Yesterday’s post on people not going to church anymore has started a lot of discussion both here and around the folks I know off the page. One of the more interesting talking points I’ve run up against are the number of people who say that going to church actually has put them farther away from God.
I’m so torn as to how to even ask this question, because quite frankly I think that too many of us are looking to church as a What Have You Done For ME Lately? activity. Unless churchgoing leaves you with the warm fuzzies, people think less of it. Honestly, church is supposed to be about worshipping the Creator, not entertaining the creation. You’ve got TV, books, movies, music…thousands of options for amusing yourself. When you go to church you are supposed to be focusing on honouring God through bringing God your gift of worship. So I’m really not very concerned at all if the act of going to church isn’t jazzy enough to suit you.
But this one thing does concern me greatly, and that is the question of Joy. True abiding joy is one of the hallmarks of devoted worship of God. It may be amidst pain, sadness, grief or trial…but it is there. How could real worship not lead to joy, as we contemplate the gifts of grace and eternal communion and give praise and glory to the God who gave those gifts so abundantly?
Yet so many people I speak with do not leave a church service with gladness in their hearts (beyond the gladness of having the whole thing over for another week.) Why is that?
Part of me thinks that maybe it’s because the way we structure church services hasn’t really changed much in the last hundred and fifty years. Sure there’s a marked difference in music style–but that’s not the essence of the thing. Communal worship is getting up early on a Sunday morning, going across town to sit in a pew, sing songs someone else has picked, listen to a sermon/message/homily, shake a few hands and try to beat the rush to the closest restaurants. Nothing in the recipe really says “turn your focus on God.”
So how could we change communal worship to really bring our best hearts to God? Any ideas?