How do you feel when you come to church? As a child I remember worship being uncomfortable – dress clothes, an hour of sitting still and being quiet. The whole thing was stressful. But that is not what it should feel like to adults.
One of the great descriptions of coming to worship is found in Psalm 84, portions of which Matt Redman put to music in his song “Better Is One Day.” Listen to these beautiful metaphors written not by a contemporary songwriter, but by the ancient poet/artist who composed this Psalm:
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! (vs 1)
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars… (vs 3)
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. (vs 4)
This is the model I pray our worship reflects for all who attend. I long to make the “dwelling place” lovely – not just in the way it looks, but in the way it feels. I want it to be a place people enter and their heart rate drops; a place where the cares and concerns of our lives are checked at the door; a place where we simply want to come and linger.
I pray our worship gathering will allow those who feel as ordinary, insignificant, and vulnerable as a sparrow find rest and security. I want all to feel welcomed and loved, important and necessary, and comfortable with their vulnerability, weakness, and even brokenness in the presence of our God.
When we gather for our weekly family reunion, I pray that it will be a joyful celebration where smiles, conversation, and laughter easily flow. I think laughter is appropriate in worship. We should laugh at an intentionally funny illustration and at ourselves when the unexpected happens (see “Mistakes in church“). I want worshipers to allow those around them to enrich their lives and make them happy as they sing praises to God.
It may appear I am advocating for a “feel good” worship experience where no one is challenged. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Remember that as we come into this dwelling place, we come into the presence of God, and there is nothing more humbling or challenging than that. In God’s presence we become aware of how wholly (and holy) other God is, and how short we fall of who he created us to be. In the presence of God we are challenged to grow, to change, to surrender. But all of it is because we are loved more deeply than we can imagine.
I don’t want people leaving a worship service I lead filled with stress and guilt – stress trying to achieve for God’s acceptance, nor guilt for not having achieved enough yet. Rather I want people to leave feeling rested from an hour in the presence of God, and challenged to live up to the love they have received. I want them to go out into their everyday living striving to be in the presence of God Monday through Saturday too, even as they long to return to worship next Sunday. Why? Because it is better there.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. (vs. 10)
May our worship gatherings be a reflection of the Kingdom of God here and now.
What it isn’t about! (but incredibly funny)