Before You Go To Church Readjust Your Expectations


We love to complicate simple things. The simple bottled water has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry that features flavor infused, protein added and whatever we can find to add in water and sell it. Human nature seem always  to want more, better and bigger. And while this desire to improve on what we have, reach for new heights and possibilities keeps us growing, it also can rob us from the very essence of the simple and foundational purpose.  That’s ever so true on how we have complicated church.

church worship simple

This Sunday morning as I’m preparing to go to church, I’m aware of how much we have complicated church as well. I’ve caught myself anticipating the music, the new set, the featured video or even getting my favorite parking spot near the side door more than looking forward to worshiping with my church family or hearing from God. I’ve managed to turn the simple notion of coming together as a church family into a series of “extra features” that have taken main stage.

So this morning I’m readjusting my expectations. I’m refocusing my attention away from the cultural add ons into a simple encounter with God and His people. I want to encourage you to do the same. Whether you’re sitting in a simple chapel or in a large auditorium with state-of-the-art production, look for the simple and yet life-changing connection with the Creator Himself. All the extra stuff, after all, don’t really matter.

Do these “extra features” preoccupy you as much as they do me?

  • Sally Epps

    Thanks for the reminder. I wonder too much what to wear and how people are going to perceive me that I forget that this is about worshipping and hearing from God.

  • Deanna

    That is a really great point. I hadn’t thought about that before.

    I think it does get very distracting. There is a fine line between being an arts-minded church and complicating things and focusing too much on presentation.

    It’s hard to strike a balance though. I mean, how do you find the middle place that allows people to use their talents and loves, while also not focusing on that to the point where it becomes preoccupying to the main purpose.

  • nibbyp

    Since my church is small (125 average Sunday worship) and we have a hard time with lights, camera and action type show church experiences. We just recently stopped trying to be that. We have gone back to a more simple church experience. One like you might imagine back some 10 years ago. You know– prelude, call to worship, sing a hymn, announcements, pray, read scripture, take offering the choir sings a "special" then the preacher preaches- invitation hymn (only 2 verses), benediction and organ plays a loud postlude and everyone stays around and talks!

    Actually it has been quite refreshing our attendance is up and people are liking. Sounds like the old is the new "new".

    Thanks Maurilio for sharing! I tweeted it out too!

    • No matter what the style is, the focus should always be on God and not on the order of service. I'm glad your church has found its voice, even if was a familiar one.

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  • vvdenman

    As a naturally critical person, I'm distracted more by the things I don't like about the worship service. But if I close my eyes and think about my Lord, all those things go away. Thanks for the encouragement today!

  • Great reminders, man. I think you must have been listening on my conversations last night! When did the church become so complicated, yet POWERLESS. The conventional thinking right now is that we have to compete with Hollywood to draw folks in. I’m all for excellence, but maybe we’re really trading Spirit power as the draw (as it was with the early church) for things (buildings, programming) we can wrap our heads around. I’m in a church of 12,000 and very involved, yet these are things I wonder about!

  • Deanna

    That is a really great point. I hadn't thought about that before.

    I think it does get very distracting. There is a fine line between being an arts-minded church and complicating things and focusing too much on presentation.

    It's hard to strike a balance though. I mean, how do you find the middle place that allows people to use their talents and loves, while also not focusing on that to the point where it becomes preoccupying to the main purpose.

    • I love the arts and I appreciate a service that has great talent that helps me connect with the message. But ultimately, as a Christian, I'm there to connect with God.

  • Kenny Miracle

    This reminds me of something I read this morn about people in the Middle Ages that hits too close to home: Christian culture being confused with heart conversion; institutions & hierarchies being confused with church & leadership; and theology being a concern to religious leaders, but not common people.

  • Diane

    Thanx 4 reminding me of the REASON 4 Church as I seek a home Church. Not an easy thing with all the “shock & awe” portrayals of the Church services. I just want a place 2 go where God shows up, too! That is quite a job!

  • I often find myself in one of those downward spirals Jon Acuff talks about on SCL. We get to church late, the kids are fussy, we have to park in Egypt, it's raining and our usual chairs are taken.

    Thank you for the reminder to leave expectations behind.

    • After I wrote this I had to argue with my children all the way to church. I know exactly what you mean.

  • Courtney

    Great job! I just had the same realization last week and challenged our Deacons to what I am calling, "change your mindset", getting your mind focused like Jesus. Your message serves as confirmation for me. Thanks!

  • Andy

    There's nothing inherently wrong with "extras", but when people leave a service with their main "take away" being awesome music, flashy lights, or how "hip" & relevant the speaker was, we have severely missed the mark. Christ Himself is example. He didn't place emphasis on the "flash" of miracles He performed, turning water to wine, walking on water or raising the dead. His message, plain and simple was, that He alone could transform a heart, regenerate a spirit & GUARANTEE an eternity in heaven with Him. It's important that Christians don't approach church anticipating the extras instead of the simple message of Christ. I think it is vastly more critical that churches don't create such an environment that those who attend walk away more in awe of their physical experience than with the life changing message of Christ. The cultural extras may get them through the door of the local church. It is the living Word of God spoken in such a way that they clearly realize their dire need for a Savior that will get them through the gates of heaven.

    • Yes, there's nothing wrong with the extras. My issue is not with the extras. I'm the guy who usually asks for them and have helped churches create a lot of touch points for people to connect with the message. This post was motivated by my own need to make sure I was connecting with God and not everything else.

  • Joseph

    Okay, I am coming in with a different angle…

    I agree with the reason why we should be there and where the focus should be. However, (you knew I was going here didn't ya?) I think it is the extras that is drawing in a lot of folks that have walked away from the church and are searching.

    Several years ago, I was really removed from the church. Not that I had lost my faith, but I was very dis-interested.

    I spent my whole life in Catholic School, as an Alter boy, and going to church. It began to bore me. (No offense to the Catholic Church whatsoever.

    We moved to Nashville and after about a year in town, we heard about a church that had the extras which intrigued me. I did not want a "traditional" environment but was curious about a church with a band, video etc. I also loved the idea of going in jeans, a baseball cap and with my Starbucks.

    The extras drew me in, but the message and the church are what kept me coming back. I might have never gone back without the extras….or at least not for a long while. It helped re-kindle my journey and to this day I get excited on Sunday when I know I get to go worship in such a cool place.

    Finally, I have gone to church on many Sundays where the extras combined with the message created a lesson to remember and I have walked out thinking "wow" that was amazing.

    So, the extras aren't what we really should be going for ultimately, but if they help bring those in who may not have stopped by or help those who need the message presented in a way that brings some clarity, I am all for it.

    As usual, great post Maurilio!

    • Joseph

      I must stop leaving these essays on your blog….my apologies 🙂

  • Andy

    I can certainly relate, as I love the extras myself & completely understand needing to make sure I don’t get more wrapped up in their speaking to my eyes & ears rather than God speaking to my heart. My response was a pointed reminder of that fact to myself, so I appreciate the thought provoking post.

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