The Super-Spirituality of Thinking Our Gatherings Are Only For God
Last week a church leader dude tweeted out this. He said, “Church leaders, the ‘greet your neighbour’ portion of a worship service does not follow the golden rule. Nobody wants to be treated that way.”
Now, I find this guy insightful and in some ways this statement resonates with me. For the most part, I’m an introvert. I like time to myself, I’m not the life of the party and at the end of the day I like books written by dead guys in an empty room (and if the room isn’t empty it is much more enjoyable with my wife next to me).
I often joke with our team at City View that if I were to visit a church I would probably quietly slip in the back, experience the gathering and slip out.
When I was on staff at my dad’s church doing student ministry the team would often have discussions about our process and how we could follow up visitors. This is a noble thing to think through and I would always encourage the church to give people time. I know the way I’m wired. I need time to get comfortable and I think many are in the same boat.
Now back to the tweet…
As twitter goes, another experienced pastor affirmed this particular tweet by saying this. He exclaimed, “Right. Here’s what we did for 33 years. ‘Come on the lookout for God. Leave on the lookout for people.’”
Basically this was an affirmation that the whole greet your neighbour thing in church services doesn’t need to be done, mainly because our gatherings are for God, not for people.
While I have a tremendous amount of respect for both of these guys, I do want to push back a little bit.
You see, these statements, right here, sound really spiritual, but I feel like something is missing.
The fact is, our worship as the church cannot be dislocated from our love of neighbour, especially our brothers and sisters in the church. When we “come on the lookout for God” it has to create within us a sincere “looking out” for our brothers and sisters in the church. Somehow, along the way, we’ve created churches where in the name of “worship” people come in, sit forward for an hour (an hour and a half if you are really spiritual), watch the show, and then go home. It is odd to me that the church, which started primarily around tables and having meals together, is now questioning whether or not we should even greet each other in our gatherings.
This all leaves me thinking a lot about worship. Are we really worshipping God if we are not engaging the church family? Could we sing songs and study the scripture, yet actually miss worship because we are cultivating gatherings that avoid each other? It’s been my experience over the last decade that many of the people that are the most passionate about in-depth Bible study are the ones that really don’t want anything to do with people. Is this really worship?
So… “Be on the lookout for God!” Yes! Absolutely! But this looking out for God will inevitably lead you to others as your act of worship. Which means maybe, just maybe, you’ll once and a while have that awkward moment at the “greet your neighbour” part of the gathering. But maybe, just maybe, it turns into something much deeper than that.