For the early part of my life I was pretty much unchurched. I knew about God, primarily because my parents invoked pulling out the Bible and making us put our hands on top of it and swearing upon it that we did not perpetuate whatever wrong that had occurred in the household. I know for sure that my father was raised by godly parents, good, kind, super hard-working, family-oriented. They believed in God. Just how much my grandparents talked about God, I don’t know. They lived three hours away from us, and we saw them several times a year. I was always so busy as a child playing with my cousins when I visited that I didn’t sit much and just talk.
For me, church life didn’t really start until I was almost 20 years old. It was a very traditional church. Wooden pews, extensive carved wood inlays along the walls, ornate altar, the classic pipe organ, gargoyles mounted along the ceiling holding the suspended light fixtures. Along each wall there were these rather fantastic stained glass windows, some extending two stories tall, each depicting significant events in the life of my precious Savior. I could sit there and stare at the colorful depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepard with his flock of sheep gathered around him while the sun beamed through the sections of vivid blue, green, red, and other colors of leaded glass. I could turn and see the glorious angel presented in the round window at the very end of the aisle that exited out of the church. I could look up and to my left and look at Jesus as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. I could watch Jesus walk upon water towards the fishing boat that was tossing His Disciples around as just as if I was tossing a salad. And above the altar I could look at the multiple windows that depicted the Nativity as each slender section gracefully arched towards the top center point. I could sit there and soak in all these pictures of My Savior, sometimes they stirred me in awe, sometimes not. The songs were traditional hymns, and to me more often than not, they sounded like dirges. I’m just keeping it real here folks. The liturgy was fixed, the readings were read, responses were rote – sometimes spoken, sometimes sung. Then the Pastor spoke – the sermon. We were an impatient lot for sure, if the sermons lasted longer than 15 minutes, we would sigh, perhaps tap our feet a bit, squirm in the seat, and definitely check our watch. And within days whatever the pastor spoke about was mostly, if not completely, forgotten.
While God meant something to me, a very important something indeed, the church service in my early church-going life, which I believed was structured to enhance my worship of God, often did not. It wasn’t until I was well advanced in my life that I attended a more contemporary church. There I found a way to connect to God, to express my faith, to worship God in a way that captured my heart and soul. And, then my faith life became vibrant, more vibrant than the magnificent stained glass windows in the traditional church that launched and formed the background of my church-going life.
I know so many people who need to connect to God, worship God in a way that appeals to and reaches their core. For some it’s traditional worship with age-old beloved hymns, in wooden pews with gargoyles holding lights from their mouths, while the sunlight streams through stained glass windows. Perhaps all while reading the King James Version of the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that. The rich traditions fill their souls. For others it’s an auditorium complete with video screens, full band instruments, lighting effects, props, and people attending church in T-shirt’s and jeans while sipping on a latte that they purchased in the coffee shop. The Pastor may reference Bible verses from versions such as NIV, ESV, or NLT.
We each have different preferences in our lives, likes and dislikes. Things that appeal to, and speak to me, will most likely be remarkably different than those that you prefer. It’s not really important whether you worship in the traditional setting or the contemporary non-denominational setting that seems to add fuel to my internal fire. The important part here is worship, it’s that we worship, that we take time to focus upon what God is doing in our lives and offer our devotion to the one who pours out His extravagant love upon us.
That kind of worship is not relegated to only within the walls of a building in which believers congregate on Sunday. That kind of worship is not spending 15 or 20 minutes or so singing traditional hymns or contemporary praise songs, eyes open or closed, hands raised high or down at our sides. It’s the kind of worship that acknowledges God with words and deeds, that displays His love, that spills out of the doors of the physical building and migrates into our homes, our neighborhood, our workplace. It can permeate throughout everything that we do – while we are walking, while we are driving – no matter where we are. It’s spreading hope and joy into the lives of others, some who are lost, some who just need a reminder of God’s constant and abiding love.
Wherever you are, you can worship. Worship the Lord. He is worthy.
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)