Finding Meaning in Worship – Part 2 of 2

Finding Meaning in Worship – Part 2 of 2 January 23, 2024

Navigating the Path of True Worship

Christianity isn’t a spectator sport. Practical Spirituality series.

Christianity is a way of life. Christians are followers of the way Jesus showed us to live. The way he showed us is to love all others. Love doesn’t mean emotion, it refers to how we treat others.

Justice, kindness, mercy, and charity toward all others, represents love. This idea is central to worship. In worship, we praise God for these benevolent actions in our lives and the lives of others. If we don’t do these things, our worship is hollow, meaningless, and unfeeling.

The path to meaning in worship is to be a follower of Jesus, acting toward others in the way Jesus showed us.

Pub domain image on PxHere from RawPixel
Pub domain image on PxHere from RawPixel

Jesus illustrates true worship in the parable of the two sons

Jesus said, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”

Which of the two sons respected his father? Did the son who didn’t work disrespect his father?

I’ve been both sons. My mother asked me to come hoe out weeds in the garden on a boiling day. The ground was hard, baked clay and impossible to hoe. I was in the eighth grade and didn’t have the strength to do it even though it was for food for our family. I had great respect for my mother, but it was beyond me.

Another day, in my forties, my father asked me to help dig out his boat dock. They lived in Florida and a dry spell had lowered the lake so the boat couldn’t get close enough to the pier. Alligators lurked in the lake. I grumbled inside but had great respect for my father. I took a shovel and spent a few hours digging down the sand so the boat could park.

Sure, we all falter, and some of us have justifiable reasons for not acting. We’re forgiven. But when we persistently refuse to act toward others the way Jesus showed us, it shows that we refuse to change or be transformed.

True worship is

Jesus said that we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth. – John 4:24

In ancient Greek culture, proskuneo referred to showing devotion and reverence to God in worship. It’s used in the same way as the Hebrew word, but the Greek word is lacking because it doesn’t have the meaning of service like the Hebrew or Aramaic. Language often fails us. Worship, as I mention in the previous article, can include the element of service.

The True Worship Jesus refers to is what the prophets Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel talked about. They spoke harshly of those who ignore duties while paying lip service to God through following traditions. Jesus said of them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness ….” – Matthew 23:23 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul compared faith and love

Paul remarked we may be very knowledgeable, and powerful people of faith, but if we don’t exhibit love we’re just a lot of noise. Knowledge, faith, hope are lesser than love. Read 1st Corinthians 13.

Jesus told us that Love is the proof

The Apostle John quotes Jesus in John 13:35 (NASB): “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Followers of the Way lived the way Jesus showed them to live, with love.

Following Jesus is a process of spiritual growth

We aren’t stagnant in our faith and spirituality, we move forward.

We are all responsible for our own salvation. God can lead us and the church can instruct us, but salvation is a spiritual thing related to the condition of our soul. When my mom beckoned me to the garden, I had the responsibility to take the hoe and start working.

When Jesus said the Kingdom of God is spiritual, he summoned us to the Kingdom. He didn’t summon us there to all sit in a circle and celebrate the picture of perfection before us. That’s stagnation. That’s the people the prophets talked about who went to worship and celebrations and then went out and mistreated their neighbors all week.

Eventually the Glory of God left the Temple because it no longer represented God. Jesus helps us understand that ignoring others needs is not showing the love of God.

The spiritual is about change in our conduct. In simple terms it’s about learning to love more deeply and widely. It’s about spiritual growth.

We can sit in place and rot until we die

We sometimes act like church is the beginning and end of religion and spirituality. But church and spirituality are just the beginning. Church should help our spiritual condition, guiding us toward more love for others.

We search for meaning. We find meaning in what we invest ourselves in. As Jesus said, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If we choose to invest ourselves in making a fortune, it will take all of our time and money. If we choose to help others we can wisely invest in them. Our hearts follow.

There is sacrifice involved in what we invest in

My mind goes back to services in which the pastor talked about sacrifice. “Give until it hurts,” he said, “then give a little more.” I don’t recommend this, because I’ve seen too many burnouts, but helping others almost always requires that we give of ourselves. It may be our time, money, talents, or other things. It may be a strain. But helping others is what we are called to do.

Our receiving love from God, and our giving love to others is where the meaning and emotion come in.

Emotional intensity is different for everyone

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” – Luke 7:47

There are many who grow up in a church, slowly adopt the way of life without even recognizing it, and really don’t have much emotion about it. It’s a way of life.

There are others who are actually giving people who do this naturally. At some point they find a church that is supportive. They don’t have much emotion about it either. It’s already a way of life.

