Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why do we go to worship?

Where do you worship? 
Worship. It's on my mind a lot. Living a life of worship, Who we worship, how we worship, and going to worship. I love worship and I love to help other people worship, too. I hear a lot of people commenting on the worship service they attend (or avoid attending).  They use language that refers to 'being fed' - as in, "I'm just not being fed by this pastor's sermons" or "I need to go somewhere where I'm being fed." Or maybe they say, "That message really fed my soul!" Pastors like to hear that. Sometimes, we choose our worship service based on the musical style - some love to sing from a hymnbook accompanied by an organ. To others, that is a totally foreign atmosphere and they feel more at home with a few guitars, some drums, and a lead singer. Still others look for things like pastoral prayers, Scripture reading, location.  A lot of people choose a worship service based on what's available to their children. Sometimes, people attend a church because they grew up there and it is their home. 

These aren't bad things. There is nothing wrong with attending a worship service that teaches you God's Word in a way that you can understand it. And there is nothing wrong with singing praises to God in a style that is comfortable for you. And let's be honest - we want our children to know Jesus, right? So why wouldn't we look for programs that meet their needs in order to help them get to know our Savior?

But there is another component that we need to examine when we go to worship - the state of our hearts.  Is it just me, or has anyone else ever mentally 'checked out' on a given Sunday because we've sung that song too many times, or we don't really like that song, or that soloist isn't our favorite person in the world? What if the guitar was out of tune, or the pianist kept playing wrong notes... would we still be focused on worshiping the Lord, or would we be distracted by the details? 

I am often reminded of how the Israelites worshiped in the Old Testament. They went to the tabernacle to praise the Lord where His presence was.  In Psalm 84, the Psalmist writes about worship:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
 (Psalm 84:1-2, NIV). 

The Bible does talk about what instruments were used in worship, what the tabernacle looked like, and how it was set up. But what does it really focus on? The presence of God. The Psalmist doesn't talk about which worship service he liked best, or which instrument helped him sing, or what flavor of incense he preferred in worship. He wanted to go to the tabernacle because he yearned to be in the presence of the Lord. Later in the Psalm, he says, 

"Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;"
 (Psalm 84:10, NIV). 

The Psalmist would rather be basking in the presence of God than anywhere else. So while it's ok to have preferences on style and type of worship, I think we can do better by making sure we are going to worship to be in the presence of the Lord. Before I step foot across the threshold of the sanctuary door, I need to do a heart check and remind myself that I am there to worship God with my church family. If I want my soul to be fed, if I want my heart to sing with praise, then I need to focus on the One whose presence is worthy of all my worship. 

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