By Beth Demme
“I have to find a new church.” Gary said. “The new worship leader just isn’t doing it for me. Those hawaiian print shirts he wears?! Please. 1983 called and Magnum PI needs his wardrobe back.”
We laughed a little, sort of agreeing with our friend. Then I quietly asked, “You aren’t serious, are you? About finding a new church, I mean.”
“Yeah. I’m seriously thinking about it.”
“But what about how well the pastors supported you when you lost your Dad?” Gary’s dad had passed away the year before, but only after dementia had completely disconnected him from the present.
“They were amazing, but they were just doing their job. I appreciated it and all, but someone at work told me about a new church near my house. Apparently the pastor’s a young guy with a really fresh take on everything. And their worship band actually understands contemporary worship!”
My husband and I knew our church wasn’t perfect. We had spent more than one evening strategizing about what could be better, but we didn’t want to leave.
I could give you a list of reasons explaining why we stayed (and continue to stay), but they all have the same truth in common: our church is a place we feel useful.
Somewhere along the way, we stopped using church and found ways to be useful at church.
For most of my life, I was a consumer of worship. I sat in my seat every week happy to hear the praise band play and hear a pastor preach. I was happy to be part of a worshipping community and really happy to drop my children off and let someone else teach them. Basically, I went to church to receive.
Actually, church was like the rest of my life. I’m pretty spoiled.
I have a cleaning lady and a lawn guy. I go to the nail salon and drop our laundry at the dry cleaner. We have lights that turn on automatically in our house (seriously, I don’t even have to flip the switch).
For a long time, I didn’t see that church should be any different.
Church was a place I went so other people could do things for me. When the music wasn’t what I wanted or I didn’t connect with the sermon, I felt justified in my disappointment like an unsatisfied customer. I left feeling there wasn’t anything of use there. I was a user, a consumer.
Then one Sunday, our pastor lead the congregation in John Wesley’s Covenant prayer (especially appropriate since I’m a Methodist now).
This prayer expressed my internal, unspoken desire perfectly – I wanted to be useful to God.
This realization was a new path in my journey and it transformed everything for me, including Sunday morning worship.
Now, worship isn’t about hearing a lecture or singing songs.
Worship is about being available to God as part of a community of believers.
Allison Vesterfelt, one of my favorite authors, once told me “writing for yourself will do what doing anything only for yourself will do—it will keep your craft small and unimportant.” I think this is true of worship too. If we attend a worship service only to see what we individually can get out of it, we keep worship small and unimportant. We miss the point of worship altogether.
What do you think? Do you feel connected with God through weekly worship? Do you feel useful at your church? Are you a satisfied worship consumer? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me an e-mail or find me on Twitter or Facebook.
**Note: The conversation with “Gary” is fictional, but hopefully funny. If you are part of a church, I think chances are good that you’ve heard from (or been) a “Gary.”**