone can render to his or her congregation.