Sunday, May 18, 2014

What is the Purpose for Attending a Worship Service?

When we talk about why we attend worship services at a certain congregation, we often offer a variety of reasons.  Perhaps we know the people here and it feels like home.  Perhaps we enjoy the music played or we like the pastor's sermon style.  Perhaps we feel as though we should go to a worship service, and this is what best fits our schedule.

And others would note that the question assumes that you are currently attending a worship service.  Many do not attend any worship service.  Many others will occasionally participate in a worship service but not on a regular basis.

Rev. Nathan Aaseng recently wrote a column exploring the reasons we give for attending a particular worship service.  (His column on why we attend any worship service at all is an excellent column which deserves its own post.)  He notes that many of our comments describing why we prefer one worship service over another or one congregation over another center on what we like and want.  If a congregation offers what we want, great.  If a congregation does not, we either lobby for it or leave to try another congregation.

In response, many congregations try to discover what people like to have in worship and then learn how to offer that preference.  Although congregations chase the preferences because they believe that these new preferences will increase worship attendance, increases in attendance and membership usually do not take place.

Rev. Aaseng notes what is missing from the discussion: an encounter with God.  If we continue to discuss worship using the terms of our preferences, then we feel free to leave when our preferences are not met.  Also, when an opportunity to do something we "enjoy" more than worship comes to us, we skip the worship service without a second thought because we are focused on our wants, desires, and preferences.

How might this change if we start talking about our worship services in terms of how we encounter the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  If we can name how we encounter the Triune God in worship, we can shift our focus from our preferences to how we can continue to encounter the Triune God in worship.  We may come to worship prepared to meet God and see God within the people around us.

So how have you recently encountered Jesus?

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