By Mike Glenn
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone walked up to me at the end of a worship service and told me, “Preacher, I didn’t get anything out of that service”. I’ve never been told what they were looking for in the first place. No one has ever explained to me what they had missed. They walked into the service with a list of unspoken expectations and then, when those expectations weren’t met, they were disappointed, even angry.
What had we done wrong?
Well, it could have been any number of things. We could have stood up too long. We could have placed too much emphasis on the offering. We could have placed too LITTLE emphasis on the offering. We could have sung too many songs or not enough songs. We could have sung too many hymns or not enough hymns. We could have sung too many choruses or not enough choruses. The sermon could have been too long or too short, too much Scripture or not enough. You get the point.
If everyone had to write on a board their expectations for the worship service they were entering, all of us would see the impossibility of the task. No one could hit all of those needs and expectations in the hour time limit given for most worship services.
Add to that the heart breaking reality that most people don’t take any time to prepare for worship. They grab their stuff and the kids and head out when the worship service is over, and they don’t think about worship until next Sunday. They may have prayed, but probably not. They may have read their Bibles, but I doubt it. If they had a moment of worship, it was when they saw a newborn baby or a beautiful sunrise. In other words, not often.
Add this reality to their already frantic life and when they plop down in their pew on Sunday morning, they are waiting for a worship experience to be done for them. They will sit and admire. They will enjoy the music and be inspired by the sermon. They have their emotions moved and then, they will leave.
They won’t have done anything. They won’t have given anything. They won’t have worshipped. They will have been entertained, but they won’t have worshipped.
And they’re probably right. They won’t have gotten anything out of the service. But where is it written they should “get something” every time they come to worship? For the life of me, I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that talks about what we should get by coming to a worship experience. I can find a lot of passages about what we should bring to worship, about what we should give during worship, but nothing about what we should get.Worship, at its best, is celebrating what God has done in our lives and then, anticipating what God will do in the future. We celebrate God’s faithfulness to us in the past and then, we eagerly look to see how God will reveal Himself in the days to come. We bring our worship with us. When we gather, we’re looking for a form to express what we’ve already experienced.
But if you haven’t encountered God in the last week, how do you worship? What do you celebrate? What do you hope for?
And if you don’t have anything in you driving you to worship, does it really matter what song we sing? Here is what I’ve found out. Whenever I don’t get anything out of worship, more times than not, it’s because I didn’t bring anything TO worship.
I didn’t bring an offering to celebrate God’s goodness in my life.
I didn’t bring a testimony that brought a song to the moment.
I didn’t bring anything to place before God; I didn’t give Him anything to work with in the moment and guess what? Nothing happened.
And that’s not the worship leader’s fault. That’s my fault.
I’m responsible for my own worship. You are responsible for yours. If we didn’t get anything, maybe it’s because we didn’t bring anything.
Here’s what I know. Jesus promised if two or three people are gathered in His name, He’ll be there. I’ve decided that if Jesus shows up, I’m going be sure I find Him.
In my life, I’ve been part of all kinds of worship services – liturgical, Pentecostal, high church and sawdust trail revival meetings. I’ve been in services where English wasn’t spoken. I’ve been in deaf worship where no words at all were spoken. I’ve been inspired, overwhelmed, confused, and transformed in them all.
Here’s why: I’ve decided that if Jesus was there, I was going to find Him. He wasn’t going to leave without blessing me somehow. I would make sure of that. I will make sure I find Him, even if the only thing I bring is my desperate hunger to know Him.