Isn’t it funny?
Recently, one of my favourite cousins (a person of strong faith) sent me a faith-related e-mail entitled “Isn’t it funny?”. It contained a dozen questions to ponder. As a regular churchgoer, one particular question in the e-mail caught my eye: “Isn’t it funny how an hour and a half goes by so quickly in a movie and more slowly during worship?” .
It is true that I would probably feel rather cheated if I were in a movie and it lasted less than an hour and a half. I would walk away wondering what the rush was. After all, worthwhile experiences and pursuits are meant to be savoured and enjoyed from beginning to end.
That e-mail reminded me of a conversation that I had last summer with a friend who was visiting from out of town. She mentioned that worship services at her church last only 45 minutes. I still recall my reaction. It sounded like ‘fast food’ for the soul. I contrasted that with the three-hour services that I once attended in Montreal and Charleston, South Carolina. I concluded that my parents were right after all. Eat your ‘food’ slowly, and it takes an hour and a half to two hours to digest a good ‘meal’.
In his book Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas outlines nine ways that we can draw closer to God through regular, unrushed worship at church and throughout the week. Traditionalists draw nearer to God through rituals, liturgies, symbols and unchanging structures. Ascetics need time to love God in solitude and simplicity, as well as in their weekly communal church worship. Intellectuals love God by studying and analyzing Scriptures.
According to Gary Thomas, activists love God through confronting injustice and evil, and through working to make the world a better place. Caregivers do so by caring for others and meeting their needs. Enthusiasts express their love for God through celebration. Contemplative worshippers love God through adoration, and naturalists are inspired to love God and all that He has created when they are outdoors. Sensory-oriented people love God with all their senses. That is, they deeply appreciate beautiful, creative (less traditional) services that involve their sight, taste, smell and touch.
And so, it would seem that churches host at least nine different types of worshippers (plus combination-style worshippers) seeking nine different types of spiritual nourishment in any given worship experience. Of course, worship services must be neatly organized into four sections (gathering to respond to the call to worship, listening to the Word of God, responding in faithfulness through tithes and offerings, and going forth to live out our faith). Services must also revolve around the theme of the assigned Scriptures for the week. Pretty tall order for any pastor in the time that it takes to watch a movie!
Having been called by God to worship and praise Him communally, how do we engage fully during worship and steward those worship experiences? Having received our soul food on Sunday, do we reflect on God’s Word as presented through the music and the message? How do we live out God’s purpose for our life throughout the week as we go about our jobs and our daily routine?
Do we grumble that we have to go back to work on Monday morning, or do we honour God by being productive, responsible employees? When a friend or family member tests our patience on Tuesday, do we respond in a well-measured, loving way? On Wednesday, do we worship the almighty dollar or the truly Almighty One? By Thursday, do we still talk to God and praise Him for the blessings of the week, or have we put that aside until the next worship service? When it is five o’clock on Friday, do we shout “T.G.I.F. Let’s party!” or do we plan a family activity that will be a blessing to all? When we shop at the supermarket on Saturday, do we steward God’s green Earth by bringing our cotton bags from home, choosing locally grown foods and remembering to recycle recyclable items?
In his famous book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren writes that it is God’s Word that is the daily “spiritual nourishment” that we must have to fulfill His purpose for each of us. “The Bible is called our milk, bread, solid food, and sweet dessert. This four-course meal is the Spirit’s menu for spiritual strength and growth.”
Fast food for me? No, thanks. I will have a four-course meal with my Parkdale family, followed by some fellowship and cup of fair trade coffee, please.
Chair, Stewardship Committee