Sunday, June 03, 2007

Worship? You tell me...

I didn't go to church again this week. Though I've tried to use my weekend time pretty positively by giving myself a much needed break from my day-to-day hustle, I still find that not taking the time to worship at church is leaving a gaping hole in my life. Imagine following a weekly routine for years and then cutting it out of your life abruptly. If you can picture that, then you've got my life figured out.

Essentially, I'm facing cold turkey with the church; small "C".

In my defense (if I can even do such a thing at this point), I've tried to keep my mind spiritually connected to God and to the world around me. Even when I consistently miss the mark (who hasn't?), I still try to maintain my daily walk with God by keeping myself immersed in the Word and by building, maintaining, and strengthening relationships with others; both critical things when it comes to our connectivity with God.

Interestingly, I haven't experienced things like that at the church for a long time. In truth, I don't think I've experienced that at my old church...well...ever. My old church was filled to the brim with cliques, the pastor's "favorites" (of whom, I admit I was a part), and members who do everything they can not only to keep up with the Joneses, but to become the Joneses. "Worship" service is limited to how well the choir sings, how much money is raised, how many new additions we can make to the infrastructure, and praising one another on individual acheivements. As far as I can tell, 'worship' was never really apart of the equation.

For example, last week was one of my church's 'annual days'. For those of you not familiar with the Black Baptist Church (from this point, I'll refer to it as the BBC. Don't confuse it with this BBC.), annual days are those days where the emphasis is shifted to one group or auxillary of the church; ostensibly to 'lead' the worship. Women's Day (where the women are in charge), Men's Day (where the men are in charge), Youth Day (where the young people are in charge), Law Day (where the city/county's law enforcement is in charge), the Pastor and wife's anniversary, and the Church Anniversary are but a few of those days. (*Note: I can take the same argument I'm making about these 'annual days' and apply them to any church week.*) One of the trends I've noticed in my extended tenure with the church is that these efforts had very little (if anything) to do with truly worshipping God and more to do with what we; as the church; get out of these events. The time, energy, and resources devoted to these things does absolutely nothing to fight poverty in the world (hell, not even for the surround community), to combat social injustice, to aid the sick and needy, or to mend those who have been broken. Instead, we commit to these things -- these rehearsed, planned, and scripted things -- to make the few hours we spend at church "successful". When its all over, the choirs gets praised for sounding good, the Joneses get praised for giving X amount of money. The pastors (holy pimps. I'll get to that some other time) get praised for their 'work'. But at the end of the day, our efforts have done very little to truly advance God's kingdom. That, to me, is the worst kind of worship. But sadly, it's the most prevalent kind also. the I suppose, then, that's the overwhelming reason why I don't plan on going back.

Now, I'll admit: my thoughts are only the product of attending and visiting BBC's in the surrounding area. I certainly can't make a generalization about BBC's all over the country. But I can speak to ones I've visited around where I live. I don't really care about what a church in Some Town, California is doing if I'm currently residing in Grand Blanc, Michigan. When I say "I don't care", that's not to say that I'm dismissing the kingdom building work in which they may very well be engaged. I'm simply pointing out that it doesn't do much to cultivate me if I'm living across the country. I think I'm getting off point a bit. Let me get back...

My ultimate point is: the stuff that we call "worship" is nothing more than crowd-pleasing, pre-packaged, self-centeredness that we do out of obligation and not from the heart. Very seldomly does God truly get the praise and the worship; likely because our heart is not fixed on Him when we do the things we do.

I hate myself right now for posting this, largely because I feel like I'm judging people, being hypocritical, and trying to play the role of a clairvoyant by stating how authentic or fake I think people's worship is. But at the end of day, I can still look at the broken, deteriorating conditions of the 'the least of these' all around us (both physically and socially) and say -- with absolution -- that worship is the LAST thing we're doing.

...especially if we worship God by how we respond to our fellow man.

- ACL

7 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

KC said...

I feel you with the frustration that comes with the church. It's become more about show than about worship. All the same, you shouldn't let this stop you from actively seeking a church home.

Greeneyes said...

