“Good. Fine. Powerful. Uplifting.”
These are all one-word answers you might respond with to this question:
“How was worship this morning?”
I’ve used all these words at points during the last 40 or so years when I’ve been regularly attending Sunday morning worship services. And none of those answers are wrong necessarily. The great majority of those worship services have indeed been good. Or if not good, ten at least fine. More occasionally powerful. Almost always uplifting though. So those answers are, in a word, fine, but maybe not very helpful in terms of processing what just happened, and what just happened is worth processing.
That’s because you just met with the people of God, to lift up the praise of God, and listen to the Word of God, all empowered by the Spirit of God. It’s important, though it happens every single week. In an effort to process it more fully, then, let me suggest rather than asking yourself a single, generic question like, “How did that go?”, dig a little deeper. Here are three other questions you might consider asking as you head home after church on Sunday:
1. What was I explicitly taught at worship today?
One of the reasons we participate in weekly worship experiences is to learn. In some cases, we learn new things; in other cases, we are reminded of things we already knew. Both are valid; both are necessary. Though we might think about “learning” in terms of the sermon we listen to, every part of the worship service is a learning experience.
We learn, and are reminded, through the conversations we have. We learn and are reminded through the lyrics of the songs we sing. We learn and are reminded through the passing of the offering plate. But here’s the thing – unless we rehash what we have learn, unless we are able to re-articulate it to someone else, it’s not going to stick. Asking yourself this question helps solidify the work of the Holy Spirit during that pivotal hour or two.
2. What was I implicitly taught at worship today?
We learn things explicitly, but we also learn things like implicitly. Everything communicates. The fact that the pastor preaches from the middle of the platform communicates something about the Word of God. The fact that the songs are played in an easy to sing key communicates something about the worship of God. The fact that we greet each other warmly as we enter into the sanctuary communicates something about the community of God. Everything communicates, and we would do well to consider not just what we learned explicitly, but what we learned implicitly.
There is something to be cautious of here, though. The purpose of this question isn’t primarily to evaluate the church’s philosophy; it’s to evaluate our own participation and investment in the worship service, and to deepen our experience. Just be careful to not indulge the spirit of criticism that can come from this.
3. How did I contribute at worship today?
It’s helpful to remember that we call these things that we go to “worship services.” Emphasis in this case on “service.” Implicit, then, is the fact that we are meant to serve. So how did you contribute today? Or did you?
Serving can look different for different people. Perhaps you contributed in the worship service by singing, and singing proudly. This is a contribution because I need to hear you sing, and you need to hear me sing because when we sing, we remind each other that we are believing this whole thing together. It could be that you contributed because you went out of your way to meet someone that was sitting by themselves. These are seemingly small things, but they are examples of the fact that we don’t just “attend” worship services; we contribute to worship services.
This week, when you drive away from the same place at the same time that you always do, don’t just drive away. And don’t settle for “fine.” Take a few minutes and ask yourself some questions. Think a little deeper. And as you do, let the driving away be an opportunity for growth.