i never thought i’d be here, in this place of reticence on a sunday morning, in this place of ambivalence about going to church…i didn’t go this morning. i haven’t been for weeks. and i feel like maybe i should feel guilty about it, but really, what i feel guilty about is not feeling guilt. i’m not sure why i’m not going, either. maybe if i knew i had some sort of latent anger or something towards the church, i could manage to feel guilty about that, deal with it as the sin it would be, and go back. but unless i am completely self-deceived, i’m not angry about anything. i’m not even all that disillusioned… i’m enough of a cynic to recognize that no place and no people, no matter how passionately they’re pursuing God, will ever get it “right.” no… if anything, i think i’m just kind of burned out.
worship. what is it? ultimately it is simply declaring God’s worth – giving Him the glory, honor, praise, etc. that He deserves. that’s why we’re supposed to go to church. to worship Him together – the various parts of the body of Christ assembled in one place. expressing unity. remembering that “oh, yes, I can’t be a Christian in isolation.” allowing others to minister to us, and in turn, ministering to them – each of us being who God made us to be with gifts that complement the gifts of others and work together to point to His wisdom, glory, omniscience – amazing-ness.
a worship service. a service. a gift offered to God’s people by those in a more formal ministry capacity, whether professional or volunteer. structured, designed carefully, to teach worship both by model and instruction. liturgy. formal or informal, every service has one – we come, someone calls us to worship through song or formal words. we sing, we pray, we recite creeds, we remember together who God is. we get quiet and listen for God to speak. (did you know this is what you’re doing when someone preaches?) we respond to His voice.
this is why we are supposed to go to church.
but why do we really go? do we go because someone will notice we’re not there, and we care too much about what they think? do we go because we’re supposed to? do we go because we don’t know what else to do? do we go because we think it will make God happy? because it’s just what you do? because it makes us feel like we’ve done something about our spiritual lives for the week, and even if we manage to sleep right through the time we told God last week we’d give him every morning for those “quiet times” (oh, yeah – it was really quiet, except for the snoring) it will make us feel a little better, because “at least i went to church”?
you know, there was a time when i would have said that if those are the reasons that got you to church, well, fine. because there’s a sense in which they really are all valid reasons, in that they all do sort of play into what happens on a sunday morning. i think God is pleased when His kids get together and worship Him… but i guess what it really comes down to is: are we doing that? if i’m not worshiping God, what am i doing?
and yes, worship is a choice. it’s a lifestyle. it’s a zillion things i don’t know anything about and a couple dozen things that i might know something about. and i’m not saying that when i do go to church on a sunday morning that i am not worshiping God. i am – i do. but it got to be so routine… i don’t know. something about the experience just lost something. and i don’t want to be one of those “felt needs” people. i don’t want to bail on church because it isn’t what i want it to be – because it isn’t about me. it’s about Him. and i believe that meeting with the whole body of Christ, and doing life with people of all generations is extremely important… but maybe that’s it. while there are grandmas and grandpas, and little babies, and everyone inbetween – i wasn’t doing life with them. i was just standing on a stage, leading them into God’s presence, and smiling and saying thank you when they told me how pretty my voice was – and i wanted more than that. i wanted them to really know me. but doing life together with people takes work and time. and who has the energy or the time for that? you can’t know everyone. you can’t do life with everyone. you’ve got to be intentional, and you’ve got to… to some degree … keep your circle smaller.
Jesus did that. He ministered to hundreds of people, sometimes in a day. And He had people He traveled with, men and women with whom He did life. 12 friends in whom He confided more deeply on a regular basis. a few of whom were His closest inner circle. and His Father, to whom He gave His life and His time, getting up early in the morning and withdrawing to quiet places.
and i guess maybe that’s part of what this whole weird zone of finding myself among the temporarily unchurched is for me – it’s a drawing away, a getting away to a quiet place. i’ve been sleeping in on sunday mornings. waking up, reading, journaling, blogging, going for walks, riding my bike, sometimes spending part of the day with a very close friend or two, and just keeping it low-key. i’ve been resting. spending time with God. thinking about being unchurched.
and realizing that i’m not. not really. i think i’d be a little more worried about this sunday morning ambivalence if i didn’t have Torch on Monday nights. but i do – and at Torch, i get to worship in community, minister and be ministered to. i get to use my gifts, and see how they complement the gifts of others. i get to spend time with my closest friends, and do life with them throughout the week. i get to sing, dance, shout, and get quiet before the Lord – and i get to be myself. there’s even a touch of the multi-generational thing, as people with kids start coming, and mentors come and invest in us. it isn’t perfect – but it’s good – very good. and it is something for which i am seriously thanking God. i know it won’t always be enough. but for today it is.