Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday night services

I used to go to North Park by myself for Saturday night church services. Occasionally I'd go with a friend, but most often by myself. It was often a very lonely experience, as I never seemed able to connect with people my age. I'd go in by myself, sit among strangers and enjoy the service, then go home.

Now I know a lot more people, and I get plenty of good heart-to-heart fellowship with other believers... but the church service is not where that happens. The service for me is often a place where the heaviest things on my heart reveal themselves, urged to silence no longer. I sit or stand there during the extended worship time after the message, and just talk to God, wrestle with Him, and cry out to Him, all the while being reminded of truth through the worship songs.

Tonight I went to church with a friend, and as I sat there, blinking back tears, and trying to keep my lip from quivering noticeably, I remembered why it was convenient to go alone. :)

I don't want people to see me crying, but I don't want to pretend I'm stronger than I am. I wasn't crying noble tears tonight because I was moved and inspired by the worship. I was crying because amidst all the songs about surrender, I most certainly did not want to surrender. How's that for an admission? :) I have a sense of what He is asking of me, and I don't want it. I want Him to see that it costs too much, to see that I am too weary, and He should ask someone else.

He'll win of course. Not because He'll force me, but because I can't imagine living another way. I feel like Moses right now, at the burning bush, telling God that He's got it wrong. The youthful enthusiasm that once drove me has faded and dried up: I'm only 26, how can this be? Now I'd be content to live in the wilderness, with the simplicity of a life looking after some goats or sheep.

I'll choose Him... because in my heart I want Him. For tonight though, I couldn't just sing words that my heart wasn't in. For tonight, I'm still wrestling it through with Him. I know I'm being bratty, but really it's trust in Him that frees me to ask Him any question, confident that He'll have an answer. The process is just a bit painful sometimes.


c said...

..and this is why I read. Wow.

rk said... too.

a lot of people see church services as an opportubity to fellowship w believers. nothing wrong with that, just that it should be the promary motivation. some even go as far to say that people go to church because of the fellowship, like going to a club they say. that's why i want to thank you Jen, for reminding us what church services is all about - a personal encounter with God himself.

Mark Petersen said...

Jennifer... I love it that you are open to hear from God at your church; the fact that you struggle with surrender is not uncommon.

Keep blogging, we need your voice.


Jamie A. Grant said...

With respect, that thought seems a little contradictory to me, rk. Not your thought specifically, but the premise of Sunday services in general.

If the main purpose of church is a personal encounter with God, why do we need to get together? Aren't we supposed to have a personal encounter with God every day by ourselves?

And yet we do come together, but the service setting does not allow for fellowship. So the purpose of the service isn't fellowship, either. That has to be done outside of the service.

So what is the purpose of coming together in a Sunday service?

Jennifer said...

Hmm... for the record, I'm not necessarily saying my experience of Saturday night services is what it should be, rather sharing what it is...

I think Jamie, that there is something powerful in the experience of worshipping alongside other believers. I have personal time with God, and I don't need to go to church to meet Him. But there is something profound about being there, surrounded by people who share a common bond with me, even if we don't know each other.

I encounter God every day, but what I encounter of Him through His people is not to be underestimated.

My experience before North Park, in churches of under a hundred people, was a bit different. Fellowship was the major part of going to church, and was possible in those environments. At this point in my life, I am blessed with rich fellowship and friendships every day, outside of the church building.

I think what rk was saying (not to speak for her of course) is that church is not a social club: it has to go deeper than that.

I'm sorry, my thoughts aren't coming out very clearly right now. :)

I'm reading a good book right now Jamie, called "Organic Church" by Neil Cole. It digs into the question of church and I reccommend it for the thoughts he puts forward.

Jamie A. Grant said...

Yeah, thanks for the recommendation of Organic Church. My dad has referred to that book as well, though that comes from the point of view of the house church movement, such as it is. I might try to hunt down that book sometime.

As for your Saturday night experience being the way it is instead of the way it could/should be...I know dozens of people that share that same experience regarding church, including myself. Any inter-relational stuff beyond that is done in spite of the service format, not because of it. That's why some churches opt for a common lunch or snacks afterwards, that kind of thing.

Which still begs the question about the purpose of a church service. I quite agree that "there's something" about coming together. That just doesn't sound like a great reason if we can't even describe it properly or show it as a Biblical principle. That's where the house church stuff comes in, because you can combine the "something" of coming together with actual participation and real conversations.

Kim said...

Wow- once again, Jenn, your thoughts have mirrored some of my own. It's funny, so many in our age bracket are dissatisfied with "church". What is it that is so restless inside of us? The Holy Spirit? Is it a 20-something phase? My greatest fear is that this unrest will be soothed by a decision to just go along with the way things are. Yes, our church family is important- we need one another but our personal relationships with God can not be overshawdowed by the establishment that many churches have become. Working in ministry I get prickles up my spine and hear fingernails on the chalkboard when I hear unbelievers referred to as the "unchurched"- since when is the church the answer to our greatest needs? Isn't Christ, the Head of the Church that answer? I realize I'm babbling- but your thoughts have unearthed many of my own that have been buried in discontentment. Can't wait until we can spend some time together again!

Anonymous said...

you inspire me with your open-ness of speaking about God, and it is great to know that I am not the only one who when sitting in Church starts to cry...maybe now that I know someone is in the same boat ( so to speak ) I can explore me feelings deeper..Keep up the good work sweetheart..I Love You...Aunt Jane