How often do we walk into a church service and ask, “What am I going to get from this?” I have to admit that I am guilty of critiquing several services in my day.
“The band was off key.”
“The message seemed a little light, nothing to really get me thinking.”
If you sit in a service and think about it, you can find anything to complain about. I heard that we had a parent of one of our youth that once complained that we worshipped with the lights turned down. Evidently it wasn’t Biblical, who knew? We just thought that it allowed us to make a more intimate environment where students don’t have to worry about being self conscious in their worship and other students staring at them, instead they could just worship.
We all have something that stands out to us during a church service. Mine happens to be the music. While I will never claim to be a fantastic singer or musician myself, I have an ear that picks up on discrepancies within a chord (can be read as “off key”). I may not know how to fix it, particularly with instruments, but I can hear it. But there was one day when I was sitting in service and I realized that I was doing it. I was critiquing rather than worshipping. I was so focused on hearing whether or not the harmonies were fitting together that I was not worshipping my God and Creator. How selfish can I be? I walk into a service that is all about giving God the glory and honor he deserves, and I am sitting here tearing it apart for a minor harmony discrepancy. Who do I think I am that I have earned the right to determine if someone’s worship is good or not. How audacious can I possibly be?
But it’s something we do every day. We decide that we are worthy enough to sit there and rather than focusing on God and giving him the respect and honor that is rightfully his. There are obviously some that are gifted to lead worship and others that really should not at risk of distracting everyone, but who am I to question those who God places in those positions? Leading worship is different than simply being able to pick up a guitar and produce a cat call of a voice. It does take talent that God has given to a lot of people. I am not questioning the necessity of being selective who leads worship. What I am saying that once in worship, whether through music or a sermon or message—it is not about me. I am not there to get something, rather to worship God and to allow him to grow me in my walk. I have the freedom to choose whether or not I am going to worship God. By critiquing, I am choosing not to and that will prevent me from ever finding that revelation that God has for me tucked inside the pastor’s message.
The same way that I find my distractions within the music of a service, I know many that find it in the children who are sitting in the service. I read an article about the “rules” we should tell children before attending a church service (9 times out of 10 Jesus is the answer, be wary of looking backwards during the service for risk of a good flick to the ear). It was obviously given with a taste of satire, but I loved the story that she included at the end about her mom herding up the neighborhood children to bring them to church.
“Once, when this busload of kids was showing their lack of church culture etiquette, one church member bitterly complained to my mother.
“Those children are dirty and misbehaved. They’re sitting up there on the front pew and they have no idea how they’re supposed to act in church. What are you going to do about it?”
My mother’s answer? My sweet mother, who was really uncomfortable with such direct confrontations? THAT mother?
“You mean what am I going to do with a bunch of children who are so new to church that they don’t know how to behave? I’m going to go out and get as many more of them as I can.”
I liked that answer. Fill God’s church with people who’ve never been there before, who don’t know all the churchy culture, stuffy rules and complex etiquette. Bring in anyone and everyone who just wants to know that they are loved, needed and precious. After all, they are a metaphor for us. Didn’t we all come to Christ the same way? — messy, hungry and totally clueless as to how we should behave?” (Carol Barnier, Essential Skills of Churchified Kids 2010)
What would happen if we all approached church this way? Rather than critiquing everything that the church is doing (or isn’t doing for that matter). Rather that judging others for the children they have brought to hear the Gospel or simply for clapping off rhythm, why don’t we try to remember why we are there—to worship and adore Jesus who loved everyone, who never gave a dirty look to the gentleman singing off key right behind him, who brought the children to him rather than telling them that they needed to learn how to sit without making a peep for an hour each week. Jesus is what it is all about. Let’s try and remember that.