The moments of praise in the Bible that have stuck with me the most have something in common: They took place away from an organized place of worship. Many apostles praised God in the middle of a prison. David was so overcome with joy when the Lord brought the Ark back to Israel that he danced and praised God in the middle of the streets. A king dancing in the streets…crazy.
Then I think of my own worship experiences, the ones where someone passing by would know what was going on. Nearly all of them took place inside a church or a building rented by a Christian organization.
When I had this realization, I felt like I was hiding something.
Since I’ve had this thought I’ve discussed it with others, too. I was far from the only person to feel this way. When comparing Biblical moments of real praise to our own moments of real praise, there’s a disconnect for many of us. I’m left to ponder, what would it be like if we took our worship outside of the church buildings?
In a way it makes sense that we’ve become accustomed, for the most part, to keeping our worship inside familiar walls. Christians have faced persecution throughout our history. Safe locations were selected to meet, worship, and read the Bible. On some level I think that even Christians in religiously free countries want to worship unseen, so we stay inside our buildings. We leave often to serve and give—which is fantastic—but the act of connecting with God through worship is a powerful sight. Shouldn’t we let ourselves be seen?
After all, we’re told in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to be a city on a hill—a source of light and life seen for miles around, a place that people should want to visit. Nobody wants to visit a city that just sits, inside the circumference of it walls, holding city council meetings every week. People want to visit the city that has energy and open arms. Worship—be it singing, music, dancing, words, or actions—should be our festivals.
I grew up in a town that had the reputation of having little going for it. No one came “just to see it.” But, every spring was the State Fair, and they knew how to go big for these two weeks. During that time, the town had something it had at no other time during the year: tourists. These visitors would come for the fair, but realize that there was more to see and do. Some of my closest friends in that town moved there after their parents had visited and decided they wanted to live in my town.
This should be our worship. It can be our worship. There’s no denying that God’s power can make it so. I just think that we get in our own way sometimes. But we need to take our faith and our unique forms of worship outside of familiar walls.
I love the works of C.S. Lewis and the quotes that come from them. My favorite is this:
The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
This holds true in all arenas, not just literature.
In the same way, we can’t expect to worship only in churches and use it as an example of God’s power to others. It can be awkward. It can be difficult. It can take a while to figure out how it looks for you personally. But it’s something we need to figure out.
Because I will tell you this: Christians living out their worship as a passion can make much more of an impact on this world than website-worthy church signs.
Photo credit: Dustin Bryson