Traditional Sunday Worship Is A Waste Of Time

‘This isn’t working!  There, I’ve said it.  I feel better already.  I’ve been meaning to say it for a long time – in fact I can’t remember a time in the last 30 years that I haven’t thought it.  Oh- it’s the Church I’m talking about by the way!’

A few years ago I started a chapter I was asked to write for a book called ‘Inside Verdict’ with these words.  I often wonder if things have improved any in the 3 years and I know that there are signs of hope, but I struggle with Sunday mornings in church.

This morning I ‘led’ ‘worship’.  These two words are in parenthasis because I’m not that sure either were true.  The people are nice and I’m sure they are earnest in their desire to come and worship God but I have to say that what they got this morning might not be helping them in their relationship, either with God or with each other.

I led the two congregations through a standard Scottish reformed hymn/prayer/sermon sandwich.  The hymns were all from the new church hymnary, the prayers were in everyday language and the sermon (even though I say it myself) was pretty good.  So why am I left feeling that no-one would have bothered much if none of it had happened?

For me the big question has to be ‘Does this worship reflect my daily life?’  The answer is a resounding ‘NO’!  I don’t ever sing, not even in the shower.  Music is something I listen to.  I pray but in a very unorganised way, not like church prayers at all.  I have a job where I can indulge my interest in ethical, moral and political issues and I enjoy crafting a sermon, but does that make it relevant for the vast majority of people sitting as far apart from each other as possible as I spout off for 15 minutes?

I found myself thinking this morning ‘Why are you here?’.  Not ‘why am I here?’ but ‘why are you here?’.  What on earth is it about this gathering for an hour that feeds your spiritual journey?  Is this in any way helpful for your life?  Surely we must be able to find something more meaningful!

I have lots more thoughts but I’m interested in yours.  Does traditional Sunday worship still have a place?  Does it work for you?  Does it enable you to express your love of God?


4 Responses to Traditional Sunday Worship Is A Waste Of Time

  1. pmk1977 says:

    I think you’re wrong in your assertion that no-one would have bothered if worship hadn’t happened this morning. If the traditional Scottish reformed ‘thing’ isn’t suiting your needs at this point I don’t think it’s fair to generalise and say that it can’t be right for everyone. I can’t obviously comment on the service(s) you led since I was miles away, but I do feel you are doing the people in the pews an injustice. For me the question wouldn’t ever be ‘does this worship reflect my daily life’ because it couldn’t ever do that! I dread to think how I would marry the journey to the primary school with my children every morning/the 2 hours spent at the local Toddler Group/eating lunch with my family etc etc with the hour or so I spend at church on a Sunday so the point for me would be that it is different, it is more structured than anything I do during the week, it’s my chance to be led in worship rather than let it take a very personal and dare I say it ‘selfish’ path. If given the chance I would always choose to attend church – the worship may not always be to my taste, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Need to go just now, I could say lots more and will come back to do so (I should apologise in advance I guess!!)

  2. swryv says:

    Why apologise? I’m posing questions and don’t necessarily disagree with much of what you have said.

    It’s interesting you think I may be doing the people in the pews an injustice, but I think at the heart of my wondering is the thought that you might be right but in a different way.  Perhaps we are doing the people in the pews and those other 95% of people who stay away an injustice by continuing the repitition of a 400 year old patern of worship?

    One thing that does worry me about how we do church is it’s apparent lack of connection with people under 60, statistically I mean. Isn’t this something we should be concerned about? How can we address that while at the same time maintain what seems to work for those who are there on a Sunday morning?

  3. hospital corners says:

    Like the true diplomat that I am (not fence sitter) I get what you’re both saying and share many of the same thoughts. For what they’re worth, here are mine from the non-member, member, elder and not attending at the moment perspective!

    In an attempt to discover and experience the reality of God, I’ve gathered together a pretty mixed bag of worship experiences over the years. There have been highs and lows and lots of ‘well that was average’ in between. I guess I’ve finally reached a stage in life when I will allow myself to admit that most of the time it doesn’t work (for me personally) and that it’s ok. In the past there have been far too many Sundays when I’ve questioned my intentions but I kept going because deep down I believed in it and actually still do because I want it confirmed that the inspirational, creative, thought- provoking, communicative, forgiving and yes ordered and relevant God I experience during the week is in fact the same God that I’m asked to connect with on a Sunday!

    The thing is I’m not even criticising because I’m not sure what it is that I don’t get except that it seldom connects with me. I’m not talking about the generation gap or the old hymns or the hard pews or the freezing building because I can put up with those things, they’re real and I can do real.

    But I want to know why am I able to introduce people to the God of every day stuff but when it comes to Sunday worship this God seem so far away, sterile and confined?

  4. swryv says:

    I’m not criticising worship either. I like worship. I have experienced a closeness to God in lots of settings. Mostly the times I have felt closest to God have been during worship that follows a time of sharing in community at a course or event and I often wonder if that is to do with the quality of the experience of community that preceeds it.

    Is there the same intensity within our church communities? Can there be?

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