Blog from Keith Simpson

 

Attending church or worshipping at church?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now so I decided to write about it. Are we worshipping just because we are physically present at church? For me, there is a big difference. It also pertains to me when I’m playing music.

Jackie was the driving force behind me coming back to church. I had walked away from the church, (not necessarily God),
when I was in my early 20’s. I let the actions of a group of people get in between me and the church. Notice I didn’t say God again. I have always kept my basic beliefs in God and His power, love, forgiveness and grace. I guess you could say I kept those beliefs inside of me but didn’t acknowledge them in public. I guess I didn’t think it fit my image I had created for myself as this big, bad Apache Helicopter pilot that had no fear of anyone or anything. As corny as it sounds, I thought I was almost bigger than life.
Boy, could I have been

any more wrong? So, fast forward to 2011. Jackie, her Grandmother (Abuela) and Alexandra had found this little gem of a church with the name of Cokes Chapel. She would mention that they were going to church and I would politely nod and go on about my business. One day I felt I should join them. I had all my walls up to combat all of the “do gooders” I was sure to meet. Funny thing is I didn’t run into any that day but instead just a lot of warm, friendly smiles, hellos and glad you could make it. Needless to say, I was caught a bit off guard, but in the best of ways. After that day, church became a little bit more regular in my life.

Here is where my title for this blog comes into play. I was finally attending church but was I worshipping? I will say not really. I was there physically but mentally I would drift in and out of the service. It remained this way for a while. I would pay attention to the message that Pastor John was delivering but I didn’t let the walls down so the Holy Spirit could work.  I truly believe the Holy Spirit is always present but we are left to decide for ourselves if we let him in. I went on like this for a while.

Jackie kept mentioning we should try the Contemporary Worship service but I wouldn’t agree to it. I would see everyone coming out wearing shorts, jeans, sandals or whatever and I just couldn’t get past it. Remember, I was raised going to a Baptist church with my grandmother. I’m not sure she could have ever handled shorts at church, but that’s a different blog. Jackie kept nudging ever so lightly because she knew if she pushed too hard I would not come at all. (Not saying that was right for me to do but I’m being honest). I just couldn’t imagine what was going on. Drinking coffee, in shorts and watching video clips and a live band??? What is this? Remember- I had no idea what a contemporary service was or really anything about it. Just because we label something doesn’t mean that other folks like me know what it means. Keep that in mind for a later discussion!

Finally, the day came and we went to the contemporary worship service. I was completely mesmerized by everything that was happening. I had a nice cup of coffee and listened to the band play. I was in awe of Pastor Mark on stage delivering the message. The stage was decorated to fit the message set and he was energetic walking all over the stage. We watched clips from a movie to enhance the message and it was amazing. I was like, “Wow, this is cool.”
 
Now because I was in awe of everything I was seeing and experiencing and I was in church, I had to be involved in worshipping, right?  WRONG!  I was physically there but I still wasn’t really worshipping. When the band was playing, I was playing parts in my head instead of listening and worshipping with the music.  I was thinking about how I would change the song and what guitar fills I could insert and on and on. Again, I was there, but only physically. Soon after that
I began playing in the Worship Band. Surely, I had to be worshipping now, right? Nope, wrong again. I was up there trying to figure out what the heck we were playing because I hadn’t really heard most of the songs before and I was trying to find my place in the group. Even after we would sit down, I often thought about what I played incorrectly and how to make it better and everything but putting all my focus on the message.
 
Now we fast forward a few more months. I was getting a little more comfortable with the music and settling into the routine. It was around this time that I started to believe that Pastor Mark was preaching to me every week. How did he do that? Obviously, he wasn’t directing the message at me but he sure was getting through. He now had my attention and finally, I think I began to worship God. The Holy Spirit was at work in me! I listened to both the songs and the message.  All the stage props and movie clips were my focus at first but now they complemented the message. They raised my interest in the word.
 
Sometimes we never really know what brings people into a church or what triggers their interests to return. All the things I mentioned above might just seem silly or not needed in a church. I thought they were all just cool props at first but then I started to get excited to see what Bobby had dreamt up for the stage for the coming Sunday. Then I got involved helping with the staging, peaking my interest in that work. I realized that if this was connecting with me, I’m sure it can connect with younger people too. We live in a visual world, so naturally, it should spill over to church! Even though they may be stage props, they help grab people’s attention, but it’s still the Pastor who has the task to bring the message.  Teaching should be multi-faceted, energetic and interesting enough to keep people’s attention.

Finally, I was really worshipping. I was immersing myself in the music and I was really listening to the message and letting it all in. I actually looked forward to the next Sunday because I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say to me. He was just preaching to me, right?  Obviously, that’s not the case but I often wonder if other people feel the same way? Are they letting the message “talk to them” or are they just attending?

I certainly hope that everyone who comes to church or watches it via Livestream or watches other services on TV, take in the message and let the Holy Spirit into your heart. The Holy Spirit is always there, wanting us to let him in and touch our heart. A short conversation I had with Kim comes to mind. We were discussing something and I started to tear up and get a little emotional. I apologized to her but her words back to me really stuck. She said, “It’s okay Keith, that’s the Holy Spirit at work in your heart”. WOW! Being filled with the Holy Spirit can bring tears, it can bring shouts or any number of things. That thought is always with me now.

This Sunday, try clearing your mind and opening your heart. Take in all the sounds, scenes and everything that’s happening and let the Holy Spirit come in and cleanse your soul and guide you along life’s path. If we let ourselves be led by God, there is no telling where we may go or what we may do or accomplish.  I see people sometimes checking their phones and doing other things. Those really are distractors that take your focus away from the sermon. I encourage everyone to come to church with an open mind and heart, ready to let in the Holy Spirit and not come just to be seen or heard. (I’m certainly not trying to call anyone out, but if the shoe fits….).  Remember I’ve been that person just sitting there, not inviting the Holy Spirit into my heart.

I am so thankful that Jackie gently prodded me along the way. I am amazed and thankful for the journey I’m now on and excited to see where I’m headed. I feel so blessed that God put Jackie in my life. Together with God’s guidance, we can set the example for Alexandra. It has been amazing already to watch her grow spiritually and I am positive God has great things in store for her. I hope all who read this will join me on this amazing journey with Jesus at the wheel. Cokes Chapel is at a crossroads. We have a unique opportunity with our Church. Pray for Vision 11, that we allow God to lead us in making Cokes Chapel truly be a place for all of God’s children. Together with the help from our Lord, let’s set our church on fire (for the Lord).

 May God bless each one of you, our country and our church.

As usual, I will leave you with some scripture.

Keith

 

Isaiah 23:13. NIV

 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught

John 4:23-24 NIV

23-Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24-God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

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