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I Went To Worship, Didn’t I?!

Does everybody who “goes to church” really worship? A man in church fell asleep while the preacher delivered his message on the horrors of hell. Near the close of the message the preacher shouted, “Those who want to go to hell, stand up.” The half-sleeping man heard the words “stand up” and jumped to his feet. He looked around for a moment and then with a puzzled look on his face said, “Preacher, I don’t know what we’re voting on, but it looks like you and I are the only ones for it.” This guy reminds us that not everybody sitting on the pews in a worship service is really worshipping.

Acts 24:11 contains an interesting statement by the apostle Paul as it relates to “going to worship.” Among his other statements as he defends himself against Jewish opponents before the Roman governor Felix, Acts 24:11 reads, “I went up to Jerusalem to worship.” As it turns out, his worship was interrupted when hate-filled Jews dragged him out of the temple precincts and went about to kill him (read Acts 21:30ff for more details). Paul was not the last person in worship to find himself hindered by others who apparently are not there to worship. If actions are any indication, not everybody who attends a worship service really worships. Jay Lockhart, preacher for the church in Tyler, Texas, observes- “There is a lot of lightness about worship which is seen in absenteeism, ‘hall monitoring,’ lateness, talking, leaving early, catching a few winks, getting it over with, etc.- no sense of reverence and awe.” We might add some come to inspect and observe instead of participate, some come to socialize, and some come to criticize.

Jesus reminds us just showing up and sitting on a pew is not enough- “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Contrary to the way some believe and behave, this is a demanding task. True worship requires the use of our minds as well as our hearts and souls. The Hebrew writer says our responsibility is to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...but exhorting one another...as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Failure to worship properly threatens to make our worship vain, empty, and void (see Matthew 15:7-9). The question is not what did the song leader, teacher, preacher, elders, or others do. When I leave church assemblies, the question is, “I went to worship, didn’t I?”

Dan Gulley, Evangelist
Smithville Church of Christ