Is worship about us or God?
Is worship about giving or receiving?
Is worship about members or newcomers?
How you answered these questions will tell you a lot about what is important to you in your Christian faith. To some these questions are easily answered, some of us seek to strike a balance, and some of us are struggling to determine the answer. For the next few weeks I am writing about worship.
The topic of worship has been a passion of mine for years. Now that I pastor a church with attendance ranging from 6 months to mid-90’s, the importance is ever-increasing. Pair this with the fact that there are literally thousands of people in the community where I serve that have left the church or have never been affiliated with Christianity, and I find a passion.
I am passionate about worship because it is through worship where we, as a collective body of ordinary lives, encounter the extraordinary resurrected Christ. Certainly we may encounter Jesus through divine intervention like the Apostle Paul but that is not the ordinary means God has chosen. God has chosen the Church, the gathered seekers of truth, to be among the ways we may receive God’s grace and experience God’s presence. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it is a place for the gathered community to revere God and God’s work in the world.
If it is true that worship is an ordinary means by which we encounter God and simultaneously the common way to give God reverence in community, then should worship not be one of the most important aspects in our churches? If it is true that worship is where we most commonly encounter the resurrected Christ, then is our worship service ordered in a way that non-Christians or nominal Christians can experience God as well? I am happy to say that most churches focus on worship greatly, but oftentimes do not ask the right question. They focus exclusively on what is found in their denominational book or cite the trends of fastest growing churches. But should our ultimate goal be non-critical adherence to a tradition or acceptance of a new trend for the sake of being up to date?
We must emphatically say “no” to phrases like “but so-and-so church does it and they are growing,” “the book prescribes it this way,” or “we have always done it that way.” We must evaluate each part of worship and ask this question:
How does (insert element of worship) hinder or help one’s ability to hear the good news?
1 Corinthians 8:7-13 is a poignant passage about drawing nearer to God. Though Paul specifically cites food, the underlying point is that we should never allow our freedom or choices to be stumbling blocks for those seeking God; all the more in our worship services! Paul’s message reminds us that food does not make us closer or further apart from God (v 8), but it is possible that it distances others from God (v 9). For our discussion, some elements of our worship services may be wonderful for us but actually distances others from God. But if we are distancing others from God then are we not actually worse off?
If you were visiting your church service for the first time, what elements may drive someone away? How might this be remedied?