God, Where are You?

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In a 2001 study published by The Barna Group, the following results were published:

“One-third of church attenders said they always
feel they experience God’s presence or interact with Him at church,
another one-third say that happens often, and the remaining one-third
claimed to have such an experience less frequently. Men had such an
experience less often than did women” -The Barna Group.

OK, so where is God during worship?  How do we experience the presence of God during worship?  What does that look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  What is it about women that they seemed to be more attuned to this than men?  Or is that just a misconception?


(Image courtesy of sttims.org.uk)

One could write a book answering those questions.  Instead, I’d like to challenge us to consider how we can be a block to others experiencing the presence of God in worship.  I come to worship with a bad attitude, the one that says, “I would really rather be back home in bed,” and suddenly I exude a sense of apathy.  People can sense that; they feel when someone is not happy.  I don’t really make meaningful eye contact.  My voice comes out flat and dull.  Several times others catch me looking disinterested, if not just plain bored.  I look like any number of people they encounter during the average course of their lives that embodies the mundane nature of just doing what you have to do to get by.  Worst case scenario, I get so bored that I start being actively rude and chatting, reading something not religious, texting, messing around on my phone, and making noise by tapping my foot, etc.

That’s not what I am supposed to be in worship.  I’m supposed to be active, engaged, and channeling that Holy Spirit I was blessed to receive so many years ago at my baptism.  I’m supposed to be gathered in the name of Jesus Christ so that Christ is manifest and present with us during worship.  I’m called to be in the moment and open to experiencing God.  Going to worship is not a challenge for God to reveal God’s self to us.  We go to worship because somewhere in our lives we have already experienced the presence of God and now we are giving thanks.  Every little thing we do while gathered for that hour or so of worship can not only impact our perception of the presence of God, but it can make or break someone else’s experience.  That may feel like a lot of pressure, but would it kill us to focus all our attention, every part of our being on this holy endeavor for just an hour?  Can’t we pay attention to the words we sing?  Can’t we internalize the pastoral prayer and make it our own?  Can’t we listen intently to the scripture reading, even open the pew bible and follow along?  Do we ever consider bringing our own bible and marking the text for later reference?

I have been to prayer at a Buddhist monastery, morning puja (worship) at a Hindu temple, prayer at a Muslim mosque, and worship in a Jewish synagogue.  God was there.  I could feel the presence of God and see God embodied in the people worshiping.  In Christianity, we are not just in the presence of God, but in the presence of the person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.  This is the same incarnation of God that gave one on one personal attention to others.  He listened intently to their voice and digested their words.  He was always praying for and with other people.  He actively sought to be in relationship with other people and acted so that his disciples would have to do the same.  If I bear his name, then I have to consider that I am called to be Christ-like in my worship.  I have to be a person willing to reveal God to other people even for that short time of worship.  Otherwise, I am part of the systemic problem of why so many people come to church looking for God and leave seeing less than Christ.

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