Recently our family visited a church that we don’t normally attend. I noticed rather immediately that one of my daughters was not engaging in worship, which is usually a clue that she is either upset about something, or ticked at me for one of our unpopular parental decisions. But she also is the child who does not enjoy change. After service was over, I asked her about it. She listed out all the ways this church is different from our home church, how the way “we do it” is better, and how she is soooo thankful for our church.
Now, she is perfectly entitled to her own opinion. In some areas, I agree with her. And she is a teen, which means all views and opinions are very deeply felt yet very lightly researched. But it presented an opportunity to use the area of worship style to talk about the difference between personal preferences and value judgments.
We need to be careful that we do not judge what is happening in the heart by what the body is or isn’t doing in an act of worship. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance , but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
How we respond to God’s presence has a lot to do with our personality. Someone who is dramatic and expressive will likely respond to the Holy Spirit in a dramatic and expressive way. While someone who is more quiet and thoughtful will likely respond in a quiet and thoughtful way.
The truth is, God does not reserve a special anointing for the people in the front. If going to the front helps your worship experience, then by all means, do it. Maybe you are less distracted there. Maybe you enjoy the music as loud as possible. Maybe you like to move around a bit without worrying about smacking the person in the seat next to you. You are the steward of your own life, which means you get to make those choices. You know yourself best.
By the same token, the last few rows of the church are not actually a spiritual wasteland! Who knew? The person with his head bowed in his seat may not be asleep; he may be having a genuine, heartfelt interaction with the Holy Spirit. Who knows what the Lord is revealing to his heart? What if you are the kind of person who has a hard time focusing in a crowd of people and loud music? What if you interact with the Lord best when you shut everything out around you and give Him your full attention? Again, you are the steward of your own life. You get to make those choices.
We get to set ourselves up for success in life. We can’t control whether it happens or not, but we can position ourselves as best we can to receive it. Our personality plays a huge role in everything we do: how we communicate, how we recharge, how we work, play, and even love. It certainly has a hand in how we worship.
Worship is, at its core, simply recognizing God for who He really is. Loudly or softly, hands raised, folded, or at our sides, swaying or sitting, it’s all what is happening on the outside. The Lord is dealing with the heart.
This is my challenge to you, to my kids, and to myself. Is it possible that my personality, with its dents and dings and yet unsanctified parts, is playing a role as well? Maybe my struggle with judging others is causing me to observe the outward appearance of others around me, and then tempting me to judge the “true spirituality” of their worship by projecting my own preferences upon it. Maybe that is my distraction. That is my sin.
We all gravitate toward friends, churches, and social circles where we feel like-minded. It’s human nature. It’s comfortable and supportive there. For me, I find that venturing out of that comfort zone every few months provides an opportunity for a self-check in ways staying “home” does not. How do I react when things look, sound, and feel different? What does it bring up in me? Do I, once again, need to humble myself? Can I still worship, pray, learn, serve, and minister alongside and to people who are different than I am? That’s my goal.
Now, I did not preach this whole thing to my teenagers. I validated that there were indeed differences between this church and our home church. I agreed that some I liked, and some I didn’t, and that I was also thankful for a church that she enjoyed being a part of and felt safe in. My husband and I made a few statements about how everyone is different, and how much we like that, and that God is still the same and worthy of our worship and love no matter where we are standing. Then we went out for ice cream.