Prologue: 2/12/2011 – Worship God Outside Your Preference – It’s Not About You
This will be a continuous blog with updates on my progress and experiences this year so if you’re interested in this, please check back weekly or bi-weekly to see what’s new.
Religion and history of religion with it’s cultural and social relevance has always fascinated me. I love knowing more about it and not only the multi-faceted Christian faith, but other world religions.
This year I’m on a quest to study other religions more in-depth & visit churches and religious groups of other denominations & faith. I plan to blog about my experience.
Growing up in a very conservative Christian faith, I never felt freedom in my faith. I knew even from an early age what “religion” vs. a “spirit-led life” was. I was able to automatically identify hypocrisy in the church and knew that what I discovered about the very Christ we claim to follow was not matching up with the kind of “religion” we were all living. It bothered me greatly. It bothered me that more attention was placed on do’s and don’ts, than on love, forgiveness and acceptance and walking with people no matter where they were in their spiritual walk and how much or how long they struggled. I always felt judged, even though I was one of the flock. And as I grew up and became an adult with my own church experiences wherever life led me, I found the same things happening everywhere I went. People eventually stoned me, even though I still had great close friends who loved me, there were always those waiting with stone in hand to throw it at someone. I was often the target because I stick out, I don’t conform, I press forward and challenge, pose questions and truths that sometimes people are not willing to face. I ruffle feathers, I’m not a “church lady”. No matter how I look, it’s never churchy enough. I’m talented, and have been told I’m anointed many times over. I know God uses me to bless others and I try to stay humble about that. But there will always be people who want to destroy that, my guess is to feel better about themselves with their own insecurity and guilt. I tend to be a mover and a shaker. I don’t settle for status quo but want to see people be all they can be, to dream bigger than they ever dreamed, to reach their full potential in what God has for their life. I want to see myself and others grow. But I’ve learned that growth doesn’t come without growing pains. Wisdom doesn’t come without a tough lesson. Strength doesn’t come without struggle and effort and even a few battle scars. And being advanced doesn’t come without proof you can handle the little things first with humility and gratefulness. I see too many people who think they are entitled and deserve more, but the truth is we don’t deserve more. God doesn’t owe us a platform or advancement. And we won’t get it “from Him” without proper motives. Sure, there are people who take it, but eventually they lose it. I’ve seen corrupt people moved out of position because they are eventually found out, or chicken out. Motives play a big part in where you land and how long you stay there.
Worship: plain and simple, this is about God, not us and how we “feel”. Too many people come to church expecting to receive something from their worship experience and if the band or the music doesn’t move them, it’s not “their fault”, but the music director or worship leader, or that bad singer on the worship team who distracted you from your worship time. Truth is, God’s presence is always there, it doesn’t “show up”. But it’s us who have to show up. We are to bring a “sacrifice of praise” to God. That means it’s us giving Him something, not the other way around. And even when we are not in the mood or don’t like the music and it’s delivery, it is a sacrifice to give God what WE owe HIM. Not to receive butterflies in our stomach or get our worship fix for the week. But to give HIM what He deserves from us. We gauge God’s presence with performance. Something we still need to get over and acknowledge as our own shortfall.
I recently attended a very humble and conservative church service. I typically like a lot of instrumentation and a professional music delivery, but I also enjoy the unplugged set too. This one was really “unplugged”. An electric keyboard, a tambourine and a bass player, two of which sang. Very humble. The church was a warm family-like atmosphere, down home. They did a variety of songs from old hymns, to choruses I knew from long ago, to current worship songs that are “hits” on the local Christian radio station. (that’s another blog) The congregation was clapping and some did the “white-bread hand raise”, and worshipped the best they knew how to. But it was genuine. Not hyped up, not loud, and not really teary-eyed or emotional. Almost like singing around a campfire. But I found myself in God’s presence, despite my musical preference, being moved by what I was singing to the point of weeping and uncontrollably lifting my hands to the point that I’m sure everybody noticed. Not that it was any kind of hand-raising contest. But I couldn’t help but abandon myself, my inhibitions, and what everybody else felt comfortable doing. I had to surrender and give God my all physically, emotionally, spiritually. How could I not? God has done so much for me. Every word I sang, whether it was my preferred song choice or not, I had to give God a “sacrifice of praise” because that is why we should even come to worship Him at all. Why call it a worship service if you’re not actually going to worship God. Too many people pick apart what’s going on upfront instead of engaging. I decided long ago that I was going to “engage” in worship no matter what because God should be my main focus, not the music, not the pastor, not the worship team or worship leader, not the style. But God was my main goal.
I went to the Holy Land experience last year, something I never thought I’d do because I thought it would be cheezy and all TBN. But I found myself surrounded by Biblical history that fascinated me, authentic copies of early Bibles that were even guarded with someone’s life and had bloodstains on them. Amazing. Then they had the reenactment of the resurrection. At the end a moderate worship team of singers sang to cheezy soundtrack music. I found myself weeping uncontrollably as they sang “Shout to the Lord”! Why? Not because the style or delivery was spectacular, but because I was ready to meet Jesus that very moment and to worship God in that situation. I surrendered. I’ve been doing that more and more in my life. Matt Redman got it right when he wrote “Heart of Worship”. It’s all about “You” God. Not me, not about how I feel today, what’s going wrong in my life, how I hate the music or style. There is no real “style” of worship music anyway. There is no style that God prefers over another, yet church people have dictated this. The early hymns were considered heathen in the church, and now we have people who claim they are the only kind of music we should be doing in the church. People fail. The Church fails people. We fail each other.
I’ve come to learn that “The Body of Christ” is not about church. It’s about how we live our lives alongside of each other. It’s not about building programs, numbers, outreach ministries, attendance goals and offerings. It’s about living as Jesus lived, treating others the way He taught us to treat them, and loving them the way God taught us through Jesus and His life & sacrifice.
This year I plan to explore, discover and study faith in it’s many forms. Not only because it just plain fascinates me, but because I have a genuine interest in people and what makes them tick when it comes to religion. How can any Christian shut down others with any religious argument when they don’t even understand where they are coming from? I find that most Christians don’t even know much about their own faith and believe Christian wives tales instead of living the message that Jesus came and sacrificed His life to teach us. It comes down to Love. Love is walking with others, no matter how long and if they ever “change” or “turn” or “agree” with you. If our goal is God’s love towards others, there is no time limit, no set of conditions or limitations we should be placing on other people. People are seeking to fill that empty hole inside themselves with their faith, whether they are Mormon, Muslim, Unitarian, Christian or Buddhist or whatever. No matter where a person’s beliefs lie, if we are truly following Christ, we should be able to love them, walk with them, want the best for them, and help them when they are struggling or are in need. Love goes beyond the “feel good” opportunities we get from being “the hero” with safe opportunities like giving to shelters and world hunger. It’s about being able to wrap your arms around ugliness and dirtiness and not worry about what’s going to rub off on your nice clothes or how it will make you look to others.
Love is the key. God is love. I’m curious to find out what other faith’s think about this too. And how they go about carrying it out. I’m not interested in religious debate or arguing with others about who is right and who is wrong. I’m interested in going beyond my comfort zone and embracing others despite their beliefs or life circumstances. Taking my own “Live Love Loud” challenge if you will. This is my quest this year. Follow along if you want. I want to see Christian ignorance diminished just a little bit more and I want to do my part with myself to help abolish that.