I had the wonderful experience of hearing a fine preacher recently — the Rev. Stephanie Caldwell, wife of the new president of Georgia Military College. In her sermon she stated something I had become aware of in my time of ministry; that is, that in Baldwin County, with about 40,000 people, far less than half those people belong to any church. And of those who do belong to a church, less than half of them will be in worship on any given Sunday.
We are a mission field here in Baldwin County.
That led me to wonder, why should I be in worship on Saturday or Sunday? I have had opportunity to visit several of our churches in the last two years, and in each I have met wonderful people whose faith is solid. In every church I visited, for the most part, people were welcoming and open to my being there.
Worship services were basically all the same. There were traditional services with more liturgy that the average person might not understand, but it was still beautiful. Some churches had us standing or kneeling (which is difficult for me because of bad knees), and sometimes I did not know exactly what I was supposed to do. In other churches the services were contemporary, which meant there was a band on stage and there was not much liturgy. Usually the band led songs it seemed not many people knew, and we mostly listened to them sing, and things like the Apostles’ Creed and even the Lord’s Prayer were left out. But each style of worship was appealing to certain people.
That does not answer the question, though, of why I should worship. One could ask the question, “Does God need me to come together to sing and pray and listen to a long sermon every week?” Or we may ask, “Does God need us to come tell God how wonderful God is?”
The answer would be no. Let me tell you first what worship is. Worship is adoration, a way of saying to God, “I want to thank you for being God; for all You have done for me; for leading me in the right path.”
The songs we sing (hymns) often express the wonder of who God is. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” just starts off with words that can give us hours of contemplation about God. Sometimes church songs challenge us or give us hope, but all of them give us something to think about.
A good preacher would have spent time listening to his or her people to preach a sermon that speaks to our condition, giving us encouragement or helping us understand our predicaments, or challenging us to a higher way of living.
But basically worship is not so much for God as it is for us. God is present, but not so that God feels good about Himself as we worship. No, worship is so we remember who we are and whose we are.
We forget sometimes that we are the creatures and God is the creator. We forget sometimes that it is not we who are in control of our destiny but God. We forget sometimes that we are not the ones who cause the seasons to change and the plants to grow and the world to function, but God is creator and sustainer.
So to worship is to acknowledge who we are; we are the children of God under God’s leadership. If we can acknowledge that, it opens the door to a relationship with God, which will transform our lives, and there are a lot of us who really would like some significant changes in our lives! Worship can lead to that as we simply become “teachable” — the church says, “humble.”
Why should I be in worship? Well, when we can know who is in charge, we can more fully understand who we are. When we come to discover that God is as wonderful as some people tell us, we will want to say, “Thank you!” And when we come to be grateful people, we come to discover our true selves. That happens only in worship.
Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com