There are a lot of reasons that the members of a church community don’t worship on Sunday morning. I won’t bore you with the well-known list of competing attractions, or talk about the general disillusionment with boring services, sermons, etc. In families, there is also the issue of getting more than one person on the same page about going to church.
However, I wonder if one of the reasons people stop worshiping has little to do with any of the above. Maybe it has to do with their hunch that worship is dangerous. You know what I mean, don’t you? One Sunday you come to a service minding your own business and suddenly God takes you some place you never planned on going. This happened to Libbie Crawford, the Sunday after Easter. She came back from taking communion and suddenly realized she needed to volunteer to take over leadership of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. After five years of extraordinary leadership, Carol Moore is stepping down. The Sunday after Easter, God enlisted a replacement. And now look what Libbie has gotten herself into. In a few months she will be recruiting—sometimes coercing—others to volunteer. Four weeks out of the year she will be spending endless amounts of time at the Comboni Mission, and dealing with an endless number of unexpected developments. The same thing happened to Judy Gardner in worship. About five years ago she decided to get involved with Whiz Kids after a nudge from God during a sermon.
Over the years countless members have received a call to some form of ministry during a worship service. One way to avoid being unexpectedly enlisted by God is to do something else Sunday morning. If Libbie and Judy had just stayed home on a particular Sunday morning, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.
Worship is dangerous because we open ourselves to a Spirit that has a mind of its own. This Spirit not only enlists us for missional activity, but also challenges our cherished assumptions. For example, we come to worship assuming that we have to justify our existence by what we do, and then discover that God doesn’t care. Yes, God is grateful for our faithfulness, but God isn’t a supervisor evaluating our worth based upon our performance. In fact, God has a special concern for those who have messed up badly, and know their need for God. What would it be like to be governed by a God like that? Sounds a little dangerous to me.
Author Annie Dillard once wrote that Sunday morning ushers should be handing out crash helmets and life preservers rather than bulletins. Apparently she thinks that hearing the Word of God, receiving Christ’s body and Blood, and invoking God’s presence is anything but playing it safe.