If you don't trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you. For example, if a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they won't have an intimate relationship. Remember the (two!) movies The Stepford Wives? The husbands of Stepford, Connecticut, decide to have their wives turned into robots who never cross the wills of their husbands. A Stepford wife was wonderfully compliant and beautiful, but no one would describe such a marriage as intimate or personal.
Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won't! You'll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten a hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. (Kindle Location 1901-1907)
If we worship to come in contact with Jesus--to hear about what He has done and how we are saved purely and solely by His action...
And if it is at worship where we attempt to shut out all the other false gods of the world and concentrate on Jesus...
And if in the midst of doing so, Jesus begins tuning our hearts toward Him...
...then we should feel quite a bit of discomfort.
And I know we do not like feeling uncomfortable. Take another quick look at the reasons I wrote for folks skipping worship on a given Sunday (or for an extended period of time):
- I am spiritual, but not religious.
- I can worship God anywhere. I do not need to be in church to do so.
- I do not find anything compelling when I attend worship.
- This person hurt me, and I do not want to run into them at worship.
- I do not like the decision the church made, and I will not worship.
- I do not like the way the pastor preaches.
- I do not like the music.
- I want more organ music.
- I want more contemporary music.
- I like being anonymous when I go to church and do not like small crowds.
- I like being welcomed and part of an intimate group and do not like large worship services.
Me. Myself. And I.
It's understandable, really. We live in a consumer oriented culture. We live by the mantra, "Have it your way." (Even though I detest Burger King.) If we find a restaurant does not tickle our taste buds, we find another. If a repair shop does not satisfy us with the job of repair, we find another. If we do not like the prices at one store, we find another. Hey, I'm just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to this. I needed a part for my SUV, and after consulting with a few shops, I gleefully ordered it online and saved $30!!! Saving money made me happy and much more comfortable.
And we really, really like our comfort zones.
In quantum mechanics, there is a rule which governs atomic particles: those particles like to remain at the lowest possible energy state. It takes extra energy to get them "excited" and changing or maintaining a particular position. If everything is same ol', same ol', they simply will not change or move to another level.
The more I have studied humankind, I believe we too are influenced in the same manner. We are all to happy to remain right where we are. We are all to happy to stay entrenched in our thought processes, beliefs, and actions. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing in all circumstances. For instance, you would be hard pressed to get me to change my belief that Jesus is the Son of God, second person of the Trinity, and resurrected Savior. But am I so comfortable in that belief that I do not ask myself why I believe it to be true? Am I so comfortable in that belief that it makes little difference in what I do and how I do it? What challenges that belief and makes me think through why I believe what I believe and do what I do?
If I go to a church where I never end up asking myself those kinds of questions, I have a Stepford Church. I have a church/congregation that simply affirms me and makes me feel good about myself. I have a church that never challenges my ideas or makes me do the messy work involved in a REAL relationship.
And face it, real relationships are messy at times. We disagree with others. We misunderstand others. We are forced to examine our own contributions to the problems in relationships. We have to invest time and energy and money into real relationships. We argue. We fight. Sometimes we don't talk to one another for a while. But within those real relationships, we also find love, compassion, caring, and intimacy at a level far beyond most of the superficiality we experience each and every day.
You will find neither challenge nor true intimacy without engaging an "other" who is different from you and does not see everything just like you.
A few have asked me why I remain in a denomination that I tend to disagree with on many levels theological and philosophical. Why stay in a denomination that I feel has gone astray doctrinally?
Unless said denomination has people within it who challenge it (and vice versa) it will never grow, and neither will I. Unless said denomination has people of differing theologies, it simply has Stepford Members, and if I find a denomination that fits all my beliefs, then I have a Stepford Denomination. There is no growth, and there is no intimacy.
Whether it is a Stepford God, Stepford Denomination, Stepford Congregation, or Stepford Member, none of these are real relationships. Relationships should make us uncomfortable as we engage the "other." It's how we grow.
And if you are not engaging the Holy Other--Jesus the Christ, on an extremely regular basis, you are not growing; your heart is not being changed; you are maintaining your comfortable place at the lowest energy state.
Perhaps you are happy with such a thing. Perhaps you believe you have no need to change or become a better person than you are. Then church and worship definitely isn't for you. Church is for people who know they fall short. Church is for those who know they miss the mark. Church is for those who know there is more to life than what they currently experience. Church is for those who know they have plenty of room to grow. Church is for those who want transformation of themselves, their relationships, and the world.
And that transformation comes from Jesus who changes hearts at worship.