How was church today?
That’s a pretty common question in my family. With four households all involved in some sort of ministry, all living and attending four different worship venues, it’s not unusual for me to ask.
But it’s also important for me to remember that I’m asking a consumer question.
I’m basically asking somebody in my family to evaluate their experience. To interpret an event. Yes, to tell me what they got out of it or whether they liked the goings-on down at the church house.
Is that wrong? Not necessarily. But it’s a pitifully limited – and limiting – question.
Did you go to church today?
We don’t ask that one as often, but sometimes it floats by one of us also. Woven into the question is that we’re supposed to be good Christians and good Christians go to church.
But it’s also important to remember that this is a debtor question.
We’re basically asking, “Did you fulfill your obligation to get together with other Christians and worship God?”
Anything wrong with that? No. But again, it’s a pitifully limited – and limiting – question.
Anytime you gather with other believers for worship, there are three lenses through which you can view it. You can be a debtor, a consumer, or an investor. Each has its place, because each is built on a measure of truth.
Worshipping as a Debtor
The Bible makes it clear in case your Grandma didn’t. You’re not supposed to skip church. “…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
See there? Black-and-white. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to God, and you owe it to your local congregation to be there, to engage, to connect. After all, Jesus gave His all for you, now you’re obligated to worship Him.
Just one problem with a debtor’s perspective. Okay, more than one. Worship as a debtor leads to a sense of drudgery. It’s a checkbox and you’re the pen. And once checked, it’s tempting to assume you’re relieved of other duties until next week.
Second, forced gratitude is no gratitude. Remember when Aunt Jane gave you clothes for your birthday and you wanted toys instead? Remember your parents insisting on you saying Thank You to Aunt Jane? Remember how thankful you really were? But you checked the box.
Third, it limits worship to what you do at the church house. And that’s way too limiting for true worship.
One other thing about debtor worship – the debt never, ever gets paid. You never graduate, never are excused from your duty, and can never fully repay for all you have been given (as if it were a loan or something).
Worshipping as a Consumer
Let me let you off the hook a little with this one. It’s perfectly OK to receive spiritual or soul value from a worship experience. I’d be a little suspect if you didn’t identify something you gained as a result of a genuine corporate experience.
Worship consumers take that a bit further. They make receiving something from the service a criteria, or form of judgment. (Pardon me… dirty word… I mean “evaluation.”) The service has to have your kind of music, your kind of preaching, your preferred method of response, and of course, your required programming for the kids. You can flex to accommodate other tastes or the preacher being off a time or two. But hey, you have needs, the first of which is to feel something that a worship service is supposed to deliver. And if you don’t get something out of it, what’s the point?
Skipping the obvious rant this kind of thinking can generate, let me just offer one observation. Know what’s wrong with consumer worship? It’s like spiritual cotton candy. Once you taste and see that church is good, it’s over. Congratulations. You’ve consumed.
Worshipping as an Investor
I have fallen in love with Psalm 145 over the last several months. It’s a psalm about worship. About how great our God is, and how, as David recognized the beauty of the Lord, he committed himself to worship God with all his heart.
At one point, David says this:
One generation shall praise Your works to another…
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts…
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness,
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness (Psalm 145:4-7).
The idea here is that these things are going to happen, one way or another. God is so great and awesome, it will be impossible for one generation not to declare His greatness, His awesome acts, His abundant goodness and His righteousness. The only question is, will we join in the testimony? Will we declare to future generations the greatness of our God? Will we keep the memory alive of how God has been abundantly good, not just to the nations or in the past, but to us?
That, my friend, is a different kind of approach. It is worshipping God from the perspective of an investor. Worship investors, having received abundantly from an all-powerful and good God, feel compelled to tell others of His faithfulness – not just about how good a service is or was, but how great their God is.
Investor worship is praise on a mission. Not content to vent about life at the church house, worship investors, out of the overflow of their gratitude, take their declarations of God’s worth to “the streets.” They tell future generations. They share their experiences of God’s goodness with others.
The shout joyfully…
And they do it outside the church walls.
Now, get this… David says this is going to happen. Somebody will worship as an investor. The only question is whether you and I will join in the celebration.
Know what’s awesome about worshipping as an investor? It’s a gift that keeps on giving. It lives on because it multiplies. Your testimony – your declaration – potentially becomes someone else’s experience as well.
So… next time the church bells are ringing in your heart (for most people, that’s Sunday morning), go ahead and do your duty if that’s how you need to see it. Enjoy the blessings of the fellowship or the sermon or whatever. Nothing inherently wrong with any of that. But if you want the day to live on, somewhere along the way, ask yourself the question: Who can I share this with? Or maybe, What is it about my God that is so amazing, I just have to share it?
You may just find a whole new generation of people who want what you have.
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