An active, engaged worshiper should take time to critically reflect upon their worship experience. Whether you classify yourself as laity or clergy, consider yourself a novice or a seasoned pro, there is always room for growth and renewal. Consider this:
1. Do I go to worship to experience God, or because I have had a powerful experience with God, so I want to give thanks and worship because of it?
Worship is driven by the people of God who want to worship God. Certainly there is space for those who are seeking God and God encounters, but if we are there because we know and love God, then our worship should reflect that truth. It should be an intentional act, the unison of body, mind, and spirit to convey the gratitude we have for the grace of God, the gifts of God, and the opportunity to grow in relationship with that same benevolent God. Is that what your worship conveys? If God would not feel the love and appreciation, then we need to seriously re-evaluate what we are doing when we claim to be worshiping.
2. What do I need in order for my worship to convey what I am thinking and feeling about God?
For some worship needs a heavy musical emphasis, because they express themselves in song and instrument. For others, it is the spoken word of liturgy and prayer. For still more, they need to physically respond with action in their worship. We should identify what we need to offer our best, and then seek out churches that offer that space and ability to worship most optimal for who we are as worshiping believers. I would always advocate trying new and foreign styles, but no matter what, we need to discover who we are as worshipers and endeavor to ensure that we can live that out to the fullest extent. A responsible faith community should look to provide that to the best of their ability. Yet that cannot happen if we have not taken the time, through introspection, to discover who we are, and what our worship is calling out to be.
3. Has my worship become stale and stagnant?
Take a moment to recall the most compelling worship you ever offered to God. Not the best music or sermon you heard, the most comfortable or attractive sanctuary, or the place you attach the fondest personal memories, but when and where you offered your very best and it felt that way. If we can decipher a time when we offered our best worship, then perhaps we can break down what made it so. Perhaps it was a time when you found your creativity able to be enacted. Or an occasion when you felt free to be authentic in responding to your personal spiritual state in union with others. A mature Christian learns their gifts and the means to best enact those for the glory of God, including in worship, and seeks to fulfill that all the time, every Sunday, not just from time to time. If you are just settling for the closest church in walking distance, or the one that has the best education program for children and youth, then you might be selling yourself, your family, and God short where it is vital: worship. Worship is our response, but also drives us into the enaction of our faith during the period of time between one Sunday worship and the next. It fuels our passion, recharges our spiritual batteries, and pushes us into deeper connection with God, other believers, and those to whom Christ is sending us forth. If worship feels like the longest hour of your week, then the time for change is here and now, and that change must begin with you.
4. If you could dream big about worship, and have something that would push your worship to the next level, then what would that look like, what would that be?
Like Joseph, we should dream, and dream big. We should ponder possibilities, and determine how God may be asking us to make them reality. It is my experience that often we are not the only one thinking, feeling, desiring something, so we need to discern if God is speaking to the church through us as much as calling us to something. If you feel restricted from pursuing this line of thought with those that plan the worship in your church, then that speaks volumes. You should be able to have an honest and open conversation to explore such things, especially with your clergy. One of the main calls of my vocation in the church is to order and lead worship. I cannot do that the fullest extent with the greatest integrity, if I do not know what the people I am leading need to offer their best in the context of worship. I want to know, and others that lead worship do, too. Search them out, and share your dreams. Or better yet, dream together. Become part of the team (and it always takes a team even if that is just a clergy person and lay person serving as musician), and enact your dreams which the Holy Spirit uses to bring passion into our midst. If you can’t do that where you are, because the powers that be refuse, then follow Moses’ example and go where you can.
No matter where you find yourself at this moment on the worship spectrum, we need to always take time to reflect and think honestly, critically about our worship. When we stop exploring it and our part in it, then we risk falling into lukewarm worship, and half-hearted acts of gratitude. God deserves much more than that. The worst part is that mediocrity is catching. It can quickly and easily infiltrate a congregation before anyone realizes it is a viable threat and degrade the Body’s worship faster than one would ever think. So be alert and attentive to that so this doesn’t have to happen to you, to your church family, and to the worship that God should receive from professed believers. Unless you enjoy offering uninspired worship and struggling through an hour each week, then you must be part of the process to make even our worship go onto perfection, more fully reflecting the glory of God and the people living out that grace. Worship should never be painful and a drag, and if it is, then we are duty and honor bound to work to redeem it from that atrocious state. We are called to live in community, let us worship that way, too, and work together to make every second of worship the best we can offer.