I am bad at worshiping God.
I wish I could be plunked down into a church sermon each Sunday and escape everything before and after it. I’m good at listening and learning, but I stink at worshipping.
Let me describe a sample Sunday morning so you can understand what I mean.
Picture my husband and I walking into the sanctuary of our church, filled with at least 2,000 people. The lights go down and the band starts playing.
Sigh. I wish we could just skip this part and go right to the sermon. I want to learn something! Now, if I had a voice like the woman behind me, maybe I would enjoy singing. But I’m not going to make a fool of myself by using my horrible voice at any audible level. If I raise my hands like other people around me, I’ll be thinking the whole time about how and when to bring them down so I don’t look awkward. And I certainly don’t have the expressiveness to dance back and forth to the lyrics of “God’s Great Dance Floor” like the completely uninhibited woman two rows in front of me. I guess I’ll just stand here, staring at screen lyrics, with my hands inconspicuously clutched in front of me.
The music comes to a stop and the worship leader says, “Before you sit down, say hi to someone around you!”
The people in front of me are already saying hi to the people in front of them. Should I wait for them to turn around, or should I look behind me to see who’s there? If they’re saying hi to the people behind them, I’m going to feel really stupid for having turned around. I’ll just pretend to look for something in my purse and go straight to sitting down.
The lights dim as a testimonial video goes up on one of the large screens. The video features a young man who had a brain tumor removed a couple of weeks ago. He is recovering well and plays a song of gratitude to God on his guitar. The church erupts in applause for the answered prayers.
I wonder how many people in our church have been praying for themselves or for a loved one to heal from something similar, but haven’t gotten the same positive news. How are they feeling right now? Shouldn’t the worship staff feature more stories of people who aren’t healed and how they maintain their faith throughout the difficulty?
The worship leader announces, “We’re going to do a little something different today. If you need healing, please stand. Everyone else, please gather around someone standing near you. We’re going to give you time to pray over these people in need.”
Oh gosh, someone is standing in my row. NOOOOOO. Oh no. No, no. Please, no. I can’t pray out loud in front of a stranger. Quick, push Bryan over. He can do this. I can hide behind him. WHY are they doing this? I’m writing the pastor an email. Have they ever heard the word “introvert?” I knew I should have sat back in the bleachers today. Now I’ll feel guilty the rest of the day for being more concerned with my own ability to pray out loud than for the probably intense problems this poor person is going through. God is totally frowning at me right now.
Is it time for the sermon yet?
And so it goes. I’m a self-conscious, distracted, overly analytical worshipper. But there are two lessons I’m learning from taking a good look at this less-than-ideal area of my spiritual life.
First, worship is something that needs to be taught.
I would have benefited greatly from someone teaching me how to worship when I was younger. I grew up in church and in a Christian family, but I can’t remember the topic of how to worship ever being discussed.
I realize that the idea of teaching worship might sound counterintuitive. After all, worship is usually thought of as a (genuine) response to God, and having to be taught something makes it sound less authentic. But consider how foreign the concept is to us naturally:
- There is (hopefully) no one or nothing else we worship, so we can’t simply transfer our understanding of an earthly experience to the worship of God. What does the word “worship” even mean?
- Many people incorrectly assume that we worship because God needs our worship, like an attention-seeking human. What is the purpose of worship?
- The very nature of worship requires a posture of complete humility, to bow down in spirit before a God we cannot begin to comprehend. How do we get to such a point of humility, so far removed from our self-centered nature?
For these and other reasons, worship is not innate for many people – and the understanding we grow into on our own is often inaccurate or incomplete. I realized this the first time when I was in a small group once discussing the prayer model “A-C-T-S” (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplication). Not one person in our group said they include adoration (an expression of worship) when talking to God. In fact, we had a long conversation trying to figure out how adoration is different than thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is responding to what God has done. Adoring, as is all worship, is responding to who God is. Ten life-long Christians sitting in a room couldn’t figure this out until we looked it up online.
Worship is a somewhat difficult, unnatural idea that often doesn’t just work itself out over the course of a lifetime. We need to gift our children with this understanding.
Second, the nature of our worship is partially dictated by our personality.
I believe that if I didn’t fundamentally struggle with the concept of worship (my prior point), I wouldn’t be so distracted and self-centered in church; my heart and mind would be better directed to God. I’m working on this.
But I am also an introvert. Part of my personality is that I am just never going to physically worship in the same way that another person might, or enjoy certain types of fellowship (like praying with strangers). That’s OK. I don’t need to rhythmically glide across the floor to the song “God’s Great Dance Floor” to worship “better”. Worship is a loving relationship between the Creator and the Created, and just as in any loving relationship, those feelings will be expressed differently by different people. It’s important to help our kids learn about different forms of worship so they can grow to embrace what brings them closer to God and understand that worship looks different for every person.
Are there any other “bad worshippers” out there? What makes worship difficult for you?