Today, I've reached the final excuse that actually sparked the whole series of the top fifteen reasons for avoiding transformational worship gatherings.
The other fourteen ranged from complaints about the checkered history of the church to frustration over unclear and divergent doctrines to the personal sense of feeling unworthy, unwelcomed, or unknowledgable about the mysteries of church language and customs.
One excuse, "God will understand," suggests that God doesn't expect us to live in holiness, but is perfectly happy for us to give into in and all impulses, no matter how base or unworthy they might be.
Some excuses blamed outside factors: children's scheduled activities, the inability of church people to live from their stated beliefs, the call for financial generosity.
This final, and first reason, is the most personal of them. Excuse Number One, "I don't go to worship because the pastor (pick one or several of the following):
- Didn't make me feel good.
- Disagreed with me about something.
- Didn't do what I asked.
- Didn't visit me often enough when I was in the hospital.
- Doesn't call enough on the shut-ins.
- Didn't speak to me on Sunday morning.
- Speaks to too many people on Sunday mornings.
- Is in the church building too much of the time.
- Is out of the church building too much of the time.
- Forgot that it was my birthday/anniversary.
- Preaches for too long a time.
- Preaches for too short a time.
- Prays too much.
- Doesn't pray enough.
- Can't carry a tune.
- Sings too loudly.
- Didn't come by to see me when I was down.
- Didn't figure out that I needed a phone call.
- Is a poor administrator.
- Spends too much time on administration.
- Missed some important outside events.
- Goes to too many outside events.
- Spends too much time studying.
- Doesn't spend enough time studying.
- Focuses too much on the future vision of the church.
- Doesn't have a vision for the future of the church.
- Acted human instead of as a god-like and perfect creature.
"The pastor didn't make me feel good." All the rest emerge from that rarely spoken, invisible but inviolate job description floating around that says, "The job of the pastor is to make sure that I feel good."
What an impossible burden. If the pastor didn't make you feel good, then the pastor is a failure and you have no reason worship the Almighty God.
No wonder they crucified Jesus! Gospel accounts make it excruciatingly clear that it was his intention to do his Father's will, no matter what anyone thought or felt about it. People didn't like it then, and people don't like it now.
Add to this the fact that pastors, unlike Jesus, are excruciatingly human, and prone to all human failures and foibles. It is no wonder that many, many clergy at least mentally write a resignation letter on Monday mornings. Failure lurks around every corner.
We become most aware of God's image residing upon us when we assume full responsibility for who we are and what we are feeling. We most advance the possibility of healing of the world when we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and then link arms to transform the society around us. Quit blaming the pastor and start looking at your own soul. This one step frees everyone to do the good works planned for us before the beginning of time.
Worship is the one activity that only humans are privileged to perform. Other biological creatures can share affection, mate (sometimes for life), rear families, feel grief, even make tools. They can form highly sophisticated societies and build amazing structures. They can play games, share tasks, watch over one another. But we, and only we, can worship and acknowledge that we are privileged to know and be known by God. This is a privilege to be taken seriously and joyfully--and not discarded on a heap of excuses.