Throwing Rocks (from a safe distance of course)

Throwing Rocks (from a safe distance of course)

I’ve learned a few things about “church” life, having been in leadership or closely connected to it for 35 years. It’s a people business, to be sure, and I’ve found that the joys and challenges present in a local church are pretty much the same no matter what the size. There are a few things that I want to say which may ruffle a few feathers or more hopefully stimulate a few hearts, but I would hope you will agree that even among the weakest criticism there may be a nugget or two to process personally. Be assured what I have to say I am taking into account for myself as well.

Maybe we have lost sight somewhat of why we gather as a family on Sunday. This loss of focus can lead us to a mindset that skews the priority of what we do when we do come together. In some places this meeting is still called (and considered) a “worship” service. With this intention, people come and sacrifice their time to worship God, to attribute to him the worth he deserves. We are to come with spiritual hunger and with a desire to open our hearts in adoration, thanksgiving and petition to our great God. We come to serve God and not to be served ourselves. We come as a sacrifice and offer ourselves to God, yielding to his will for each of us individually. We come as a beggar seeking the bread of life that only God can give. We sing with agreement and alignment to the words of songs which proclaim God’s greatness, mercy and grace and how significant God is to us. At times we cannot sing because the words are not where our heart is, and we can pray for God’s intervention.

Yes, we do receive something from our willingness to set aside time for God, to “come to church,” but these are the benefits returned to us by God for our dedication to and worship of God. We are not to come with a “what’s in this for me” attitude. There is something for us, to be sure, but our motive is “God-ward”, not “us-ward.”  Understanding this helps remove us from the petty evaluations and criticisms of what songs were sung (and how well) and whether the message this day was a strikeout or a home run. We must learn to come looking for and expecting to connect with God. That is our purpose. There can be a variety of things to complain and be distracted about if that is where you are focused. It can be a struggle to sustain that “vertical” concentrationThis can take real determination. 

Our success in achieving an authentic worship experience begins well before we hit the church doors. Our “church” experience should be the crescendo of the week leading to Sunday. In other words, we ought to come to the assembly worshiping, having spent good time in our week drawing near to the Father through his word and prayer. Many people get little to nothing out of their Sunday “experience” because it is not a “worship” experience where the Spirit of God is invited by them to teach, train correct and adjust our lives to conform to the will and image of Christ. Instead, we can become spectators at a presentation or possibly a “show.” We don’t experience much because we don’t expect much. God will meet with the person who comes to draw near to Him. God has promised that. Is there a vibrant eagerness in you to seek God corporately and be in the company of other God-seekers? There is an energy created in an environment like this that may be encouraged but not built by the stimulus of the music, message and fellowship. It is an experience charged by an interaction between God’s Spirit and God’s children and nothing can parallel that.

Dear brother and sister, I encourage you, even urge you to consider adjusting your perspective on why we gather and your personal approach to how we gather each week. Prepare your heart to look for God, come with your highest priority of experiencing him, and in his presence worship him by inviting him to speak to you and work in you. Think About It.

This short blog was more of a pebble than a rock. What follows next week speaks to a completely other aspect of “body life,” and it’s one we need to personally attend to if we have regard for the health of the church and its members, as well as the image it gives to those watching critically from the outside.