I’m a Christian. I do my best to live out my faith without coming across like one of those I’ve “drank the kool-aid” type Christians, but there are some things that I think are just inherently spiritual. One such thing would be the notion of worship. Boiled down to its essence, worship consists of telling someone (in my case, God) that you think they’re mighty swell indeed.
Growing up in church, the only option that was readily available was singing. Lots and lots of singing. Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights… Singing. This didn’t go well for me. Sadly, I’ve inherited my father’s musical talent which is to say… I have none at all. This didn’t stop me from trying though… I believe I went on stage to sing a little ditty exactly… twice. Both of these occasions consisted of myself and my mother… singing Christian 90’s hip-hop. (DC Talk’s “Heavenbound” and *shudder* Stephen Curtis Chapman’s, “Got 2 B Tru”.) It… It was bad. Fortunately, I was young enough that I was oblivious to how awful I was, largely because my mother has always been my own personal cheerleader. It’s only in hindsight that I realize exactly what it was I subjected my congregation to.
But what else could I do? I don’t think my church was very different from most in that there weren’t a lot of options regarding worship. Some of the more progressive churches might refer to tithing as a form of worship, but come on, that’s no fun, right? The God we believe in is the Creator of Creativity, he’s spoken majestic sunsets and breathtaking vistas into being and has given us the absolute freedom to do and to create anything we can possibly imagine and after thousands of years the only trick we have in our bag is singing? Are you freaking kidding me?
It’s like… I don’t know. Say you’re a parent. You have a kid and you love him very much. After he’s like six years old or a little older, (whatever age it is that kids start turning into interesting little people) you discover they like to draw. Constantly. They’re always doodling, scribbling all over walls and furniture, leaving their mark wherever they can. Let’s assume you see this as a burgeoning artistic impulse, and for their birthday, you get them a little easel, a canvas, and some paint. Let’s look at two possible scenarios:
A. The child tears the wrapping asunder, and is thrilled with what he finds. He loves you and that you get him, so he paints you a picture using the very tools you’ve given him.
B. The child tears the wrapping asunder, and is thrilled with what he finds. He loves you and that you get him, so he goes outside and tries to fix your lawn mower. Or files your taxes. Or sings a song. Badly.
While a parent experiencing scenario B might appreciate the child’s sentiment, I imagine they couldn’t help but feel that maybe their kid missed the point.
I think God is the same way. He gives us all these gifts and talents, things we love to do. These things make us feel good when we do it, whether it be painting or writing or working on cars or programming code or anything…but then on Sunday morning we begin this random activity that may or may not be something we’re good at or even care about. I get that worshipping God is all about our mindset. We should be able to worship him no matter what we’re doing… So why not do something else?
I get it, singing is easy, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t make a mess. I understand that it may not be feasible to set everyone up with canvasses and a paint set. But why not have the band play something instrumental and give the congregation a pen and paper to journal? Why not try a guided meditation through Lectio Divina? Why not instruct the congregation to leave the building and go for a walk (Bonus points if they do it with a stranger)? Why not prepare a few prodding or in depth questions and ask the congregation to share their answers with someone they don’t know terribly well? Why not, at the very least, foster an atmosphere where the congregation can feel free to worship God in ways more diverse than “hands up in the air” or “swaying back and forth”?
I’ve sat in some churches and felt like someone was going to try to exorcise me for having the audacity to not stand at reverent attention while the hymns were being sang.I’m lucky that I’ve found an amazing community that truly accepts everyone. As I referenced earlier, I am a terrible singer. On top of that, it’s just not something I care about. Singing doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m lucky in that the thing that I do feel I have some skill at (writing) is something that can be done in church. And that’s what I do. For several years now, while everyone stands and sings I sit and write in my journal because I feel like that’s how I can give God my best.
I guess until there’s a widespread “worship reform” we have to do the best we can with what we have. It’s important to remember that worship is more than just the half hour before a sermon happens. It can happen when you’re playing video games or buried in research or your hands are covered in grease or you look up at the blue sky and inhale the fresh air. I think the trick to it is that some intent is required.
While I think examining the things we already love to do is a great way to recognize how we might be gifted, I think in order for it to transcend being just an activity to an act of worship, we need to remember we’re dedicating our time and effort to God. If you can occasionally say a “thank you” to God while you’re doing it, I think you’re well on your way.