I always get just a little bit amused when I check my Facebook on Sunday mornings. So many of my friends who are believers (no offense to them whatsoever–I hold them in the highest respect) put out these little updates about getting ready for church gatherings. They range from the understated (ex., “Getting ready for church”) to the uber-caffeinated (“Hey everyone! Let’s all get ready for CHUURCCHH!”). One common thread goes something like this: “Getting my worship on.” Or “Let’s get our praise on this morning!”
I guess my first impulse (though I never act on it) is to ask: “What was your praise doing ‘off” in the first place?”
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not poking fun at my fellow Christians, and if you’re one of my believing FB friends and you’ve posted something like this, please know I’m not singling you out or trying to be condescending. Nothing like that. It’s just that especially since I’ve been “out of rotation” for awhile, I’m now looking back and sort of marveling at the way we feel we must “gear up” for church–as though “praise” is something to be turned on and off.
Having spent most of my life in the cycle of “gearing up” for meetings, I am completely familiar with this mentality. I’ve been taught it. I’ve preached it. The whole thing about expectation, about gathering corporately to meet with God. I have been part of some extremely intense spiritual experiences when people gathered together in His name with a sense of expectation that He would meet them there in a tangible way. The whole “church in one accord” thing. I get it. It’s real. Nothing wrong with that, and a lot of things right about it.
It’s just that like with almost everything else, we have a tendency to blow this mentality out of proportion, to make it religious. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a sense of expectation–I’m saying something must be a little off kilter if we have to work so hard to build up that sense of expectation. It sets up a danger for one of two things: 1) disappointment that God didn’t “show up” as we expected; or perhaps worse, 2) a service filled with hype rather than a genuine encounter with God. It also sets up a false sense of expectation on our parts where God is concerned, because it paints a picture of God as Someone who’s sort of teasing us–like He won’t “show up” unless we’re all at a fever pitch of excitement or desperation or something.
I mean, where has God been the other six days of the week? Locked in the church building waiting for us to come back?
I guess since I’ve been de-toxing from the whole go-to-meeting mentality, and currently don’t have the routine of attending regular weekly services, I’ve become much more aware of God in my everydays–a sort of quiet assurance and communion that goes on constantly. I’ve always had the sense that God was with me, but now it’s like the everyday sense of communion is more in the forefront for me because it isn’t juxtaposed against the once-a-week or twice-a-week meetings. It’s a dynamic I cherish in my spiritual walk right now, perhaps because it’s all I have at the moment. So it’s like the whole “gearing up” thing is a bit foreign to me right now. (Gear up for what? God’s right here–He never left.) It gives me a feeling not unlike the idea of planning a surprise party for someone who’s standing right there.
I hope this is coming out the way I’m feeling it. I’m not trying to kill anyone’s sense of expectancy. I’m just saying that if we have to psych ourselves out so much for Sunday morning gatherings, perhaps there’s something we’re missing out on the other six days of the week. I know “get your praise on” is just an expression, but really, shouldn’t our praise be on all the time? Shouldn’t we be seeking to live in a constant sense of communion with God?
Here’s another way to look at it: we Christians tend to live in an experience-based expression of our faith. We have this tendency to live from Sunday to Sunday, from corporate experience to corporate experience, where the Sunday morning gathering is like our rocket booster to help us coast through the rest of the week. As the week drags on, we lose our momentum, and often our courage, and we drag ourselves back into church next Sunday for the next boost.
But is this all God has for us, really? Doesn’t this seem like rather a sad existence, if you think about it–to live for these “experiences” and just sort of coast the rest of the time? Is this the “life more abundantly” that Jesus spoke of?
Have you ever been in a car with someone who drives this way? They don’t see the accelerator as a source of constant fuel for the car–instead, they see it as a sort of rocket booster. Accelerate hard, then coast, then accelerate again, then coast again, over and over, instead of just cruising. As a passenger, it makes you feel like you’re going to get whiplash. Not to mention that it can’t be good for the engine.
That’s what this “gearing up” routine reminds me of. I was in that cycle for so many years that I felt like I lived in this constant state of spiritual whiplash. Something’s gotta be wrong with that, if you ask me. Eventually, I think my motor broke from the strain. And since I jumped out of that cycle, it’s like I’ve discovered that this accelerator has the ability to provide constant fuel for the car, and can be a continual source for momentum. We don’t have to jerk forward and then coast, jerk forward and coast. This car can cruise when it’s supplied with a constant, steady inflow of fuel. That’s what has happened with my everyday walk with God, as opposed to “gearing up” for something every week–and it’s something that for me, I probably would have missed if I hadn’t broken with that routine for awhile.
There’s definitely something about gathering together as believers that doesn’t happen when we’re going it alone, and there is something real to be experienced with God when we gather together corporately–so having a good expectation is certainly not a bad thing. Just don’t let that be all there is. God isn’t going to fail to appear because you didn’t “gear up” enough, and He’s not going to leave you when the gathering is over. He’s far more faithful than that, and His constant presence can be embraced and enjoyed every moment of every day, if you so desire.
So if you’re going to a Sunday gathering today, go ahead and “get your praise on.” Just try not to miss out by taking it off afterward.