Is It Just Me?

This is something that’s been on my heart and has bothered me for a long time. I wanted to put it out there to hear other opinions and viewpoints. Because this might just be something that’s a matter of opinion. Not necessarily a “right or wrong” thing. But if it is, it’s worth discussing and bringing to light.

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to word this without sounding self-righteous or judgmental. So, as the Bible says, “remove the plank from your own eye first before removing the speck from your brother’s”  (Matthew 7:5), I will do just that. As an aside though, please note that the 2nd half of that verse still exists. The condemnation in this verse is to those who have a judgmental spirit– always pointing out the sins of others, while ignoring their own. It’s not saying we should never exhort/rebuke others, or make a judgment. It’s saying to do it with the right attitude and the humility that recognizes sin in your own life, and doing it in love with the purpose of bringing them closer to God, not to tear them down or make yourself feel superior.

That said—I do not always have the right heart and attitude when entering into the worship on a Sunday morning. My heart and mind are often distracted. I can go through an entire service thinking about all the things I have to do that day, leaving without any idea what the sermon was on. I can just mindlessly go through the motions. Sing the lyrics to songs without paying any attention to the meaning, etc. I can get bored. I can get sleepy. Any number of things might distract me and cause me to not focus or have my heart in the right place. So please know that what I’m about to address applies to me too. However, all of that goes on in my own head, not visible to or distracting to others, which is why I wanted to bring this up.

What has been bothering me is this really casual, laid-back approach to a Sunday morning service. Where it seems that the first 10 mins or so of the service is optional. Or serves as a time to wrap up conversations, and mosey on into the sanctuary and find your seat, whenever you’re ready. In my opinion, that’s extremely disrespectful and rude. To God and to others. Don’t get me wrong, relationships and connecting with others is vitally important. Fellowship should happen. Loving on others is what Christianity is all about. But it can happen before service, after service, and all throughout the week. But the time when we gather together in corporate worship should be approached with reverence, awe, and respect. It is sacred. And to me that means getting there on time (and believe me, I have kids, I know that’s a struggle and things happen, but we still at least STRIVE to arrive on time). And sitting down when the service begins. Not after the first 2 songs. I have a really hard time entering into worship when loud conversations are happening around me, and people are straggling in. Maybe that’s my own problem? I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. Maybe I’m just a traditionalist when it comes to Sunday morning. Maybe it’s just how I was raised.

By the way, I’m not calling out just one particular church. I know California culture is very laid-back and casual, even within Christianity. But it happens in east coast churches too. And again, there are a lot of things I find disrespectful, that I am guilty of myself. And I also think there are exceptions. Things happen. I get that. If you’re in a conversation with someone before church and they’re pouring their heart out to you about a deep struggle or something along those lines—of course you’d continue the conversation, pray with them, etc. (outside though, so as to not distract from the service going on). I’m talking about the casual socializing and the general attitude that everyone seems to be okay with.

We don’t have this approach to school. When class begins, we’re expected to be there on time, in your seat and prepared to begin. Or going to a performance of some sort. Wouldn’t it be rude to the performer, and those in attendance, to carry on a conversation when it begins? Or to show up late? Maybe it’s not a good comparison?

What if churches met casually in someone’s home? Would it be the same there too? When a group gathers together to sing or pray in the living room, would you continue to carry on your conversation in the kitchen?

Maybe you believe that the sermon is the most important part of the service, which is why you don’t see the importance of being present for the whole music portion? I’m sure no one would ever find it acceptable to talk while the pastor is talking, or show up 10 mins into it. But music is mentioned in the Bible too as an important part of corporate worship (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:18-19, James 5:13, Psalm 105:1-2- and plenty of other Psalms too). Being the wife of a musician who has led worship and played in several worship bands…..I know they put a lot of time and effort into preparation (well, hopefully they do). Choosing the songs, working on musical arrangements, rehearsing, etc. So, isn’t it disrespectful to them to not be present for the whole thing? Why should they even bother preparing 5-6 songs if people only hear the last two? Their role is to help lead you into a place of worship, which is why it’s usually the first thing that happens in the service. It’s important. We’re told to do it. So why aren’t you present for it? Why isn’t that a priority too?

Is this not a big deal? Is it something I just need to accept and get over? Am I being too legalistic? I really want to know. Bring on your thoughts and opinions!

This topic kind of opens a can of worms for me though and makes me want to write another post about the casual, laid-back attitude within Christianity in general. How serving others becomes a “volunteer” thing that you make time for out of your schedule. Your “good deed” for the month if you can squeeze it in. But as Christians, shouldn’t serving others be a natural reaction to what Christ has done for us? Aren’t we on HIS time, all the time, and not our own? If we are in Christ, we are his. That is our identity and it affects every part of our lives. It’s not OUR life, where we just try to fit God into it. He’s not one of the balls we juggle. And I’m not talking about the law or legalism here. I’m talking about grace-motivated service and obedience. That’s how “faith “and “works” work together, right? Saving faith works. You don’t just serve in a ministry as a good deed to put yourself in good standing with God or to feel good about yourself. That’s not how it works. We can’t earn anything. We’ve been saved by grace, and so we serve and love and forgive, in response to that. When did it become something we have to make time for? This time I might actually be calling out California churches. There’s a prevailing sense of busyness out here for sure. It’s the silicon valley way. And it’s prevalent in the churches too. Some worship teams don’t rehearse together on a weeknight because “no one has time for that’, so they throw something together quickly a few hours before service begins. What happened to serving with excellence? Can you do that when it’s just an after-thought that you don’t really have time for? Some churches need to hire professional musicians because they don’t have anyone in the congregation stepping up to play (or the willingness to learn and improve). Some people’s lives are filled up with so many extra-curriculars that they just “don’t have time” for ministry. Did you know if you’re a believer you’ve been given a spiritual gift? (At least 1, possibly more), and that you’re supposed to be actively using it to serve the Church? Romans 12:6-8. 1 Peter 4:10-11. 1 Corinthians 12.

Food for thought. (and probably another post later…)