Confessions of a Bad Worshipper

Confessions of a Bad Worshipper | Christian Mom ThoughtsI am bad at worshiping God.

I wish I could be plunked down into a church sermon each Sunday and escape everything before and after it. I’m good at listening and learning, but I stink at worshipping.

Let me describe a sample Sunday morning so you can understand what I mean.

Picture my husband and I walking into the sanctuary of our church, filled with at least 2,000 people. The lights go down and the band starts playing.

Sigh. I wish we could just skip this part and go right to the sermon. I want to learn something! Now, if I had a voice like the woman behind me, maybe I would enjoy singing. But I’m not going to make a fool of myself by using my horrible voice at any audible level. If I raise my hands like other people around me, I’ll be thinking the whole time about how and when to bring them down so I don’t look awkward. And I certainly don’t have the expressiveness to dance back and forth to the lyrics of “God’s Great Dance Floor” like the completely uninhibited woman two rows in front of me. I guess I’ll just stand here, staring at screen lyrics, with my hands inconspicuously clutched in front of me.

The music comes to a stop and the worship leader says, “Before you sit down, say hi to someone around you!”

The people in front of me are already saying hi to the people in front of them. Should I wait for them to turn around, or should I look behind me to see who’s there? If they’re saying hi to the people behind them, I’m going to feel really stupid for having turned around. I’ll just pretend to look for something in my purse and go straight to sitting down.

The lights dim as a testimonial video goes up on one of the large screens. The video features a young man who had a brain tumor removed a couple of weeks ago. He is recovering well and plays a song of gratitude to God on his guitar. The church erupts in applause for the answered prayers.

I wonder how many people in our church have been praying for themselves or for a loved one to heal from something similar, but haven’t gotten the same positive news. How are they feeling right now? Shouldn’t the worship staff feature more stories of people who aren’t healed and how they maintain their faith throughout the difficulty?

The worship leader announces, “We’re going to do a little something different today. If you need healing, please stand. Everyone else, please gather around someone standing near you. We’re going to give you time to pray over these people in need.”

Oh gosh, someone is standing in my row. NOOOOOO. Oh no. No, no. Please, no. I can’t pray out loud in front of a stranger. Quick, push Bryan over. He can do this. I can hide behind him. WHY are they doing this? I’m writing the pastor an email. Have they ever heard the word “introvert?” I knew I should have sat back in the bleachers today. Now I’ll feel guilty the rest of the day for being more concerned with my own ability to pray out loud than for the probably intense problems this poor person is going through. God is totally frowning at me right now.

Is it time for the sermon yet?

And so it goes. I’m a self-conscious, distracted, overly analytical worshipper. But there are two lessons I’m learning from taking a good look at this less-than-ideal area of my spiritual life.

First, worship is something that needs to be taught.

I would have benefited greatly from someone teaching me how to worship when I was younger. I grew up in church and in a Christian family, but I can’t remember the topic of how to worship ever being discussed.

I realize that the idea of teaching worship might sound counterintuitive. After all, worship is usually thought of as a (genuine) response to God, and having to be taught something makes it sound less authentic. But consider how foreign the concept is to us naturally:

  • There is (hopefully) no one or nothing else we worship, so we can’t simply transfer our understanding of an earthly experience to the worship of God. What does the word “worship” even mean?
  • Many people incorrectly assume that we worship because God needs our worship, like an attention-seeking human. What is the purpose of worship?
  • The very nature of worship requires a posture of complete humility, to bow down in spirit before a God we cannot begin to comprehend. How do we get to such a point of humility, so far removed from our self-centered nature?

For these and other reasons, worship is not innate for many people – and the understanding we grow into on our own is often inaccurate or incomplete. I realized this the first time when I was in a small group once discussing the prayer model “A-C-T-S” (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplication). Not one person in our group said they include adoration (an expression of worship) when talking to God. In fact, we had a long conversation trying to figure out how adoration is different than thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is responding to what God has done. Adoring, as is all worship, is responding to who God is. Ten life-long Christians sitting in a room couldn’t figure this out until we looked it up online.

Worship is a somewhat difficult, unnatural idea that often doesn’t just work itself out over the course of a lifetime. We need to gift our children with this understanding.

Second, the nature of our worship is partially dictated by our personality.

I believe that if I didn’t fundamentally struggle with the concept of worship (my prior point), I wouldn’t be so distracted and self-centered in church; my heart and mind would be better directed to God. I’m working on this.

But I am also an introvert. Part of my personality is that I am just never going to physically worship in the same way that another person might, or enjoy certain types of fellowship (like praying with strangers). That’s OK. I don’t need to rhythmically glide across the floor to the song “God’s Great Dance Floor” to worship “better”. Worship is a loving relationship between the Creator and the Created, and just as in any loving relationship, those feelings will be expressed differently by different people. It’s important to help our kids learn about different forms of worship so they can grow to embrace what brings them closer to God and understand that worship looks different for every person.

Are there any other “bad worshippers” out there? What makes worship difficult for you?

