My family and I started attending an Anglican church about a year and a half ago. We’d been attending the church where I was once a pastor and had been there a total of ten years when we realized it was time to move on. To put it simply, I was having trouble transitioning from being a pastor to simply being a productive member of the congregation, and didn’t feel like I was able to make that transition in a church where I’d had so much history, so we felt it would be better to learn those lessons in a fresh environment. I communicated this to our pastor and board, and they sent us off with their blessing, and an open invitation to “come back anytime”. With so many stories of strife going around in Christendom, it was a blessing to be able to part ways so well.
For the first time ever, we felt ourselves “church-shopping” ( I detest the term, but I just don’t know what else to call it). After nearly 20 years spent serving in/attending different Evangelical churches, both Ruth and I felt like finding another similar church was the easy choice. But rather than make the easy choice, we wanted to give ourselves a new challenge by learning to worship in a very different way.
I had spent that year learning to exercise and become more physically active. A term I kept hearing in fitness circles was “Muscle Confusion”. The idea is that if, in exercise, you choose just to do the same activity all the time, like running, eventually your muscles get used to that activity and something similar to the Law of Diminishing Returns takes effect. You’ll notice a significant increase in strength and endurance right away, but after a while your muscles “learn” the activity and become more efficient at it. So the way to avoid this is Muscle Confusion. Keep throwing new challenges and activities at your body so it never has the chance to become complacent and coast. So we decided to apply that principle to our spiritual exercises and choose a church that was very different from what we were used to. We figured if we wanted to see any kind of significant spiritual growth, this was the way to do it.
” It seems like no matter what church
you belong to,the Honeymoon always
wears off eventually,and sooner or later
you start to feel restless and dissatisfied.”
After a year and a half, I can definitely say we’ve learned a lot, but although the Anglican tradition is much stronger than the Evangelical tradition on some points, I’m starting to miss a lot of things we left behind. Why does that happen? It seems like no matter what church you belong to, the Honeymoon always wears off, and sooner or later you start to feel restless and dissatisfied. I’m going to suggest that this is due, in large part, to our inability as individuals to follow the Greatest Commandment, and our failure to model that in our worship services.
Scripture tells us that the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength. Our trouble is that we treat it more like a buffet than a commandment. For example, I am an introvert, a reader, and an auditory learner, so I tend to worship God with my mind, and that sometimes trickles down into my heart, but I very seldom give any kind of physical or practical application to my faith, and I have to admit I’m not even sure I know what it means to worship with my soul, although I’ve had moments where I’ve tasted it. On the other hand, I know people who are wired very differently than I am. I have a friend who’s always telling me that our worship services are too much talk and how we need to get out and actually do stuff. They’re more extroverted than I am, and would probably say they’re not much of a “feeler” and aren’t really interested in studying theology. They tend to worship with their strength, more than with their mind or heart.
This accounts for the variety of traditions we see. Anglican services are very literary and engage the mind, although the standing, kneeling, bowing at the altar do incorporate strength a little. I’ve never been to a Salvation Army service, but it seems that their tradition would emphasize worshipping God with your strength, given their reputation for service the poor and downcast. Like the individual people that attend, churches have their own personality and tend to be wired to worship with some facets of their being more easily than others, which determines their focus. And there’s the problem.
“The Greatest Commandment is not a buffet.
When we worship with some facets of our being
while neglecting others, we’re breaking
the commandment which leaves us fragmented and
We have to remember that the Greatest Commandment is in fact a commandment, and not a buffet. When we worship with some facets of our being while neglecting others, we’re breaking the commandment which leaves us fragmented and diminished. So we make a grave mistake when we say things like, “I don’t really read much or study my faith, I’m not much of a thinker.” or “I wish we wouldn’t sing all these songs about falling in love with God. I’m not one of those feely types.”
So what’s the solution?
Individually, unless you’re going to become a lifelong church shopper, you need to find a church that is committed to growing together in all these areas and commit . No church will do it perfectly, but as long as they’re trying that’s a good sign. It may be wise to choose a church that is strong where you’re weak to balance you out. If you naturally worship with heart and soul, find a church that pushes you to engage your mind and strength. That way you’ll potentially be able to sharpen one another.
Moving churches is a bandaid solution because once a new church fulfills a need by engaging a facet of your being that you’ve neglected, you’ll start yearning for whatever it is you’re missing now. We were attracted to the Anglican church for the way it engages our minds, but I have to confess, I’m starting to miss the worship band. Changing churches is a whole other blog post, but my default position is commitment. Stay where you are and make things work or make the best of it. If you’re just not being engaged in some respect, perhaps there’s a ministry at a different church you can engage with while still maintaining your commitment to your home church. Perhaps it’s just about choosing friends who can challenge you where you’re weak.
Corporately, there’s so much I want to say about this. This is really a major part of what I talk about at the worship workshops I’ve been teaching, so I’ll stop here for now. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post about some things your church can do to engage The Heart, The Soul, The Mind, and The Strength in worship.
But I think we’ve covered the first and most important thing, and that is to recognize that Greatest Commandment is indeed a command and not a buffet. If we want to be truly whole in Christ and develop as His disciples then we need to bring our whole being under His lordship, not just the parts of us that are most natural for us.
That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll post some thoughts about worshipping God with all our hearts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How are you wired? What practices have you found helpful to grow in the areas that don’t feel natural to you? Leave a comment below :