Worshipping God like a junkie

They travel from church to church, going from one experience to the next. For some, it’s a liturgical experience. For others, it is contemporary. They are Calvinists, Arminians, and Openness. They chase the next spiritual high—from music to preaching to programming—is what it comes down to. 

The flavour of the month becomes the true spiritual experience. Attractional models, Bethel builds (a fancy name for a crescendo), and Stanley stylizations can become the sacred idols we chase. Or we go after the next greatest spiritual fad, from Taizé to whatever Francis Chan’s into that year.

In one church that I pastored in the youth would go to conference after conference, to whichever church or youth group had it going on. They were seeking experiences, spiritual highs, and emotionalism and had little want for the commitment of a relationship.

We say we are seeking God, but how we determine how something is good says it all. If a sermon was engaging, it is a good sermon, true, but we need content. If the worship music is played well, singing in key, has a rousing feel it’s excellent worship. Yes, musicality helps, but what about the direction of our worship. Is it pointing toward our needs and wants, or is it declaring who God is? If the atmosphere is right, then God’s presence is in the room, when really it’s the dim lights, smokey haze, and the Febreeze air freshener that is pumping through the ducts.

I am just as guilty. I am a part of the problem. I admit I like what feels good. I want a church service to feel good. Unfortunately, this too often becomes the drive of our pursuit. We seek a God whose one aim is to make us feel good—worshipping God like a junkie—trying to get our next fix. Leonard Sweet writes,

“God is already there. It’s not God who needs to show up for us; it’s us who need to show up for God.”

It’s us who need to show up, not God. When we choose to engage, you will be surprised how the mediocre music focused upon our king becomes uplifting. Or how teachings from the scripture, though not eloquent and creative, end up ministering, convicting, restoring, and compelling our heart toward Christ.

When it comes to healthy trees, the mighty oak stands head and shoulders above the rest. I want my spiritual life to be like the oak, standing strong and tall, with roots that grow deep and wide.

But too often we are like the pine tree. The pine tree is the only tree that changes the direction of its crown to reach toward the light. The pine chases the experience—the heat, the light. The problem is it’s reaching and chasing makes it weak. Out of all the conifer trees, it breaks the most. The wind blows, limbs bend and break. As the snow accumulates upon the branches, they fold and snap under the weight. Instead of using its energy to grow deep and wide, it has chosen to chase the sun.

When we chase experiences, we miss the depth of discipline, relationship, and consistency. We never form a healthy roots system, attached to others who are strong in the faith. We need good spiritual food, not to feed on the spiritual equivalent of Redbull and gummy bears.

If we want a spiritual life that stands, we must reject our junkie like mentalities, looking for an emotional and spiritual fix, and dig deep, spread wide and engage our hearts in the local Christ centred church that is pointing people to God.

Check out the resources used in this post

A Pastor’s Lament

I don’t know how to say how I feel.

Have you been there? It seems like I am there every day. Each day I find myself in a fog of emotions, not knowing whether I’m happy, sad, despondent, numb. Waves of joy, sadness, pride, anger seem to crash simultaneousness on all sides of my mind.

BANG!

At these times, I can’t help long to feel something–something other than the whirlpool of emotions. To feel something other than the physical pain from my injuries or the emotional pain from the internal wounds. To feel something other than the constant pressure of having to accomplish more and be successful. The force of merely surviving.

Have you been there?

More and more frequently, I find myself in this brokenness.

God can seem silent.

 I pray and nothing.

Have I lost God’s favour?

Have I done something wrong?

I long for the angel that visited Elijah to come and minister to me. But Elijah didn’t have four kids to keep him awake, nor did he have to worry about a paycheque to feed them.

It leaves me to wonder, what’s next?

For that, I do not know. What is next for me, for my family, for my church?

I don’t know.

I know to whom I belong.

I know what God has called me to.

Yet the waves keep crashing without and end in sight. Each wave pushing me deeper and deeper into a dark sea–clenching for something, finding nothing.

On Christ, the solid rock I stand. Does the fact that I feel like I’m sinking mean I find my feet somewhere else? Or is there more to the story. 

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? 

How long will you hide your face from me? 

King David wrote,

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me? 

Psalms 13:1–2

Even Jesus cried out while on the cross,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

Matthew 27:46

Jesus knew–David knew–I know that though all feels lost, it isn’t. Tomorrow the sun will rise. There will be a new day.

 But I trust in your unfailing love; 
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, 
for he has been good to me. 

Psalms 13:5–6

So what do you do in moments like this?

Praise anyway. When we do, we remind ourselves and the enemy of whose we are. 

I heard and my heart pounded, 
my lips quivered at the sound; 
decay crept into my bones, 
and my legs trembled. 
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity 
to come on the nation invading us. 
17 Though the fig tree does not bud 
and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails 
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16–19