From the beginning of this series on why people avoid worship, I’ve defined worship as a time when unrelated people gather together to acknowledge God and intentionally move beyond our humanness into an understanding of the Holy. An integral part of transformational worship lies in the connection we make with others think differently than we do.
Connection between humans requires vulnerability where we expose who we are, what life forces have shaped us, and what we value most. Think about it: the ones whom we love most richly are also the ones about whom we know the most. Interestingly, the ones about whom we know the most are also the ones who tend to be most challenging in our lives. Communal worship glues us together in both our love and this challenge.
However, the process of opening ourselves to others may take us on such a treacherous path of betrayal and judgment that the hermit’s hut or some place of superficial engagement seems more desirable than a worship gathering where we may become known by others.
Ultimately this fear of exposure brings up Excuse Number Three, “I’m not good enough to go to church. I’ll show up when I get my act together.”
This excuse cripples the process of personal transformation.
The Christian journey is not one of getting better and sinning less each day, but is one of growing awareness of the everlasting human tendency to substitute anything, just anything, for God. All activities, possessions, emotions, relationships, habits, occupations, times, families, illnesses, sport . . . every one can and is turned into something to worship that takes the place of the often scary encounter with a Holy God.
Our abilities to deceive ourselves over our idolatry are so well-honed that they make Superman’s ability to run faster than a speeding train look like he’s doing a clumsy version of the Hokey Pokey in comparison. Communal worship, study, and accountability are the tools that expose our blindness. When those scales fall off, the sort of repentance that pushes open grace-doors to their widest point blows through us. Then we can say, “My Lord and my God! Have mercy on me” and know that we have indeed received it.
Churches have always been for the broken, not the put-together. Jesus made it clear that he didn’t come for those who already had it all together, but for the sinner, the distraught, the suffering, the oppressed, the poor in spirit, the hungry, the naked, the ashamed.
The process of healing, the walk to wholeness, the journey to salvation--however you want to term it--takes place in community. Slowly, we lay plank after plank on the bridge of trust, both in God and in one another. Joyfully and painfully, we open ourselves for examination and freedom from our idol worship.
We talk, sing, pray, work and serve together. We teach the children, mentor the teens, comfort the ill, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We celebrate births and death, weddings and divorces, heart breaks and heart bursts together. We praise God and pray through tears with one another. We wrestle with sacred texts and hone our interpretative skills in a mutual sharing of knowledge and wisdom.
But we do it together, with all our flaws and our flatulence, our posings and our posturings, our hopes and our helplessness. This is corporate worship--and no one who is willing to engage in this practice, no matter how broken, sin-ridden, troubled, lost, angry, full of hate and doubt, tortured by anguish, bled by addictions--no one should be turned away by a place that calls itself a place where the grace of God may be found. This is the nature of true worship.