How do you worship?

church-trappist-georgia-monastery-62285.jpegMerriam-Webster defines worship as:

transitive verb
1to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
intransitive verb
to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship

As part of the Vision Process that we started in January, I have personally been taking time to evaluate each aspect of our ministry as I go about the daily tasks of my job. Worship is a major area that engages our members and visitors alike. So, I have spent considerable time contemplating worship and listening to comments worshipers share with me. I will openly admit right now, I don’t have an answer to every question or complaint, and don’t have a clear vision that will make every person happy in every situation.

Recently I was thinking about a memory from my time on a youth leadership team in high school. Our team had attended a couple different camps that summer and had very different experiences. I attended with a few friends a leadership camp that was new to the area that year. The planners of this event spent time, energy, and money to make it the best and brightest. We had amazing music, speakers, activities, and small group leaders. Every one of us left that place excited and energized. Another one of our friends attended a camp that combined Christian leadership with sports training for his specific sport. He told a very different story about his experience. The worship was lead by an individual who was a novice at best on the guitar and the energy was none existent. As we debriefed our experiences, our adult leaders shared a profound statement, or rather a question in Jesus’ style. They asked, “Each of you had great spiritual experiences this summer, but which camp was the experience greater if you consider the way the message was given to you?” Well, as we talked we realized how easy it was to enjoy and be energized when everything was presented exactly how we liked it. But for our friend who didn’t particularly like the way the leader preached, or the way the songs were lead, he had to struggle more to hear God, but hear God he did. In fact, that summer had a bigger impact on him than any of us had. His lasted and transformed him more than the rest of us.

I recently came across a blog post about worship styles that I wanted to share part of with you:“People looking for a church often have questions about worship, and most have strong views on the subject. Of course these views are most often an extension of their own experiences. People do not insist on a specific worship format because their preference is objectively better, but because their experiences or assumptions tell them their preference should be shared by all. When imagining worship, most Christians recall memories of pleasant worship experiences. It’s natural to conclude the pleasure felt will be shared by others, and that this pleasure proves God’s preference for that style of worship. “I prefer (insert style) worship, so God must prefer it and others as spiritual as I, of course, prefer it. Those who like (insert a different style) are simply not as spiritual or mature as I.”

Years ago, after a particularly nice church service—one in which we had a balanced blend of traditional and modern worship, and everyone seemed to be blessed—I was approached by an elderly woman who said, “Pastor, we use too many choruses. We need to get rid of the choruses and only use hymns.” The very next woman (literally) who came up to me said, “Pastor, we use too many hymns. We need to get rid of the hymns and only use choruses.” Both women had been in the same service. They each found things to dislike about the same service others had found richly satisfying. Right then I realized there is no such thing as a worship format that makes everyone happy, because those looking for something to dislike will find it. I learned the truth of the saying, “Blended worship means no one is happy.”

In every service that blesses and inspires, there will be some not enjoying it because they choose to find fault—they choose not to take pleasure in it. Reasons for this differ, but almost all boil down to preference. Some believe God prefers one style of worship over another. Interesting how their understanding of God’s preference always lines up with their own. No one ever says, “I prefer to worship with hymns, but God prefers choruses” (or vice versa). Blaise Pascal said, “God created man in his image and man has returned the favor.” Man is adept at remaking God in his own image and often the only support for ascribing a worship preference to God is the assumption “Of course, God would agree with me.” This is an assumption I, for one, refuse to make.”  (http://resurgentsa.org/about-us/faq/what-is-your-style-of-worship/)

During Lent, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the attitude you bring to any worship or study situation. How does it impact what you get out of the service or event? Are you limiting what God could be doing in your midst because you’ve turned a blind eye to the potential of the situation? Are your preferences driving your spirituality, or is your spirituality open to how the Holy Spirit is present in all situation?

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Zach

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