20 thoughts on “Confessions of a Bad Worshipper”

  1. If this is what a “bad” worshipper is, I guess I fit into the category. My problem is mostly being a bit fussy over the songs that are chosen (oh, no. Not that song. Ugh. I hate this song. You really expect a guy to reach that octave? This song is theologically vapid). I often feel like worship is geared to the more flamboyant type of person, which I definitely am not. Probably at least some of that is me being overly self-conscious. I think there are times when worship really comes alive, because it is a response to truth that is already at work in my mind. That takes some time. I also thing, though, that worship is ultimately not about whether or not my feelings ever come into play or I come away from it with an emotional payoff. That would actually be a really backwards way of looking at it. Worship is an offering to God, not a way to recharge my own spiritual batteries, so in that sense it is an act of the will rather than a reaction per se. Ideally it is both a choice and a response, but ultimately what matters most is that God gets what He is worthy of, which is my praise. I guess it comes down to whether or not I am going to obey Colossians 3:1-2 and purposefully, continually set my mind on eternity and on Christ. So I should probably get off the internet now and do my quiet time 🙂

    1. Hi Jim, Very well said – worship is not about whether our feelings come into play. I love how you characterized it as an act of the will. So absolutely true. When we are overly distracted by self consciousness, as I admitted in this post, we certainly don’t end up “willing” to worship. It’s once we can put those things aside that the will is free to choose. For that reason, I believe that different church environments can reach different personalities effectively. A contemporary church service might provide the best environment for one person’s worship and a traditional church service might help someone else better. I used to be judgmental of some types of church services, but I’ve learned over time that such judgment was ill-placed. 🙂 Thanks so much for your input!

  2. Since my husband and I help lead the contemporary praise service at our church, it has truly helped me to come out of my “worship shell.” When I first started attending this service when my husband and I were dating, it felt strange and uncomfortable to me; after all, I had attended a liturgical church for years! Little by little, though, I have loosened up and my worship, at this point in time, is the most authentic it has ever been. For that, I will ever be grateful to God!
    Blessings, Natalie!

    1. Hi Martha, Wow! I should say that leading worship would force someone out of the shell. 🙂 It’s so interesting to hear that, as I always assumed the people leading were natural at worship in that way! I can imagine it being even more difficult if you came from a liturgical church. Very interesting – thanks so much for sharing!

  3. I am also this way. Some of us just aren’t comfortable with public displays. I feel bad about it, but then I am reminded that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made. I enjoy worshipping the Lord when I see a gorgeous sunset, or smell the crisp fall air. I thank Him when I see the beautiful flowers and butterflies in my yard. And at those times, I am not shy about raising my hands to the sky…I think it is genuine worship that pleases Him, no matter how it is shown….

    1. Hi Amy, Absolutely! Worship doesn’t have to take any specific form. That’s part of what is so important to teach our kids. They need to understand the true meaning and why we do it so they can worship in the way that is authentic for them. I am truly moved by nature as well. Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. Natasha, I laughed so hard reading this…not at you, but (hopefully) with you, because I can completely relate in many ways. I do not like praying out loud and feel awkward praying for a stranger. Even if it is a familiar face. That’s something I prefer to do silently.

    If I’m really “feeling it” because the music is really good and I know the songs by heart and don’t have to look at the words on the screen, I will raise my hands, but usually I don’t — because I’m worried I’ll embarrass my husband. Can you believe that? I’m more worried about what man thinks than lifting my hands to the Lord. Then again, a friend once told me lifting our hands to the Lord during singing might be mistaken by others as a “look at me and how great I am at worshipping” act. So it seems many of us spend more time focused on analyzing the congregation than truly worshipping God.

    As a side note, my family attended a special worship event at our church a few weeks back. My four year old saw a friend of mine in the praise team with her hands lifted while she was singing. So she raised her hands too. I couldn’t just stand there while my four year old was courageously mimicking what others were doing and not do so myself, so I raised my hands too in hopes of encouraging her to know it’s okay to do so when we feel the Spirit move us to. 🙂

    I find the best worship experiences I have are often when it’s just me and God. I have had a few really great ones at church before where I’ve just known I was in tune with the Holy Spirit and nothing else around me mattered. But those moments don’t happen as often as I’d like.

    1. Hi Rosann! I’m glad I gave you a laugh. 🙂 It IS funny to think about how self conscious we can be. I think most of us have these experiences in some way, shape or form, so it can be helpful to know we’re all in the same boat sometimes. How sweet about your daughter raising her hands. I think that would force me out of the hand raising shell as well! And about your husband…I do understand that too. 🙂 It’s amazing how many thoughts we can put between us and God! Thank you for sharing about your experiences!

  5. Yes, I thought I was the only one who thought these things! lol. If I thought I was going to have to pray out loud I would probably bolt. My mind is always in a million different places during worship, especially since I am often wondering if my one year old is screaming in the nursery or if my four year old is behaving well in her class. I can’t seem to focus on worship in a room full of people, and I hate to sing where I can be heard. Glad to know I am not the only one.

    1. Hi Brandi, Thanks for sharing – and I’m glad I helped you know you’re not the only one! 🙂 I HAVE bolted before when someone announced we would be praying for each other, so I’m right there with you. I still have trouble praying in front of my husband. It’s an ongoing challenge for many people! Thanks for your comment!

