Thursday, May 19, 2011

Church: Why Bother?

Prompted by a friend's musings over some of the issues surrounding church, I began re-reading sections of Philip Yancy's book, Church: Why Bother? My Personal Pilgrimage.  I came across this reminder and wanted to share it with you.

"I used to approach church with the spirit of a discriminating consumer.  I viewed the worship service as a performance.  Give me something I like.  Entertain me.

Speaking of folks like me, Søren Kierkegaard said that we tend to think of church as a kind of theater: we sit in the audience, attentively watching the actor onstage, who draws every eye to himself.  If sufficiently entertained, we show our gratitude with applause and cheers.  Church, though, should be the opposite of the theater.  In church God is the audience for our worship.  Far from playing the role of leading actor, the minister should function as something like a prompter, the inconspicuous helper who sits beside the stage and prompts by whispering.

What matters most takes place from within the hearts of the congregation, not among the actors onstage.  We should leave a worship service asking ourselves not "What did I get out of it?" but rather "Was God pleased with what happened?"  Now I try to look up in a worship service, to direct my gaze beyond the platform, toward God.

Such a change in viewpoint has helped me to cope with the talent deficit I encounter in various churches.  To  direct the spotlight away from the minister, some churches seek to involve many lay people in worship.  They compose songs or poetry, act out mini-dramas, sing in trios, make banners, express themselves through sacred dance.  I confess that, judged by objective standards of aesthetics and even by subjective standards of "worship promptings" many of these attempts do little to enhance my own worship.  Gradually, though, the truth has sunk in that God, not the congregation, is the audience that matters most.

I am trying to learn a lesson from C.S. Lewis, who wrote this about his church:

I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music.  But as I went on I saw the great merit of it...I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with such devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren't fit to clean those boots.  It gets you out of your solitary conceit.

Church exists primarily not to provide entertainment or to encourage vulnerability or to build self-esteem or to facilitate friendships but to worship God; if it fails in that, it fails.  I have learned that the ministers, the music, the sacraments, and the other "trappings" of worship are mere promptings to support the ultimate goal of getting worshipers in touch with God.  If ever I doubt this fact, I go back and read the Old Testament, which devoted nearly as much space to specifications for worship in the tabernacle and the temple as the New Testament devotes to the life of Christ.  Taken as a whole, the Bible clearly puts the emphasis on what pleases God- the point of worship, after all.  To worship, says Walter Wink, is to remember Who owns the house." Pin It


  1. Wonderful post! How often it is forgotten WHO it is we are worshipping!! is NOT about us at all...

    Thank you for posting. :)

    Many blessings,

  2. What a refreshing post. As the wife of a minister, it is terribly disconcerting to work within a post-modern, consumer-driven church. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Oh boy, I'm guilty of this. On more than one occasion, I "complained" how the music was less than stellar or how the choir didn't quite hit all the notes or how an event of our youth group was poorly organized. Now, I know how wrong I've been thinking!

    I really needed to hear that. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Convicting! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thanks for this reminder, sister! God tells us to make a joyful noise and that rocks will cry out if we don't. Neither a melodious sound! I think we're more concerned about His 'ears' than He is. Oh, the hear with a heart tuned only to Him!!

  6. A great reminder. I will admit that I frequently go to church wanting to 'get fed'. And, while God can certainly use a church service to feed into our lives and our spirits it IS about worshiping Him! Getting our flesh to line up with God's will is always a struggle.

  7. My husband and I attended a church that had an excellent minister. When he preached he really touch me with the sermon so much that it stayed with me longer than to the following Sunday. You thought about what he said and how you could please God in your daily life,how you could do little things that meant a lot to bring you closer to God. This is the minister that married us. 5 years ago he retired and his replacement, well let us say that you remember his jokes but not God's message. We stopped attending this church and since we were moving didn't actively search for another. Now that I am moved but hubby is still at the old place waiting for it to sell and him to retire, I have been sounding people out to find a church we might attend. I am guilty of not going to any yet and really am being lead to try one of those that I have heard good things about. We enjoy fellowship with other Christians but most we want to hear the Word. I am not sure I am expressing myself correctly and hope I have not offended anyone, that is not my intention. We just want a church we can call home and that fits us as a family (couple since kids are out of the house now)

  8. can relate to all of these comments, and I'm sure can say, it's hard to be a part sometimes when your just not sure where you fit. God, I sincerely believe wants us to be involved in corporate worship. But it's hard to find anymore, what feels like worship and not entertainment. We still search for a church, and worship not often at home. Really. But this has given us an opportunity to really show our kids we mean what we say, and not just 'go along with' whatever we happen to find at a particular venue. They have also had to understand we don't just pick a place because there are others our age, theirs included.
    Blessings & thanks for your post, timely oh so timely for me.

  9. Thanks for that, although I am always such a doubting Thomas I'm not sure it will sink in,but I'm sure God will forgive me and understand . I only wish I did!

  10. Thanks!
    It is all about HIM, isn't it?
    I'll be 'chewing' on this for awhile~

  11. This put a bit of a tear in my eye. You see, my church is in a rut. I feel lost, at times. Thank you for bringing me back where I need to be.


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