Then there are those who are pulled by Jesus or the Spirit from a life saturated with mistreatment of others. They are incredibly grateful for forgiveness and seeing a better way of life that they adopt. These are the people who strongly have emotion from church services.

Finding meaning in church is sporadic

It’s a bit misled and even selfish to go to church or a spiritual assembly and expect to be moved. Sometimes it’s about supporting others. Our strong faith and love can help them in their times of need.

When we’re disappointed in our expectations, we need to look around and see if we are the only people who benefit from church. I spoke to a woman who tragically lost her husband of 60 years. She said she was okay because she is with her church family.

Spirituality is about our own condition and growth. Inevitably, this involves others. Church is essentially about community.


Being a Christian or Follower of the Way isn’t about praising God for being perfect. Praise is an important part of church services, but it’s praise for the mercy, forgiveness, and love that God shows us. In God’s spiritual kingdom, which is here and now, we are to live in the way Jesus showed us to live.

When we live in the way Jesus showed us to live, we find meaning in worship because the love from God and the love we show others makes it meaningful.

Probability and Potential Space

From Part 1 of this series:

Transitioning to a broader perspective, we can consider other ideas to make worship more of an integral part of our lives.

A probability space is about an idea whose time has come. The moment is pregnant with possibility. Think about this in terms of your spiritual growth. Do you feel that you have ceased growing? What would challenge you to new areas of loving others or in your career as an expression of spiritual growth? What new challenge resonates with you?

Following are some examples of ways to ignite worship experiences in meaningful ways.

Spark up worship

Try to have something different every month. Invite a motorcycle club to worship with you. Have football in … well, invite football players who might give their account of God in their lives. No throwing footballs with stained glass windows.

I’ve seen martial arts experts come and talk about their faith and give demonstrations. I firmly refused to try to stab them in the throat, having been military trained in martial arts.

Race car drivers, entertainers, other sports, very wealthy individuals, public servants, and many other professions and organizations offer a huge number of people whose spirituality is central to their lives.

A man who had been badly damaged in a motorcycle accident and could barely talk gave one of the most compelling acknowledgements of the power of faith in their lives. At first, the pastor tried to dissuade him, but he gave a wonderful account.

Churches who incorporate young adults and new adults into their services are much more successful at retaining them. Churches who have multiple programs for these age groups are much better at retaining them. These make church relevant. Too many people think relevance is bologna, but they are missing the mark.

Having speakers on different topics with a spiritual focus can help make worship more meaningful.

Personally, I develop and present life skills for the New Adult (18 to 30 age group) in a setting that emphasizes spirituality. Things like conflict resolution skills are essential to living in harmony and abundance, just as Jesus pointed us toward. Be kind to your enemies. Have life abundantly.

Emphasize that we are co-creators with God? Think not? How do you bring children into this world? How do you create new products that help others? We have creative skills in abundance and we should emphasize them.

Emphasize appreciation and gratitude for the bounty that we are given. We live like kings compared to previous eras. We need to acknowledge the rich bounty that we all have available to us either through our own incomes, or through the church, or through government services provided by our taxes.

Emphasize spiritual growth and ask people to tell their perspectives on what they have learned in life and through faith. We learn whether we have faith or not, but faith is a major help.

Emphasize beauty, truth, love, justice, and similar things. These are spiritual things. Animals lack the ability to appreciate these things. They don’t occur in nature. They occur because we humans set them as values and they are reflected in the entire Bible.

Let’s not preach about sin or focus on that. We all know when we’ve done something wrong and don’t need to feel scorned in church. God loves and accepts all of us even if God wants us to do better. Love is transformational, but hitting people on the head with a stick is more likely to drive them away. We’re not others’ judges anyway. We’re commanded not to be.

Music. I dislike almost all church music. I grew up saturated with songs from the 18th Century, and have been bombarded new tunes that are more like modern music. I find most of it either purposely emotional but hollow, or spouting doctrine and hollow. I see really great musicians who tire of the business of making music because their heart isn’t in it. Our heart being in it comes from the work of God in our lives and our work in others’ lives.

If we understand the background of Amazing Grace, written by a former slaver, it has enormous impact. Otherwise it’s just words. I was so tired of hearing droning through songs in church that I read them to the congregation as poems and talked about the reason for their origin.

Churches that are alive in faith attract others, including younger generations. Churches that are tired and drone through songs chase people away. If music can’t be brought to life then it should be dropped.

Song writers and musicians should sing what they live and look at the transformation that love brings in their lives and in others they know.

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