This past Sunday we pulled a Peyton Manning and called an “Omaha,” or an audible for our corporate worship gathering. Given the conditions that morning, we sensed the Spirit leading us to push back what we had planned and to spend the morning worshipping through song with a couple of devotionals mixed in throughout the morning. While I love having a plan and being fully prepared, I think there are times where we need to be ready and available for the Spirit to move us and change what we had or have planned.
Towards the end of the service I shared a hypothetical situation of an alien coming from outer-space and spending a few months with a “believing” couple from Springfield. [I adopted this hypothetical example from David Platt, which you can see his example here: http://youtu.be/Ve9jPfJeT2k%5D.
In this example I shared how this alien traveled with this couple to watch the St. Louis Cardinals and how they got dressed for the game, arrived there early, found their seat, got their food and drink, and cheered the whole way through a few hour game celebrating the victory with other fans. A couple of months later this same alien traveled with the couple to a Fighting Illini game. Again, this couple gets dressed for the game, arrives there early to tailgate and spend time with other fans; in addition, they enter the stadium, find their seat, and cheer throughout the few hour game—screaming and yelling, chanting and singing.
And finally, this alien joins this couple as they go to church. During that morning they are hustling to get ready and get out of the house so that they can be on-time. They get to church, take their children to children’s ministry, they enter into the sanctuary right-on time or as the music is beginning, they mouth (or lip-sync) the words, and then begin to fidget during the sermon, and after the service is dismissed they leave quickly to rush home or to a restaurant.
Closing out the hypothetical, I asked what do you think the alien would say is more important to this couple? What would he say the couple is more passionate about simply by observing their behaviors in these environments? [Keep in mind that illustrations or hypotheticals would breakdown if you really picked them apart and overanalyzed them.] When it comes to a hypothetical example like this, I believe the main lesson to remember is that sometimes the weight, passion, and intensity with which we worship or should worship Jesus is drowned out by the weight, passion, and intensity we celebrate other things in our life. And if we were honest with ourselves, it is easy for all of us to drown out the weight, passion, and intensity we should be ascribing Jesus with something else in our life. [And if this happens in our daily life it naturally comes out in corporate worship.]
Honestly, this example is extremely challenging. It was challenging to me as a pastor when I heard it. Nevertheless, there were a couple reasons why I felt led to adopt Platt’s example and apply it to our context. First, I believed that what took place Sunday felt as though we were zoned in, jazzed up, and worshipping Jesus with great intensity and passion. I believe that if the “alien from outer-space” would have been there he would have experienced a church giving weight to Jesus as they worshipped him through song, prayer, and the word. My prayer is that we would come with that same intensity and passion every week. Therefore, the example was for us to have something to remember the weight, intensity, and passion we should come with every week to corporate worship.
Second, I do believe that we live in a Christian culture where nominalism tends to reign. While I believe those who would claim to be Christians are sincere and love Jesus, it seems that many are nominal in their commitment to him, to his church, and to his mission. Yet, many of these are the same people that get jazzed up over a baseball, football, or hockey game. [And do not misunderstand me here, I do not think that it is wrong to get all worked up over a baseball, football, or hockey game.] My prayer for believers would be that we would get just as, if not more, jazzed up, excited, and passionate about corporate worship. My heart is to challenge all of us, including myself, to not treat Sunday corporate worship as if it is a tack-on to our week, but that we come with great anticipation and excitement, ready for God to speak to us, to encourage others, and to worship him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Therefore, I wanted this example to challenge those who would fit in that category.
This example this past Sunday was both an affirmation and a challenge. While I believe we had intense, passionate, heart-felt worship, I don’t want these kind of Sundays to be sporadic, but commonplace. In addition, I want to challenge all of us to make sure that our lives, including our corporate worship, has Jesus—his weight, glory, lordship, and supremacy—at the center. When he is at the center of our lives and our church we cannot help but ascribe the weight, glory, and honor due his great name with great intensity and passion.