Every Sunday I feel inspired to run home and blog about my worship experience that day. But I haven't. It's hard to put into words.
For those of you who don't know, John and I have been attending the First Christian Church since early October. We love it. Before we had been attending a local church of Christ. I have struggled with the churches of Christ for a very long time now. 10 years or so? I think my biggest problem has been that I am an emotional person (I don't know why I keep telling you that!) and for me, personally, I NEED to worship in an emotional setting and the church of Christ, for the most part, does not allow for that. And so I have attended church out of duty and have left many times feeling nothing. I understand that it is MY responsibility to have the right heart and come worship before God, and I am not looking to GET anything out of worship, but so often it seems that the church focuses so much on getting the Law JUST right, that the spirit of worship is missing. I've been searching for that spirit. I'm not putting down the church of Christ in any way or "turning against it", just stating what my experience has been over the past few years. Not all churches of Christ are that way at all! We just haven't had the opportunity to live in a place where we could attend a church of Christ like that. Only when we get to visit my parents! :) GREAT group of people who we love very very much. It is amazing how much the spirit of individuals affects worshiping God. We attended a church of Christ in Germany where there was no full-time preacher, but the love of ONE couple there set the tone for the entire church and worship hour. I didn't realize that until changes started taking place and they moved away. Worship suddenly became more "political" and "legalistic". There were divisions and dissensions. People stopped wanting to come. I just got totally sidetracked. Point being, that couple brought a spirit to worship that was contagious. And it's rare to find that contagious spirit in a church.
All that being said, an emotional experience does not equal a worship experience. I have attended other christian churches who had the "spirit" but seemed to be lacking the Spiritual meat. It has bothered me when worship seems to be held in the spirit of entertainment. When the Bible is watered down. And so I have always stayed with the spiritless church of Christ who was doctrinally sound, as opposed to a spirit-filled church who didn't seem to stick with the Bible at all.
When we first attended First Christian, I had the same goal I have always had - find out what they're doing wrong. Terrible attitude isn't it? Afterall, we were looking for some place new to worship, and wanted the balance of scriptually sound and spirit-filled. I wasn't sure such a place existed. I expected what most people from the church of Christ expect from a christian church. That worship would be geared towards entertainment. The preacher would be funny and capture everybody's attention with stories. The Bible would be presented in a manner that would be careful not to offend anyone. Women would dominate the worship. All the no--no's.
Boy was I wrong. Worship IS done slightly different and yet that's still not what sets this church apart. There are 2 different styles of worship available - a Contemporary and a Traditional service. A band and praise team in contemporary. A piano and choir in traditional. Women are more visible, but still not to the extent that I have encountered at other churches and been very uncomfortable with. The only time I have seen a woman lead a prayer was during contemporary service right before the Lord's supper, because the praise team (composed of women) leads the song right before and it seems to be a matter of convenience, as the song leader does the same at traditional service. Not saying it's right (I'm still not fully comfortable with that). Just noting my observations. I noticed one Sunday, for the first time, a women assisting in serving the Lord's supper. I hadn't noticed before, because the servers come from the back and do not stand up front - I have no problem with that at all. And women teach the adult classes. And that's the extent to which women have a role in worship. There are deacons and elders. Both worship services follow the pattern that you would expect, other than the Lord's Supper follows the sermon. The preacher (who does go by 'minister' and not 'pastor') is not an entertaining man. He is a compelling speaker, but I noticed today, he does not use funny stories. I'm not even sure he has ever popped a joke in his sermons. They are Bible based, scripture is used every time, they are well written and thought out, with a series of points. They are not even "feel-good" sermons, which I definitely expected. This is a church that is serious about growing and leading others to Christ. And the sermons are about how to do that. The Lord's Supper is really wonderful and a nice change. There is always a very thoughtful message right before. It's not routine and the same words aren't used. Today, the thought brought tears around me. I noticed a grown man wiping his eyes and heard others sniffling as we sang "Isn't He beautiful" and listened to the thoughts on Jesus right before communion - and this in the traditional service! The service that is supposedly not as emotions-based! It's the spirit I've been missing. Surrounded by people who love God and are EXCITED to come worship Him. There's no hand raising or clapping or shouts of Amen, but you can feel the spirit in the air all the same. I can't describe it. But it brings me so much joy.
We have yet to connect with anybody there, but I look forward to worship all the same. I still need to study more and learn how God feels about different methods of worship, because I do want to worship him in a way that pleases him. It crushes me to think that I could worship Him in a way that I see no problem with, yet angers Him, but at this point I feel like my heart is back into worship and I feel like I'm surrounded with people who have a heart for worship. Today, one of the points in the sermon taken from Luke 17 where Jesus heals the lepers, is that if people are not coming to church to worship God, it's because they are not thankful. Because when we realize all that God has done for us, it compels us to go worship Him. No matter what. And I think that spirit of thankfulness is at this church. It's a place where I want to bring people to. A place I want to be a part of. A place of love, unity, and full of people who just want to serve God. And I can't wait to go back!