  6. Thank you for posting this! I can relate 100%. I find myself in the same situation constantly and I am always feeling so guilty about it. This was a comforting post to read. 🙂

    1. Hi Emily, I am glad this was comforting! I think there are many of us like this and our natural reaction is to feel guilty. But awareness is the first step. Instead of guilt, we can turn the awareness into a willingness to work on being more focused. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Thank you for the post, Natasha! Glad to know I’m not the only over analytical self conscious worshipper.. the thing with me is that I am able to raise my hands during worship when I’m with fellow young adults, but I constantly wonder in my head, “Am I REALLY doing this out of a genuine heart for God? I really think I am, but what if I’m doing it as a show without even knowing?” I seem to question my intentions a lot. On the other hand, when I’m at an adult service with my parents, (who raise their hands, dance, and everything) I can’t seem to do ANYTHING. They’ve never seen me raise my hands before and I feel just so self conscious because of MY PARENTS. It’s pretty sad. I feel like they would laugh at me inside and think that I am acting or pretending. Hmm..

    1. Hi Amanda! I completely understand feeling uncomfortable in front of your parents – one of the biggest reasons I can’t raise my hands even when the Spirit moves me is that I would be embarrassed in front of my husband! I think the hardest time is the first time…after that, no one thinks anything of it. 🙂

  8. Maybe your church is a little to charasmatic. They tend to be a little strong on the gift signs which tend to have been done after the book of Acts. I would suggest an independant fundamental baptist church.

    1. Hi Joe, My church is a pretty mainstream non-denominational “mega church”. I do like baptist churches though – I grew up in a non-denominational church that was, for all intents and purposes, a Baptist church. 🙂

  9. We sing out of the Trinity Hymnal accompanied by a single piano. The theological richness of the hymns silences my mind’s tendency to mull on the “cares of this world” (aka my to do list!) during worship. Several people in our congregation are trained singers, and our pianist is extremely skilled, so it’s never too difficult to learn a new song. I grew up with this style of worship. When we’re traveling and visiting other churches, I always feel uncomfortable singing praise choruses to a rock band.

  10. Natasha, I can’t remember when was the last time I laughed this hard. I literally cried from laughing while reading your post. It’s so funny because I can relate to it completely. I would often feel guilty because I wasn’t as involved in the worship as the people in front or around me. It’s refreshing to know that I’m not the only one 🙂 Thank you so much for posting this. It made my day!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this, Natasha.

    This is my story:
    I was raised in a denominational church that was very conservative and I remember the first time I sat through praise and worship at the church I attended shortly after recommitting my life to Christ. The people were joyous and singing and clapping. I had attended a midweek service and stood in the audience, still in my shirt and tie from work. I looked around and said to myself, “That will be the day…” I held my hands on the seat in front of me through praise and worship… the raising of the arms thing was NEVER going to happen! It would be a cold day in Hades!

    At this time, I worked for a TV station in Chicago, and it was right in the middle of the Michael Jordan era for the Bulls in the early 90’s. Our TV contract granted us tickets and a skybox to every home game, and I attended many Bulls games with clients. When taking clients, I made sure that they knew to get to the game early enough to catch the opening of the contest. It was a very special and significant open. The lights in the United Center would dim and after the introduction of the visiting team, the highlight of the event would begin.

    The music would start and the crowd would go absolutely crazy cheering for the Bulls. There was a special video and fireworks would go off in the background as they introduced the starting lineup. One by one, they would announce the players and the noise level would increase to the point that you could barely hear yourself. Finally, they got to the Buls star, Michael Jordan. The announcer would declare, “And from North Carolina, number 23….” The building would seem to explode with the cheers!

    One particular game, I was running late to the stadium, and got inside the arena just as they began announcing the visiting team. I knew I did not have time to meet my clients and get to my seat, so I just entered the closest opening to see the announcement of the Bulls starting lineup. I came to the stadium straight from work and was dressed in suit and tie. As they got to Michael, I began to yell and scream, as loud as I could, along with everyone else. As the fireworks went off in the stadium, I heard this still small voice… “So you will worship and praise a man, but you won’t worship and praise me.”

    Tears began to well up in my eyes. I almost dropped to my knees on the concrete floor of the stadium. The gravity of what I heard hit me like a ton of bricks… I remember just standing there, emotionless, still and alone among the 18,000 fans surrounding me. I don’t remember how long I stood there, but I finally composed myself and made my way to my seat. I thought long and hard about those words. I’m not sure if my clients could tell that something was wrong, but I knew inside that there was something drastically wrong. My heart toward God was wrong.

    Since that day, I forced an attitude change that I knew was necessary. Previously, I told myself that I was “not like that”… “raising hands or worshipping God were for others”… “it was just not my personality…” However, over the past 30 years, I have come to know and understand the love of God. I have seen His goodness and care first hand. I have seen Him deliver people from diseases and restore marriages. I’ve seen people set free from addictons and deliverd. I have personally experienced my life preserved… I’ve come to know that He is Worthy of all the praise, all the honor and all the Glory. It’s that simple.

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