A seasoned preacher once told a class of graduating seminarians: “Always remember that about half the people in front of you on any given Sunday morning almost decided not to come!”
Why do you go to worship? Why get up on a beautiful Sunday morning – when there are lots of good possibilities to fill your day—and head out to a service of worship? I need to ask myself this question these days as a retired preacher—as one no longer actively preaching or leading worship!
Let me suggest some reasons why you might decide to be there.
You might be there because you want to be part of an ancient/future community. Someone has written, “At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of someone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient/future community.” Ours is a culture of immediacy—of the “right now.” In corporate worship, we find ties with the ancient past and the promised future. Worship is one place we connect with something larger than self.
You might be there to become reacquainted with our sacred story. Today it is so easy to become disconnected: sports, technology, weekend getaways, frenetic busyness. Plus: we live in a time of growing biblical illiteracy. One analyst suggests that In America 75% of those under age 30 have no Christian memory! Bill Wilson (founder of AA) tells of a transformed friend: “He was much more inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing, new soil, in a new place.” We need worship to put us on a different footing, in new soil, in a new place.
You might be there to join with like minded others. Be with those who love God and who are trying to be followers of Jesus—even in the midst of doubts, chaos, confusion, and great uncertainty. Be with others who want to believe but cannot—yet! Be with others who want to hold on to an incredible hope. Be with others who want to try to walk with Jesus.
You might be there to receive some life guidance for the week. The church is a sending place. It is a reminding time for what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I have always loved the exterior church sign which reads, “This church lives in the world, hopes in Jesus Christ, and meets in this building.”
You might be there to participate in a great joy—from the opening hymn to the closing chorus. Psalm 100 reads, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Or Psalm 122:1 (the first Bible verse I ever remember learning), “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’”
So if you are gathered in worship with others because you want to be part of an ancient/future community, because you want to re-hear and reinforce the sacred story, because you want to be with those who are on the same journey, because you want to be reminded of what it means to live faithfully in the world, and because you want some deep soul-stretching celebration, you have come to the right place. And in the right spirit. And for the right reasons.