Do you lean in on Sunday mornings? Or does a critical spirit or unchecked cynicism have you leaning out, ready to size up and dress down the slips and inadequacies of the leaders up front?
Does a spirit of apathy and laziness have you leaning back, just going through the motions, anticipating little more than the benediction and your afternoon nap to follow?
God Works in Miscues
Leaning in on Sunday morning has less to do with the posture of your body, and more to do with the stance of your soul — whether your heart is constricted and closed in corporate worship, or swelling in hope and expanding with expectation. Whether you have an attitude of anticipation, or whether society’s increasing cynicism about everything under the sun has come home to roost in your own chest. Whether you’re ready to give the benefit of the doubt to miscues up front and distractions around you in the pews, or are waiting for another excuse to disengage.
As you sit judging, negligent to the conflagration of grace at work around you, have you considered the time and energy that have been invested to prepare for this gathering? Do you receive it as a gift of love, or with a sense of entitlement? And have you considered how God loves to work in and through his people in corporate worship, not just despite, but often because of, our blunders and imperfections?
Pastors, Not Performers
It may help to know that very few pastors feel adequate in all the facets of our up front leadership in corporate worship. In fact, many feel adequate in none of the facets.
The rehearsals of live theater, and the retakes and extensive edits of movies and television, may have conditioned our society to expect flawlessness on stage, but this is not the calling of corporate worship. Your pastors are not professional actors, and your leaders in music and song are not rock stars.
Our pastors have been entrusted not with producing a good show or memorable concert, but the care of our souls — which is not “professional” work to begin with. They may appear up front for an hour each week, but the other 167 hours they are not on stage. They are not performers. They are very easy to critique. You deserve no badge of honor for being sharp enough to spot problems and identify places for improvement. It is very naïve to expect eloquence up front from your pastors.
It’s simply too easy to be critical and cynical on Sunday morning. Pray for help to rise above it. Renounce negativity and doubt, and resolve to expect great things, not because of the preacher, musicians, or song selections, but because of the power of the Holy Spirit. Trust the Spirit with your heart, and give effort to directing your emotions away from being a critic, toward being a worshiper.
When someone else plays up a miscue up front, aim to respond with graciousness. Try to be contagious in giving benefit of the doubt and cultivating an attitude of hope toward those who are serving us by leading us in corporate worship.
Your pastors are not professional actors. Your worship leaders are not rock stars. Come to worship, not critique.
Seek to be on the lookout, not for errors, but manifestations of God’s surprising goodness, whether in the good-hearted efforts of the pastors to point us to Christ, or even on occasion despite their efforts. With an attitude of hope, we can taste the glory of God not just in beautiful harmony, but even in an off-key voice. Not just in world-class oration, but even in bumbling speech.
It’s tragically sad to be apathetic and lazy. Corporate worship is too important not to care.
This is the single most important hour in the Christian’s typical week — because here we experience, as in no other weekly habit, the coming together of hearing God’s voice (in his word read and preached), having his ear (in prayer and Godward song), and belonging to his body (in the many corporate aspects before, during, and following our gathering).
It simply matters too much to our own souls, and to the souls of others, to be content with disengaging, whether our lethargy is emotional and stubborn, or simply the product of consistently not getting enough sleep on Saturday night.
Our engagement in corporate worship is a barometer for the health of our souls. Typically, the most stable and mature Christians are the ones leaning in on Sunday mornings. The ungrieved Spirit in them senses the bonfire of grace at work in corporate worship and leads them to lean in.
Yes, times will come for some of us, when having leaned in Sunday after Sunday, month after month, perhaps even year after year, we begin to consider during the week whether God might be leading us to a healthier church home. However, corporate worship is emphatically not the time to be doing our deliberations. We won’t be able to do levelheaded evaluation on Sunday afternoons if we haven’t truly leaned in on Sunday mornings.
So lean into corporate worship. Not because of the skill of your pastors or worship leaders or the musicians. This is not entertainment, but worship. Expect the best in all the worst. God loves to do his most explosive work in the most surprising ways, and an attitude of hope in us can transform our Sunday mornings.