Let’s be honest. For those of us who have been around “church” and “worship services” for any amount of time, we can sometimes approach worship like a vending machine. We seem to “enjoy” a worship service most when it has certain qualities such as a) that song/those songs I like, b) that style of music I prefer, c) a person up front that I connect to, d) a comfortable temperature in the sanctuary, e) a sermon that I find useful or funny or comforting or entertaining or (sometimes) thought-provoking or able to keep my attention, f) a seat/row/section that everyone understands is “mine”, g) not too much talk about money, h) not too convicting, i) a good volume level, j) no babies crying (“Don’t they know we have a nursery?), k) people around my seat who are friendly/likable/good singers/don’t smell bad, l) a preacher who has just enough fire, but without too much brimstone, m) clearly marked exits, n) not too many “crazies”, o) nothing that’s going to make feel uncomfortable in any way. (I’ll save p-z for another time).
Is this the way worship services today are meant to be? Here in America we seem to walk a tightrope balance of having nice amenities to bring people in (gifts for visiting, java-drenched atmosphere to make you comfortable, special parking spots, etc.) balanced with enough _________ and not too much __________ to ensure that they’ll return next week.
The worship service is one of the central components that create a local church’s identity. When you invite someone to your church, one of their first questions is undoubtedly going to be “What’s the worship service like?” And if you don’t have some good adjectives to use like “casual” or “welcoming” or “amazing music” or “friendly” or “comfortable” then you might not see them darken the door. But has the modern worship service evolved into something it was never intended to be? Does God have anything to say about how HE’D like to see worship services happen?
I once heard a question asked when I was in college that I don’t think I could forget if I wanted to. A chapel speaker once asked “If the Holy Spirit left your ministry, how long would it take for you to notice?” In other words, are we so busy planning, preparing, doing, and going that we leave God’s Spirit entirely out of the whole equation? As a pastor, believe me there have been times when I’ve gotten so busy doing things FOR God, that I stopped doing things WITH God. Oh, I was doing pastoral ministry kinds of things, but God was nowhere in sight. How messed up is that?
And I suppose a similar type of question could be asked about our worship services: “If God decided He wasn’t coming to the worship service you attend this week, would anybody notice?” Are we so entrenched in our routine machine that we completely leave out the One who is supposed to be at the center of it all?
I have countless blogs that I’ve begun and haven’t finished. I have learned about myself that if I don’t publish a blog post in one sitting, I’m likely not going to come back to it and complete it. So, here’s a great stopping spot. I’ll come back and do a “Part 2” kind of thing, but in the meantime, I’d like to invite your thoughts on what you’ve read so far.