We use if only statements to express a strong desire for things to be different. Those two words are sometimes uttered to nostalgically hold on to the past in order to place stipulations on the present. And they are also used just as often to discount or disparage the traditional in an attempt to elevate the modern.
So when it comes to worship, these two words are often voiced to selfishly hold a congregation hostage until certain demands are met:
If only we would sing more or less hymns.
If only we had a younger worship leader.
If only the songs weren’t so trite and repetitive.
If only we still had a choir.
If only our services were more creative.
If only we had a better worship band.
If only the volume wasn’t so high and lights so low.
If only the attire wasn’t so casual or formal.
If only we were still holding a hymnal.
If only they would let my granddaughter sing a solo.
If only we were like that other church.
If only we still had special music.
If only the song sets and sermons weren’t so long.
If only the people looked and spoke more like us.
If only we talked about money less and politics more.
If only the text and tunes weren’t so archaic.
If only our present leader was more like our previous leader.
“If only” worshipers can hold a congregation hostage to styles and structures by constantly pointing the conversation back to themselves. What they need, what they like, what they want, what they deserve or what they’ve earned often determines their level of participation. But when “if only” stipulations beyond the revelation of God must be met before congregants are willing to engage in worship, what they are actually worshiping may be their own selfish desires.
This article originally appeared here.