In college, I had the awesome opportunity to make the pilgrimage from Texas to Washington State to see Dave Matthews Band three nights in a row at the Gorge Amphitheater. However, to my great surprise, I didn’t really enjoy the first two nights of shows. The music, location, and atmosphere were amazing – it was my state of being that trumped my enjoyment. You see, the first night I was uncomfortably hungry and just wanted to find something to eat – we had arrived from Texas just as the concert started without eating dinner. The second night I was simply exhausted – we had made a day trip to Canada and I didn’t get my beauty sleep. When we were waiting for the encore – I prayed they wouldn’t come back out – so I could go to bed. Looking back, I’m still fascinated that doing something I loved so much was compromised by my lack of food and sleep; however, I was reminded how crucial it is to take care of my needs so I can be present when I want to be. Recently, I’ve had several conversations with people about how their presence in Sunday morning worship is influenced by their actions and mindset. I’ve been mentally chewing on these conversations and want to share these three thoughts:
- What we do on Saturday night affects how we worship on Sunday morning – Whether you just have to watch that next episode on Netflix, your kid has a late night game, or you’re out with friends, what we do on Saturday night affects our Sunday morning. Now I’m not arguing that we should cease all Saturday night activities, but I think that naming and claiming this truth is the first step to being more present and… awake in worship. Set a goal – two weekends this month I’m going to make sure I’m aware of my Saturday night for my Sunday morning.
- Everyone is an active participant in worship – You can only get out of something how much you put into it. If you put in 30% – the max that you’re going to get back is 30%. If you are not leading any part of worship, you can technically mentally check out and think about what you want for lunch, the game that’s on that afternoon, or the worries in your life. However, that’s not why we come to worship. During worship, we are invited by God to be an active participant discerning and listening for God’s Word to us.
- Ask not what worship can do for you – but what you can do for worship – This doesn’t mean to run up and lead the congregation in an unplanned prayer. (Challenge accepted?) But we usually fall in the trap of looking at worship through the lens of, “What can it do for me?” Flip the question and ask yourself, “What can I do for worship?” This rebalances the proportion of responsibility and puts some skin in the game. What can you do to improve your worship experience? What can you do to improve the worship experience of others?
Worship can be a joyful, rejuvenating, and transformational experience, but we can set roadblocks up for ourselves just like I did at the Dave concerts. For the third and final show, I was well rested and fed. I was able to be fully present and enjoyed the experience even more because of the distractions the first two nights. As we strive to be more fully present in worship – may we experience even more joy as we continually recognize what an awesome gift God has given us.
What practices do you have that help you to be present during worship? Anything you would add or disagree with from this post?