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The Missing Piece in Gathered Worship

Tuesday Re-mix – 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

If the goal of worship is to connect with God, then there are only two “grades” you can give a gathered worship experience: “A” or “F”.  It is pretty much a pass/fail thing.  That is because there is no such thing as connecting with God and it being anything other than amazing and wonderful…and if you are in a worship experience and you are NOT connecting with God, then, well…fail.  I had to get all that said before I take up today’s topic, just so you know that I know…because today I am giving our culture’s gathered worship experiences a grade somewhere between pass and fail.

Last year, I attended a corporate worship experience at a church in the town where my daughter goes to school.  It was well produced, but lacking in one way.  Other than my family, I did not know a single person around me.  Sadly, that was still true even as we were leaving.  That just seems wrong to me.

The truth is, it was an amazing worship atmosphere.  Very contemporary in style (I am blessed to be comfortable worshiping in almost any “style”), with a casual feel and lots of technology to help the worshiper stay focused on the message and on the theme for the day…great, introspective music, wonderful sermon, innovative communion.  To their credit, I thought the worship leaders did a fairly good job of keeping the focus OFF of them on ON the Lord.  That’s not easy to do in this consumer-oriented culture.  But there was one element missing for me…and frankly, it is missing in the vast majority of corporate worship experiences I’ve ever seen or heard about.  So much so, in fact, that I often wonder if I am the only one who misses it.

But before I identify it, allow me one digression.

In my own church, our worship service is televised…live, every Sunday.  It is a great deal for those of us who worship there.  If you cannot be there for some reason on any given Sunday, you can catch the service on television.  God has done some amazing things over the years through that television ministry, and I am truly grateful for it.  But I do wonder if watching our services on television is any different than worshiping there in person.  Because our services, like just about everyone else’s, call your attention to the front of the auditorium the entire service.  What you are watching in person is no different than what you would be watching on television.  When we worship, we all come in and sit down and turn our attention to the front of the sanctuary for the entire hour.  It is very much like going into a movie theater and watching a movie.

And now I will digress even further.

My wife and I stopped going to movies on our “date nights” a long time ago, because, as entertaining as they might be, they do not provide any opportunity for us to “connect” with each other.  We go and sit and watch and leave without ever connecting with one another.  Not exactly good “date night” quality time.

End of digression.  Bringing it all back around now.

The same is true in most of our gathered worship experiences.  We come, we sit, we stand, we listen, we pray, we sing…all without any “connection” to our co-worshipers except for the token 90 seconds when we “turn and greet one another”.  And for me, this is the missing piece: truly connecting with my co-worshiper. I know, I know…our worship is all about Him, not about us…we are supposed to be focused on Him.  I get that.  But I can do that at home, all by myself.  I can turn on my radio or my computer monitor and watch or listen to outstanding leaders “prompt” me to turn my heart toward the Lord.  I do not need a live gathered worship experience for that.  Shouldn’t the live experience lead me to do something which only it can do, i.e., experience the body of Christ?  Shouldn’t corporate worship afford me the opportunity to do something I CANNOT DO AT HOME?  Shouldn’t it offer me the opportunity to connect with the Spirit of Christ living in my brother/sister?

I long for that in worship.  I have no idea how to accomplish it, how to structure it.  But I do long for it.

What about you?  If you have been a part of a worship experience which really gave co-worshipers the opportunity to connect with one another, i.e., to find Christ in one another, I would love to hear from you.  What did it look like?  How did it work?  I’m looking for ideas!  I’m looking for the missing piece.

© Blake Coffee
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