Reflecting on Listening to a (Bad) Sermon, Stale Hymns, Dance-beat Worship & the Typical Sunday Morning Worship Experience

If you are a fellow worshipper in my church community, you are thinking, “What – he doesn’t like his senior pastor’s preaching??”. Sorry this post is not about that all (I love my pastor, his preaching, his ministry, and the fact that he really believes in me and the staff).

This post is more about the worshipper in general. It’s a bit about me, maybe about you, but it’s the caricature based on countless conversations that have taken place moments after a worship service in the lobby, the following day at a coffee shop, and some times, from those who have abandoned the faith.

If you have noticed, we tend to ask say similar things after a worship service as we do after a movie. “Did you like it?”, “I liked the soundtrack”, “The original was better”, and “I didn’t understand it really”.

After a church service you probably have heard one of these:
“That message didn’t really speak to me.”
“That message really spoke to me.”
“I’m glad I came.”
“I didn’t like the music today.”
“I really liked the music today. We should always do it like that.”
and the ever classic, “I didn’t get anything out of that.”

Allow be to be honest – There have been Sundays when I have fought to stay engaged.  Sometimes the preaching was “off”.  But sometimes it has simply been due to my own failing. Perhaps I came into the sanctuary not ready to worship whether it was due to lack of focus, overly-stressed, or feeling “overly-churched” at the moment.

But as worshippers we should not be coming to church just to hear a message or to sing songs or even drink really bad coffee.

I can hear the thoughts of some, “Oh you’re just saying that because you don’t like to feel the pressure of giving the sermon.” In all honesty, that’s not really it. While there is pressure in preparing and delivering the sermon, I find a lot of fulfillment in that. I imagine most pastors do. The pressure comes from saying the things you feel the Lord has laid on your heart and saying them effectively and interesting enough so your audience is able to connect with it. The pressure is in overcoming the temptation in giving people an entertaining show versus offering the words the Lord has spoken to you through times of prayer, study, and listening to the voices throughout your community.

I am obviously not the first to say this but more and more, I see the Church becoming even more consumer-based. “Give the people what they want, pastor!”, “Do your job, why else are we here?”. With that mentality, the church has become my business, the worshipper is my customer, the gospel is my product, and God is in the back room organizing the inventory. I can hear it now, “What – we need to sell some joy? Ok new sermon series, “Jesus Joy: The 5 Ways You Can Have Happiness Today!” It sounds like I’m kidding, but as a worshipper (or as one who has participated in leading the worship), can we not all relate to this in some way?

For the Christian, the worship is directed to God. Most of us know this. However, why is that so many times we leave the service complaining about the length of the service, the sound quality, the content, and my favorite, the powerpoint background (I kid you not)? When I walk out feeling that way, I realize that I was the audience of my worship, not God.

Not sure how to say this but in between growing up in the church, my education, my 10 years of pastoral ministry, there’s not a lot that’s being said/sung/prayed that’s new to me these days. I imagine many can relate to that on some level. This is perhaps why I value my education and enjoy reading and conversing about theology and culture so much but learning about my faith is not worship.

However I come to worship to express my love to God hopefully with a community I love, that loves me, loves others, and ultimately loves God.

Thus, the elements of worship actually become secondary. I don’t need the preacher to be as moving as  Edward Scissorhands. So engaging on a sermon about forgiveness that I have heard throughout my life is an act of worship.  And understanding the power of forgiveness may move me to not only be inspired but to actually forgive.
Reflecting and praying on the stale sounding hymn or an obnoxious sounding “Jesus is my boyfriend worship” song is an act of worship.
Praying along with the one who is leading our time of prayer as opposed to staring at my watch is an act of worship.
Giving my offering and not wondering how it will be spent is an act of worship.
Coming and being centered on my Lord as opposed to attending a service is an act of worship

The list goes on and on, especially if we were to consider what worship looks like apart from Sunday morning. With that heart, I love the promise of the Church. And while there are many in my community that feel this way and practice this way, I know two things – we need to embody this more and I need to embody this more. And so, may a beautiful worship service begin with me as I enter the sanctuary ready to give God His due praise and may those around me do likewise in their own way.

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