I once heard a conference speaker suggest that 85% of pastors think that church exists to “train disciples to evangelize”, while 85% of the congregation thinks that church exists to “meet my needs”. (Can you say: “cross-purposes”?)

When it comes to the weekly worship service at the average church, I believe a similar dynamic is often at work:

Worship leaders (on behalf of the rest of the leaders) enter the service under the impression that the Body is gathering to worship God after a week of “doing the stuff” in their personal lives, with their families, and among their friends and co-workers.

And often the weary congregation views church like the antique gas pump at left: an opportunity to get re-filled after another draining week.

Some thoughts on the apparent discrepancy in worship:

  1. Approaching the worship service as a “Holy Spirit refilling station” is not necessarily a sign of spiritual immaturity.

    It could be, of course, if the average person treats worship in a narcissistic “it’s all about me and my needs” manner. But there is also a very real and positive dynamic in play when hungry and needy people come into God’s presence.

    In my memory, some of the most profound worship times I’ve had the privilege of leading have been with groups of people who are acutely aware of their need for life transformation.

  2. There is a definite sense of celebration as the Body gathers following another week of ministry, whether in small groups, project-oriented teams and individual acts.

    This is the worship assumptions worldview that most leaders function from. Ideally, this is how the Body would gather: overflowing with thanksgiving and adoration for the God who has, is and continues to work in their daily lives.

    There is a difference between worship times that attempt to manufacture a party atmosphere, and celebrations that come from a place of genuine and overflowing thanksgiving.

  3. The Worship Loop is the recognition that both dynamics (and a range in between) are always present in any given worship time. One flows into and out of the other; there is no need to create a worship dichotomy between them.

    This is where the many worship/church leaders make mistakes: either by expecting/demanding that the entire congregation is (or should be) approaching worship from the same heart position, or conversely, preferring and teaching that only one of these options is truly valuable.

    The reality is that people come to worship for a wide variety of reasons — some nobler than others — but as they meet with God through their worship of Him, they do have their needs met, enabling them to enter a new week spiritually full and refreshed, in order to return the next week with thankful celebration. And get refilled even in the midst of the celebration.

It’s not an either/or situation. It’s not even both/and. It’s an infinity loop.

An infinity loop of worship, need, celebration, and service.