Is what we’re doing really worth the life of our Lord?
Think about that. Think about the ministries and activities you participated in or led in and through your congregation. How meaningful were they? How impactful? Did you encounter God in that experience and did it offer the promise and possibility of new life?
Let me meddle some, and talk about worship. Worship needs to be the best thing we offer week in and week out. It needs to elicit a ‘WOW.’ Now, WOW worship is not a particular style. It is not necessarily high tech or even highly polished. But it is intentional, thoughtful, and heartfelt. And most importantly, it is a proclamation of the gospel that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again—and it illuminates the implication of that reality for the people gathered there and our world. WOW worship makes it worth our while to show up and participate.
Last month, I talked about the concept that we live in a choice culture. We may not like it. We want to say worship should be about God and not about me and what I am getting out of it, and that as a Christian, I should show up whether it is good or bad or somewhere in between. And as a mature Christian who has made commitments to a way of life and the accompanying spiritual practices, I do show up to worship weekly. But as I visit our churches, I don’t always walk out thinking that worship was worth my while, and I have to wonder if what we’re doing and the experience we’re offering really are worth the life of our Lord. And if I am feeling that, what about our worship will inspire, motivate, and connect with someone who is still seeking Christ or is only nominally Christian? With so many other choices out there, why not choose a church where the experience of worship really is worth my while.
So, what is missing? For me, it is not the “entertainment” value that we often attribute to the large, mega churches and many of our smaller churches just don’t have the resources to implement. What is missing is more fundamental than that. What I am seeking is a church that really believes Christ is risen, that new life is theirs and can be mine as well, and that spirit of hope and joy is not only proclaimed but permeates worship. After a hard week in which I have been bruised and battered in my soul by dealing with whatever life has brought me—because while life is a gift and it is good, it is also hard and the world is not always a loving and kind place—what I yearn for is a true word that helps me see a new reality and empowers me to go back out there and live a different life. Worship that is worth my while is thoughtfully designed to help me have an experience of the risen Lord and has a heartfelt, strong proclamation of the gospel that matters.
I am blessed to worship at a church that hits the mark more often than not, but unfortunately, I have been in churches where that is not the case. I sit in the pew where no one talks to me, where there is little that compels or empowers me, where it is presumed that I know the story and that singing a song and reading scripture is enough to convey to me this life-changing, world-changing message of salvation. The person who is seeking Christ and who does not have long-term relationships in that church won’t be back; that person wants something more, something worth their while. And you know what, the gospel is better than that. Jesus gave his life for the sake of the world and proclaimed the church as the vehicle for the transmission of that gospel. People are hungering and thirsting after life and some good news. How dare we not understand that, this week, we have the privilege of offering Christ once again and do everything in our power to create a worship experience that is worth the life of our Lord?
Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church