I forgot how to go to church
After four years of working in a church, I forgot how to go to church.
I’ve spent the past four years running services of some sort. There was the planning of worship sets, the scheduling of volunteers, and the mapping of service flows. Then there were the preservice run throughs, the last minute checks, and bathroom runs 30-seconds before service started. Once the service started I had to make sure the plan was executed. There were little decisions of when to blank a slide or how bright to run the house lights for that moment. By the time the worship set was over, I had to be able to read the room to make sure we weren’t distracting from where the worship leader was going.
And that was only the first 30 minutes.
As I drove into church yesterday, I realized I was about to experience something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I wasn’t driving in an hour before service started and cherry picking a parking spot in front of the tree I’d parked at for a year. I had to find a spot to park, then walk in, then find someone to sit with, and then find a seat.
What most people do every single week felt like going back to high school: I knew where everything was but I was slightly uncomfortable navigating it.
I finally found someone to sit with and we made our way to our seats. As the worship band was leading us, I sang along but found myself noticing little things.
Why are the slides transitioning that slow?
Did the computer mess up?
Those lights look good.
Oh, wait, pull the spot up on her.
Okay, good job. Just a second late.
How are people responding to this song?
Whoa. Good crowd today.
That new mic sounds great on him.
Awesome transition out of worship. I should text him.
We’re sitting now? Cool.
And again, that was only the first 30 minutes.
As I was sitting in my chair, I realized I’d spent years creating environments for people to meet Jesus, yet I’d forgotten how to meet him there myself.
I listened to the sermon and took notes just like I would’ve had I been working the service. I was only distracted a few times by my production brain and I quickly moved past them. Then, during the response song, the old role came back:
Why’d we clear there?
The house lights went down early.
But those stage lights look great and I didn’t build this song. Great job, whoever did.
Hmm. We sang unforeseen kiss instead of sloppy wet. Bummer.
We are doing great on time today.
In that moment, at the exact time I thought about how great we were doing on time, the worship leader stepped up to the mic and pulled out a trick from worship leading 101: he had us change a word in the chorus to sing the song to God and not just about him.
And that’s when I remembered how to go to church.
Church isn’t about the lights. It’s not about the slides. It’s not about the environment we create.
Church is about encountering a living God who is there waiting on us.
Too often we go to church and get distracted. For me, it was from being in a different role and not having buttons in front of me. For you, it could be from wondering who is looking at you, or from the girl you have a crush on two rows up, or from the fact your two year old spit up on you while you were dropping him off before service. All these things happen and take our attention away from the fact of the creator of the universe inviting us to hang out with him in that exact moment.
I know I’m going to continue to be distracted week in and week out. It’s a part of life for me. What I learned yesterday is even though I may be distracted, when I remind myself of why I’m there, the distractions go away.
This week, what distractions do you need to get rid of to focus on your relationship with Jesus? When will you need to remind yourself of why you’re here and what you’re doing? Whatever it is and whenever it is, the key to getting past it is found in the same place it’s always been:
Say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Have a nice day.
I totally agree with your thoughts. I spent 6 months sitting on the back pew critiquing the services when we first came to 2rc. I didn’t know it at the time, but was suffering from burn out. For the previous 3-4 years, Sunday mornings were “work” for me. Add my day job, and there wasn’t a time for Sabbath. What you are experiencing is something that isn’t spoken of much. I hope your transition is quick, and you can experience worship again soon.
Thanks for the comment, Judah. I think a lot of people who serve routinely experience it. Once we acknowledge it happens, it takes away the, “I’m a horrible Christian” stigma. We’re not horrible Christians. We’re normal people.