What Did You Get Out of Church Today?

When Michala and I first moved out to Denver almost three years ago, we discovered the joy of church-dating. For the uninformed, this is when you attend a handful of churches and ‘try them out.’ When you find the one, you commit, just like dating. And just like dating, there are awkward churches, quirky churches, very attractive churches with no depth, and if you’re lucky, that perfectly imperfect place that just feels right.

Each time we visited a church we would quiz each other following the service, asking all sorts of questions to see if we both agreed in our admiration, apathy, or disgust. We would ask, “what did you get out of that?” This seems like a perfectly valid question, one that no doubt takes place every Sunday after church all over the country. What we implied in this question was how we were served: “was the preaching good?”  “Did we enjoy the music?” “Did they have child care?” These are important questions to ask, but I now see they are also misguided questions to ask.
The core around which Sunday morning gatherings are centered is worship of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Nothing more, nothing less. This can look a number of ways, singing, praying, conversation, thanksgiving, thinking deeply, but put simply it is an act of love.

Our worship has zilch to do with “what we get” and everything to do with what we offer. This is not another opportunity to feed our egos bloated by a system of consuming that makes us insatiable. We gather to give our meager lives together to the one who gives every good gift.

The receiving of good gifts comes with our every breath, each meal, each smile, and every child. The trees and the mountains are given to us to enjoy and it is only natural that we respond with praise. This is what Sunday morning is all about. Instead of asking “what did you get?” we can ask “what did you give?”

This giving goes far beyond our finances and demands our minds, hands, and hearts, our very being. And yet this is a free sacrifice, God does not look out at our confused, hap-hazard attempts to say thanks and say, “that’s it?” Instead he joins in the dance of giving and gives us the greatest gift ever, Himself.

Jesus hinted at this mystery of receiving in our giving, when he said that to find our lives, we must first die. When our weekly meetings become another opportunity to consume, we miss everything. Instead, let us have the mind of Christ who being God himself, humbled himself to execution and in the doing found himself seated at the right-hand of the Father and also found us all.

Michala and I did not settle for the “one.” We did not find our home until we found a church that would not let us remain comfortable, that forced us to give of ourselves, and asked a lot of us. We were too busy loving these imperfect people and loving a perfect God together to ask if this was the ‘one?’ It just was. I’ve come to realize there is no perfect church and this forces me to stop critiquing the church and simply commit.

May we seek to be a committed people, not seeking to be filled but to be emptied. To give back our money, time, energy, minds, and hearts and to maybe find a God who gives us everything we need.

Michael is the Pastor of The Church @ Argenta in North Little Rock, AR. He watched the super bowl and still isn’t sure what just happened.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “What Did You Get Out of Church Today?

  1. Here is what happened in the SB. Pats didn’t trust their D and so they lost. Never let a team score a TD, just ask the Packers how that worked for them. Wish we could have watched the game together.

    • Georgie-ann

      “Here is what happened in the SB:” (from still another perspective!)

      (Hint: Never underestimate humiliated New Yorkers: the players,…AND their fans and their praying mothers!!)

      (-:

  2. Georgie-ann

    nice article,…great concepts,…

    Being much older, I never went to church with the mind-set that would have been more characteristic of going to a restaurant or a theater production in those days. For one thing, entering “church” was pretty much an “other worldly” experience anyway, due to the comparatively awesome prevailing church architecture of those days. And we were certainly expected to remain very quiet and attentive. I actually enjoyed those aspects for the “zone” of contemplation and peace that they provided.

    In fact, after participating in many other church genres and prayer meetings, from living room intimate to sport stadium spectaculars, I’m still blessed to now be worshipping regularly in the very same old Catholic Church beauty that I attended as a first-time visitor with my high school buddies in the early 60s. I guess “it really got a hold on me!”

    (It’s a beautiful place that hasn’t changed much at all over the years, but the language has changed from Latin to English, and now we have Spanish as well. I’m happy to say that the people seem to have been able to grow spiritually and somewhat along the lines of the warm-hearted Charismatic renewals, prayer and healing meetings, and Biblical studies made personal.) And, as you say, it’s all absolutely perfectly imperfect,…and a great spiritual adventure every time we get together!

    I’m actually enjoying now the aging (out!) role of “discovering,” and being excited by, the fresh and newly emerging youth “with a call and a vision,” and giving them a boost, encouragement and support, and an active place to join with us and participate in serious committed ministry. I can actually remember being exactly their age (and so vulnerable!) 50 years ago in that exact same place, with a vividness that I can taste! How things change, and yet God and His ways and His love for us and faithfulness remain steadfastly enduring and reassuringly “there for us” come what may!

    This is a “Word” for ALL of us!,…you in your new endeavors — (Congratulations & Best Wishes!) — and those of us holding steady where we are:

    Isaiah 54 [A Perpetual Covenant of Peace]

    54 “”Sing, O barren,
    You who have not borne!
    Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
    You who have not labored with child!
    For more are the children of the desolate
    Than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord.
    2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
    And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
    Do not spare;
    Lengthen your cords,
    And strengthen your stakes.
    3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
    And your descendants will inherit the nations,
    And make the desolate cities inhabited.

    4 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
    Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
    For you will forget the shame of your youth,
    And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
    5 For your Maker is your husband,
    The Lord of hosts is His name;
    And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
    He is called the God of the whole earth.
    6 For the Lord has called you
    Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
    Like a youthful wife when you were refused,”
    Says your God.
    7 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
    But with great mercies I will gather you.
    8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
    But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
    Says the Lord, your Redeemer.

    9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
    For as I have sworn
    That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
    So have I sworn
    That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
    10 For the mountains shall depart
    And the hills be removed,
    But My kindness shall not depart from you,
    Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
    Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

    11 “O you afflicted one,
    Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
    Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
    And lay your foundations with sapphires.
    12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
    Your gates of crystal,
    And all your walls of precious stones.
    13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
    And great shall be the peace of your children.
    14 In righteousness you shall be established;
    You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
    And from terror, for it shall not come near you.
    15 Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.
    Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.

    16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmith
    Who blows the coals in the fire,
    Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
    And I have created the spoiler to destroy.
    17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
    And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
    You shall condemn.
    This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    And their righteousness is from Me,”
    Says the Lord.”

    Amen and amen. Peace. All is well.

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