Ever heard someone say something like this to the pastor?
“You’ve got to feed me today Pastor. I had a really hard week and feel pretty empty this morning. I’ll need a great service to get me ready for next week.”
It’s a mind-set you’ll hear expressed often at church in one form or another. And if you think about it, this mind-set suggests that Christians should come to church to get something. They bring a set of expectations and if those aren’t met, leave disappointed and even critical. Church for them is a filling station only there to fill their empty tanks for the next week.
That’s not how the bible characterizes worship.
The spiritual discipline of worship is characterized in the bible with words like sacrifice and submission. It takes the posture of humility and surrender with hands that are raised – not out. When we think like this, worship becomes a place we go to give something.
It started in Genesis with Abel and Abraham, goes to Moses then all the way to a hill outside Jerusalem where the ultimate act of worship was modeled on a cross. Jesus’ call to the disciples is not, “Come follow me and you’ll get everything you need.” It is “Take up your cross and follow me.”
It’s about dying – to one’s ambition and pride and self-righteousness. It’s about laying down your preferences and sacrificing your interests. It requires giving away your rights and privileges and submitting yourself to the authority of God’s word and expressing submission in self-abandonment.
A Filling Station worship experience is one in which you are going to get something for yourself.
An Altar worship experience is one in which you are there to give yourself for something – the glory of God.
Which is it for you?
We’ve got it backwards. Worship shouldn’t be measured by how much we receive. We shouldn’t come to church empty to be filled up for the next week – we come full – because of our daily walk with Jesus and His work in our lives through the week. By the time Sunday comes, we are so full of gratitude for His faithfulness and goodness that we can’t wait to join the rest of the Body of Christ and empty out our praise on Jesus. Then we leave empty to be filled again as we walk in unity with Christ through the week.
“Filling station” worship focuses on my needs being met. “Altar” worship focuses on my sacrifice being given.
So what is church for you? A filling station or an altar?
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.