Have you ever thought about this question? Have you ever been asked this question? Have you ever asked someone this question?
It seems like such a simple, harmless question. But what does it mean? What are we really trying to get at by asking such a question? How do we judge whether worship is “good” or not? Are we even entitled to make such a judgment? If our worship is truly for God, then shouldn’t God alone be the one who passes judgment on whether worship is “good” or not? God sees our hearts and knows the motives behind our offerings of worship.
At the heart of this question, “How was worship today?” is the idea of evaluation. Worship is always being evaluated. Although it may be informal, everyone that leaves church on Sunday has evaluated that service in one way or another. The real question becomes what is driving our evaluations? Evaluations might be based on any number of things: the number of people in attendance, the length of the sermon, the pronunciation of the lector, or the number of flubbed notes by the musician.
Is it possible to move beyond these surface-level evaluations into the deeper substance of worship? The next time you’re leaving worship and you catch yourself evaluating how it went, try using these questions to consider the things that are essential to worship:
Was our worship Trinitarian? Did we name the Trinity and include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our worship?
Was God’s epic narrative of salvation, from beginning to end, the centerpiece of our worship?
Were the primary symbols of baptismal font, communion table, and pulpit central to our space for worship?
Was there enough scripture reading in our worship for a full, rich telling of God’s story?
Was there time for prayer and reflection in our worship?
Did our worship engage all people assembled and invite them to participate with all their senses?
Were we connected to the death and resurrection of Jesus and pulled deeper into our baptismal journey through our worship?
Did our worship send us out following Jesus in joyful, loving service of the world?
So, how was worship today? Perhaps a better question is, “Who was worshiped today?”
Is it a feeling? Is it an attitude? Is it a thought? Does it bring joy? Does it feel mysterious? Does it make your fingertips tingle?
Which part of Sunday worship is most meaningful to you?
Is it the songs and hymns we sing together with one voice? Is it the water that cleanses us and renews us as new creatures in Christ? Is it the reading of God’s story and the proclamation of the good news in Jesus? Is it the common meal we share in broken bread and poured wine? Is it the blessing and sending that propels us to be God’s people for the good of the world? Where do you experience God the most in worship?
The important thing is not how you experience God in worship – but that you experience God in worship. If you come to church week after week and never experience the person of God, never enter the fellowship of the Trinity, you’ve missed the point and we as a church have failed in our task.
Also valuable to remember is that how you experience God is not the same as how other people experience God in worship. God creates us as individuals and wires each of us in unique ways. Just because one person experiences God in a different way than us does not make it better or worse than the way we experience God. What becomes crucial is how we act and respond to those who draw near to God using “worship languages” that are different than our own. The words of Philippians 2:3-4 should guide the hearts of everyone in our assembly on Sunday: “In humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We worship God as one body, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Worship is designed to create space for the Holy Spirit to move and show up in fresh and unexpected ways. Worship is not a one way conversation. We are not the only ones speaking during worship. Worship is space for the Spirit to provoke, whisper, and prod us into Christ-likeness. The work of our worship is to be attentive in both heart and mind and then follow in obedience.