Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Do You Approach Worship?

How do you approach worship? Is it just something you feel you have to do, an obligation to be met? Is it just a place where you talk with some friends and put in your time for God? Is it a joyful thing, or a mere ritual to go through? How do you approach worship? It's an important and vital question because the way we approach the weekly time of worship will determine what we get out of it.

In survey after survey, the thing people say they want most from the time of worship is to "connect with God." And in those same surveys, most of the people say the one thing they don't get out of worship is that sense of being in God's presence. Yes, some of the fault rests on we pastors, who too often simply plug in the same elements every week with little regard to any sense of unity or purpose in the service. But sometimes it's also because we come expecting so little from our worship. We get out of it what we put in it.

Joshua Harris, in his book "Stop Dating the Church," suggests several things we can do during the time of worship to get the most out of it, to increase our openness to what God wants to do in and through that time. The first thing is to remember why we gather. It's not for entertainment or to be part of a social club. We gather to worship God, and so ultimately it doesn't matter if we like the songs or the style or the sermon or even the people who sit around us. The purpose of worship isn't to make us happy. The purpose of worship is to lift up the name of Jesus and to remember that we are his people. Worship should shape us for the week to come, not just leave us with a warm, fuzzy feeling. In fact, if worship is really effective...we might just leave feeling uncomfortable because we've been in God's presence.

There are, in most worship services, two main opportunities to participate in worship. One is in singing. Many a pastor will tell you that they probably have had more complaints about music than anything else because we tend to focus on whether or not we know the song or we like the song. But the song isn't the point. God is. We sing to God. The words we use should glorify God, and beyond that, in a really well-thought-out worship service, they should contribute to the overall theme of the day. If we can focus on the one we worship rather than our own personal preferences, music and singing becomes a way to express praise and gratefulness to God.

The other way we participate is during the sermon. No, not necessarily in "talking back" (though if the preacher asks a question, he or she is probably expecting an answer!), but in listening. And, again, not to the preacher but to what God is saying through the preacher. The sermon is, at its best, God's word applied to this particular congregation. If the preacher has worked hard all week to prayerfully bring the Scripture to the congregation, is it asking too much for the congregation to listen and seek what God is saying to them? We will be held accountable for what we have heard regardless of whether it moved us emotionally or not. That's kind of a scary thought!

For some people, it's helpful to take notes, although that's not helpful for me, but I know it is for others. The main thing is to listen for what God is saying and seek to apply it to your life in some concrete way during the week.

How we approach worship shapes our lives and our week. Worship is the central act of the Christian, and it shapes our hearts and lives. How will you approach worship this weekend?

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