Andre My Handsome KING ,

your frustration comes through loud and clear , there is no reason to be torn , you are saying it like it is ,,,it is unfortunate that your church in your neighbourhood has tainted your well of practicing faith . I have been in different churches at different times in my life some in major cities and I have never seen what you describe ,but can see it easily happening . It saddens me to know you are without a church to nurture your beliefs and keep you connected , but as long as you have God in your life and heart , you will be ok .♥☺♥


Greeneyes

HeiressChild said...

well, somebody didn't get their praise on this week! just kidding andre. i guess that's why relationship with Jesus is so important. yes, we are to "fellowship" with one another, and not forsake assembling ourselves together at the building, but when we have that solid One-on-one relationship, we can be in God's presence wherever and have the real worship. i know exactly what you're talking about though that goes on in some churches. that's more like having a form of godliness, doing all the "right things." have you thought about going outside the BBC? after all, denominations are man-made. just a thought.

HeiressChild said...

i'm glad you wrote about this though because other people experience the same thing.

Cynthia said...

I agree with Heiresschild on this one. Andre, the Bible is explicit on how believers need to fellowship with each other if for no other reason but to encourage and uplift one another. True, you can have fellowship just about ANYWHERE - from a coffee shop to somebody's basement. But why rob yourself of the opportunity to participate in a ceremonious "gathering of the saints"?

Andre said...

@ KC: I never said that I'm abandoning the idea of church attendance altogether. I'm just saying that many of the places I've visited (some of them were interconnected with each while some weren't) are all full of sh...crap (I had to stop myself there. :) ) It seems to me that churches in general have watered down God and are only focusing on what they get out of service. Our own images, reputation, and obligations are put ahead of God and the real work that needs to be done for Him. It's hard to explain.

@ Greeny: I'm sure that MANY churches in the world (or, if you wanna narrow that; in this country) have their acts together. The problem for me is that I just don't see many of them around here going that route. Essentially, all the churches that I've visited are focused on the day-to-day activities that are in conjunction with the church calendar. Surely our walk with God can't be limited to going to service on Sunday, Bible class on Wednesday, choir rehearsal on Saturday, and giving money.

@ Heiress: I go back to my original question. Yes the church is engaged in ritualistic services throughout the day. But what's being done to advance the Kingdom? If ritual is all there is to our faith and to our worship, I'll give in. But I think there's more to it.

To address your suggestion about venturing outside of the BBC: I'm torn. Largely I'm torn because BBCs are really all I know. Though my life in college (as a student and employee) has exposed me to different cultures and lifestyles, I still find myself occassionally needing to...well...be around my own. I get that out of being at a BBC.

Denominationally speaking, I'm also in conflict. On one hand, you've got some Emergent churches (usually non-denominational) that are all over the place with their agenda and their teachings. On the other, you've got the 'traditional' denomiational churches (of whom BBCs are included) that are deeply engrained in the Word through teaching; but not so much by action. Essentially, I'm having the same conflict with the church as I am with the political arena; namely my disdain with Republicans and my frustration with Democrats.

HeiressChild said...

hi andre, i tend to look at going to church as coming together for fellowship and to encourage and uplift each other. when we come together there's a corporate anointing. of course during the course of the service, God speaks and ministers to our needs so we can go out to minister to the needs of others.

to advance the Kingdom, it's what we should be doing all of the time. you come into the House of God to refill, replenish, and refresh, and go back out to be about our Father's business. my church has outreach ministries that reach out to souls during the course of the week.

i think when people make inside the church building their life, rather than making Jesus Lord of their life, it can make life a little empty because they're then caught up in the activities within the building rather than being led on a day-to-day basis outside of the church.

i've had a time when my life centered around the church within, but now my work is in the community. there's definitely plenty of work outside the church building, but there's work inside too.

i guess if a church is just focusing on sunday service, bible study, choir practice, and money and not furthering the Kingdom thru outside ministry, then there would be a problem since there are many souls, especially the unsaved, that aren't in the church. i think it's nothing wrong with these things as long as Kingdom work is being done thru the week.

i was thinking if you feel churches have watered down God, it's definitely time to find another church. there are still some that allow the Holy Spirit to have full control of the services. it's important to focus on God and to be led by His Spirit. sometimes we have to change our focus.

i hear you about the BBC being all what you know about; however, sometimes God is trying to take us into new directions--the unfamiliar--and we want to stay in the comfort zone. i don't know that's He's doing this in your life; i was just making a valid point.

republicans and democrats are an imperfect people just like we all are. i don't look to them for perfection, or to make my life different or better. i try to stay focused on God and His Word, and we're to pray for our leaders. God knew they weren't perfect; that's why we're admonished in i timothy 2:1-3 to pray for our leaders. for me, changing my focus helpts me not to be so frustrated by life and things that go on in life. i hope i didn't get too far off-base from what you're saying.