‘I have to go to church now.’ I don’t remember the first time I said it. But I do remember the first time I caught myself saying it, the first time I became aware that I was uttering it.
‘I have to go to church.’ Have to? It didn’t sound right. Should church be the sort of thing you ‘have to’ go to? There was something burdensome and onerous about it. Shouldn’t I want to go to church? Shouldn’t church be the sort of thing about which you say, ‘I get to go to church today’?
And yet, the truth is, as a kid, I seldom ever felt that way. Church isn’t something I looked forward to. Church was something I endured.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. How many people are enduring church? How many people are just punching the clock to fulfill an obligation?
I’ve begun thinking about the role of anticipation in worship. What does it take for us to look forward to church? To be excited about worship? To be so expectant that we can hardly wait to get there?
As a good friend of mine said the other day: “I pulled into the parking lot running late for church, and literally sprinted to the sanctuary afraid that I’d missed something.” How do we get that? How do we create an environment in worship conducive to that?
Certainly, there are two parts. On the one hand, there is the inner experience. Something in us has to want this. We have to be hungry for God, thirsty for the Holy Spirit of God to meet us here and quench our parched souls.
But, there also has to be an outer experience. There has to be a worship service that is set up in such a way that it matches our inner expectation. Something in the worship service has to help us encounter and experience God in something close to the way we expect and long to see Him.
Anticipation is the realistic hope of our thirst being quenched. When what we’re expecting is realistically at hand, we get excited. It’s why kids love holidays. Good stuff is about to happen. Who can wait for it?
So how do we help one another get excited about church? How do we create that kind of anticipation?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, I suspect. Our expectations all vary from person to person, church tradition to church tradition.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that often we’re offering meatloaf when people are really hungry for steak. When you’ve got a hankering for sirloin, it’s hard to get excited about something like meatloaf.
So how can we do better? How do we create that kind of anticipation? How do we get one another excited about church?