READER WARNING: THIS IS GOING TO GET PRETTY SNARKY. READER BEWARE!
There’s an older worship song called, “Jesus, Lover of my Soul.” The words of the verse are,
It’s all about You, Jesus
And all this is for You
For Your glory and Your fame
It’s not about me
As if You should do things my way
You alone are God and I surrender
To Your ways
For some reason, those lyrics pop in my head almost every Sunday morning, before or after worship (and, sometimes, during) as I listen to comment after comment, critique after critique, complaint after complaint…
“The music is too loud.”
“I like the upbeat songs – the ones we used to sing.”
“It’s too cold.”
“I couldn’t find a good parking space.”
“I don’t like liturgy.”
“Why did you move the…?”
“Why don’t we…?”
“I don’t like doing communion, this way…”
“That message didn’t speak to me…”
“I prefer when we used to…”
“Someone is sitting in MY seat!”
“You didn’t announce…”
“The bulletin is wrong…”
“I don’t like the way the pastor dresses.”
“There were typos on the screen…”
etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
I think the song got it wrong. The lyrics must be…
It’s all about ME, Jesus
And all this is for ME
For MY comfort and MY preference
It’s not about YOU
As if I should do things YOUR way
I alone matter and EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO surrender
To MY ways
Too snarky? Or, too TRUE?!?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that change is hard, and that any kind of discomfort or distraction can detract from the worship experience. As a designer and leader of worship, I aim for excellence in everything – from the parking lot to the pew, and everything in between.
But, give me a break. Do you really think we can make everyone happy, all of the time? Or, is it possible that all you care about is you? “It’s all about ME, Jesus…”
Too snarky? Or, too TRUE?!?
Though there are an infinite number of ways that we can sin, it seems to me the primary issue of sin is selfishness. There is a selfish human tendency, in all of us, to want the world to revolve around ME. Don’t believe me? How much of your day do you think about yourself – what to wear, what to eat, who to talk to, what makes you happy, what made you unhappy, etc.?
Even my snarky irritation is ultimately about MY feelings and MY opinion and MY irritation. Lord, forgive me. “It’s not about me…”
Commenting on modern worship tendencies, the author of You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith, writes, “Shouldn’t church be the place where we unlearn such narcissism?”
So here’s my suggestion, whether you attend my church, or not. When you don’t like what’s happening, take a look around. Does this appear to be a problem for others, or is it just you? Or, is it just you and your close circle of friends, who always agree with you anyway?
I remember attending a worship service at a young adult conference some years ago. The music was TERRIBLE! I mean, really, really bad. I hated it. I can still remember standing there, not singing, and thinking hyper-critical thoughts about the musicians and the worship planners. Then I looked around. To my narrow-minded surprise, everyone else was singing and appeared to be highly engaged and deeply moved.
It’s true – I didn’t particularly like the worship experience. It wasn’t MY preferred style, and it wasn’t the worship I would have planned if I was in charge. But, I wasn’t in charge, and it wasn’t planned for ME.
Here’s my other suggestion. If you have a complaint, don’t tell the pastor on Sunday morning. Do you think the pastor is in control of the AC, or the volume, or the parking lot? Do you think negative complaints will help him/her prepare to lead people into God’s presence and to proclaim God’s Word? Is there, really, anything that he/she can do about it, on a Sunday morning, anyway? The pastor is NOT in charge of the complaint department – ever, and especially not on Sunday mornings!
(I’m tempted to suggest writing down your complaint, and filing it in the large metal receptacle behind the church kitchen – the one labeled “Do not park in front of the dumpster.” But, I would never say anything like that!)
Here’s my last suggestion. Try to remember that you are the least important person in the room. That’s right. YOU. YOU are the LEAST important person in the room. JESUS is the ONLY person of importance in the room (which is why we gather to worship HIM in the first place). In comparison, the rest of us are so insignificant that there’s no reason to bother ranking which of us is most or least important. ALL of US are the least important person in worship – including the pastor. Imagine how the worship atmosphere might change if we actually thought and acted like that.
So, if you are still reading, let me be clear. I’m NOT saying that it’s NOT ok to share a concern, to name a problem, or to suggest a change. Those who plan and lead worship, like myself, MUST be open to constructive feedback. We can always improve! And, for the sake or the worshipper and the ONE being worshipped, we should continually improve the worship experience. If something can be fixed, and needs to be fixed, we should do our best to fix it.
But, unless it’s an emergency, please, PLEASE, don’t tell the pastor on Sunday morning. And, unless it’s for the sake of the greater good, and it’s really just about you, maybe it doesn’t really need to said at all.
There. I said it. Sorry if that was TOO snarky.