Our pastor is fond of saying that Sunday morning begins Saturday night. I learned that same idea as a child growing up in a home where we always took Saturday night baths, shined our shoes, pressed our shirts and generally got everything ready for church the next morning. I no longer concern myself with pressed shirts and shined shoes but I do at least try to get into bed at a decent hour on Saturday night so that there will be less chance of my falling asleep during the pastor’s sermon in the morning. And my evening prayers always include a prayer for the pastor and the other worship leaders on Sunday morning. I pray also for my own heart, that I can set aside my expectations of what worship ought to be and enter fully into the singing, the sermon and the other elements of worship. You see, that has been a big problem for me. I often have difficulty entering fully into worship because of my expectations for what worship ought to be. This is not a criticism of my church or any other church. It is just a recognition that my expectations have become problematic, a real hindrance to me. Here are some of them:
- I expect that worship leaders will direct my attention to God, not to themselves.
- I expect that worship will not be a performance by the singers and musicians no matter how talented they are. I expect that the congregation is not an audience and that the sanctuary or “worship center” is not a concert hall. At least, not on Sunday mornings.
- I expect that most of the songs and hymns will be songs that I am familiar with, or at least songs that have singable keys and somewhat predictable melody lines.
- I expect that when we DO sing a song I’m familiar with (like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”) it will still have the same words and melody I remember.
- I expect that when the worship leader introduces a new song, he or she will take some time to help the congregation learn it rather than just showing off how well he or she knows it.
- I expect that the songs we sing will be about God, not so much about me.
- I expect the songs we sing to have good (or at least acceptable) theology.
- I expect the songs we sing to have inspiring lyrics. Songs that include words like “wanna” and “woahhhhh” don’t inspire too much.
- I expect that the song lyrics will be available to me and others in the congregation in some form or another at the appropriate time, not five seconds after the lyrics have been sung.
- I expect that the worship leader understands that not everyone can remain standing for more than 15 or 20 minutes if they are over the age of 30.
I’ll stop there. Those are just some of the annoying expectations I have of worship which sometimes become stumbling blocks for me. It’s hard to give them up, but maybe that’s what I need to do.
Let me just say that most Sundays I am able to worship without my expectations ruining things for me. I’m grateful for the talented worship leaders who serve in our church week after week and do the best they can to provide a worship experience that includes and involves everyone. I do look forward to attending worship each week and most of the time it’s easy to focus on God and worship with the rest of our congregation.
But now and then, those annoying expectations rear their ugly heads.
What are your thoughts? What are some of your expectations in worship?