“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…”
– Hebrews 12.28
Throughout my years of being a Christian, I’ve attended thousands of worship services. I’ve listened to sound and engaging preaching, endured a fair number of confusing sermons, sung countless songs, and watched the behavior of fellow Christians. I am ashamed to admit there are more than a few services from which I leave saying, “I got nothing out of it.”
I frequently blamed the preaching, the song leading, the members nodding off, my own exhaustion, the failure of others to acknowledge my existence, but rarely did I do the thing that really needed to be done. Instead of saying, “I got nothing out of it, I should have been asking, “What did I put into it?”
When we feel like we are leaving worship “unfulfilled,” it’s time ask ourselves some hard questions.
What is the main purpose of worshipping with fellow Christians?
Worship isn’t about me and what I can get; it’s about God and giving to Him. In going to worship, I am offering a meager portion of my time, my attention, and my devoted praise to the Lord who loves me more than anyone else. Every Sunday, I have the opportunity to remember the death and the resurrection of Jesus. My salvation, the gift of grace, the peace that passes understanding all come to me through Jesus’ sacrifice. Without Him, I’d still be stumbling around in my hopelessness, chasing things that never satisfy.
In worshipping with fellow Christians, I should aim to stimulate and strengthen others to continue walking that narrow road to heaven. If a stranger who does not know the Lord comes into our worship, our love for God and one another should leave a deep impression. They should be welcomed warmly so they can see the love of Christ.
Don’t fuss over what you could be getting, focus on what you can be giving.
What have I invested into worship?
Depending on your congregation, you may spend anywhere from one to three hours on Sundays with the church for bible study and worship. When compared to the forty-plus hours a week we spend at school or in our jobs, the countless hours we spend on movies and technology, and the time in between doing necessary chores and errands, one to three hours is practically nothing. Why do we expect one hour of worship to “fill us” when we have invested nothing during the other 105 waking hours of the week?
When I used to say, “I got nothing out of it,” my time with God was minimal apart from “church-designated times.” I wasn’t praying daily. I wasn’t digging into the scripture daily. I wasn’t reaching out to show care for others daily. These were seasons when I often thought too much about self and not enough about others. I wasn’t offering myself to the Lord the way I should have been.
Consider your human relationships. In marriage, we are supposed to be a united front. We may disagree from time to time, but since we are a team, we should work together to pull in the same direction. How on earth could we make effective, unified decisions in a marriage if we only spent 1 out of 168 hours each week even thinking about each other? It wouldn’t be much of a relationship at all and both people would feel empty and isolated.
Why on earth would we treat God that way?
God has given us everything so why would we give Him next to nothing?
What am I doing for others at worship and bible class?
Before worship and after worship is an opportune time to welcome visitors, encourage my fellow Christians, and connect with those I may not have seen lately. Just as we ought to invest in time with the Lord during the week, we should make every effort to connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the predesignated meeting times. We will be able to give more to others if we actually know them.
Shyness should not be a barrier either. I have known plenty of “shy” people who build and maintain the best relationships within the church. They are excellent listeners and have a way of making deeper connections because of their quiet nature.
During Bible class, are you asking questions? Answering questions? Showing sincere interest in being taught? Are you sharing what you have learned? The preachers and teachers in my congregation do an excellent job of providing new insights, but I have also learned much from fellow Christians who actively participate in class. In fact, when I hear someone share a scripture or insight, I am delighted by their mutual interest in the Word. I leave encouraged. Be engaged in your study and come prepared. Even if the class falls flat, you will have gained something through your personal study.
The next time you feel like you “got nothing” out of worship, take a moment to ask what you’ve invested. We all go through wilderness periods in our faith when everything feels dry and weary. Those periods are opportunities to dig deeper in your faith. Instead of focusing on poor preaching, focus on the majesty of God’s word. Instead of balking at a song you don’t like, remember the song He has put in your heart. Instead of feeling isolated, give thanks for the Spirit who dwells within you.
Turn your focus away from self and toward the Lord who is our portion and inheritance forever.
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com