We are calling seekers to become worshipers. Is it not better to have seekers witness the story of God through our expression of worship than be entertained? Freely use innovative means to attract. But, please submit these under our call to worship. Why is it that we limit evangelism and discipleship to one hour on Sunday and think worship is everything else? One thing we know from the writer of the book of Hebrews is this. We are to “spur” each other on for love and good deeds in our worship. Are we more concerned about getting crowds or about loving those crowds? Also, how we reach people is how we keep people. So, if we entertain to draw, then we entertain to keep.
The power of the presence of God. Is it only available when I go to church?
If we as worshipers become more loving to each other and our neighbors, it is far better than the haze machine and fancy sound system. It is even better than offering great coffee or cool church stage designs with wood backdrops. Again, I love all of these things. But, is the gathering about getting a certain feeling? What we call a religious experience indeed is far less than what we see in the Bible. The famous encounter of the prophet Isaiah had with God made Isaiah “undone” before he could even speak. I don’t know about you, but a terrifying experience is not what I ask God for daily or even in a worship service.
A religious experience is where you will never be the same again. The emotional last song in a revival meeting gets people to walk forward and recommit their lives. This is a good thing. But, a religious experience is far more powerful. It is lasting because is happens to us more than we happen to choose it. Paul on the road to Damascus saw Jesus and was blinded. He was never the same. The point here is that if we sell this life-changing encounter to our parishioners as a reason to come on Sundays and only provide the vibes of a concert, we are bait-and-switching people.
God promises to be present. We may indeed have life-changing encounters with him as he promised to be present with us. But, we cannot promise experiences on demand. There are companies like Disney who do this and the agreement is that it is entertainment and escape. We love the experiences others create for us. That is not our job, however. We don’t program experiences to consumers. We preach the promises and the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do as he wishes. This expectation of the Holy Spirit is different than prescribing a specific spiritual experience. Mystery is deeper than good vibes. Faith must believe in promises even when the vibes are not causing goosebumps or flutters.
We forget, so telling God’s story empowers us to live. Is that why I need to go to church?
When we practice a liturgy that gathers God’s people, preaches and speaks the Word of God, enjoys the presence of God at the Table, and then sends the church out, we are inviting all to live a true story. God’s story. Some have derided this as “gather and scatter” and call it irrelevant. But, if we are only about bringing people in, what do we invite them into? If we don’t live a story ourselves, doesn’t it become harder to tell that story. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means “God’s gathered ones.” We need to be the church! Not just go to church! We need to be God’s gathered ones!
In a world that has changed how we live in community with urbanization and social media, the idea of physical gathering is even more important than ever. Our society is full of changing trends and thoughts. What will ground our ethics if the Bible is not central? When God’s presence is not offered at the table, how do we learn to sit at all the other tables in life? We need his table to teach us true grace. And, we all have a purpose to live! Our worship is not complete without the prodding of each other to live out our purpose in Christ.
Sleeping in is not an option, or should I go to church?
I have heard many say, “I had church at the beach,” or, “My church was on the golf course.” If those four movements were part of it, then I may agree. If you had people gathered as God’s people then you get one check. If the Bible was taught and shared, you have another. Next, if the sacramental presence of God is present at his table you get another check. Finally, if you are sent to live out God’s call on you then you pass. Enjoy a day off! But, should you call it church?