February 3, 2014 by Austin McNair
When it comes to current writers who I admire, Donald Miller is at the top of the list. Along with his thoughtful bestselling books, he maintains a killer blog which is definitely worth giving a follow. This week he posted an article titled, “I Don’t Worship God By Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.” It is a good post, and I think it will set a lot of people free from the all too common equivocation of the words “worship” and “music.” Yet, I feel that some extra commentary is needed to carry Miller’s point even further. His conclusion leaves those who sympathize with him in an ambiguous spot with their relationship to the local church which I am quite uncomfortable with.
In the article, Miller shares his experience of feeling guilty for not experiencing intimacy with God through the traditional church practices of singing and learning via sermon. He cites well-known psychology research that describes the three ways that people learn: audibly, visually, and kinesthetically (doing). Miller shares that he is a kinesthetic learner, and admits that a traditional Sunday morning church service does little to connect him with the Father.
I know that Miller is not alone in this struggle. His perspective empathizes with quite a few saints who consistently feel the weight of not being able to connect with God through a Sunday morning worship service. I have discipled a couple individuals who would relate well to this predicament, and I understand that it is often disillusioning for them to connect with the body of Christ.
But what should our takeaway be? Miller finishes his article by admitting that he doesn’t attend church too often, and then writes, “But I also believe the church is all around us, not to be confined by a specific tribe.” What I believe he is saying is that there is a difference between the Church and a church, and that we can worship in God in many other spaces than a Sunday morning church service. Worship is much more than singing songs. Every aspect of our lives can be considered a form of worship when we are mindful of God’s Kingdom. It is a beautiful reality and I would argue biblical perspective.
Yet, since Miller’s post is written for the likes of those who do have a hard time connecting to God through traditional means, my fear is that this perspective could be interpreted as permission to abandon a commitment to the local church entirely.
I am not fond of Miller’s use of the word “tribe” in this case. The word “tribe” insinuates a people group. Had he written “not to be confined to a specific building,” or even better, “worship service,” then I think his point would have been clearer. But he uses the word “tribe,” pushing forward an image of a Christian who, when not comfortable on Sunday morning, can float around independently never making a commitment to a single church or tribe, while still fully engaging in God’s vision for the church.
I can understand not relating to the programmatic nature that exists in most churches today. I also understand that many churches do not offer much more than a Sunday morning service and a Wednesday night bible study. However, I do not think that this dilemma can be used as an excuse to become a seemingly autonomous entity in the kingdom of God, and I bet Miler believes the same thing.
I do not believe in the Christian Sasquatch.
Sasquatch can live alone and can carry on just fine in that regards. Christians are not fit for that sort of living. All too often I converse with Christians who use their distaste for programs as an excuse to become Christian loners. But that is not good. We need each other. And if we are going to be a part of a movement of God which has Kingdom impact in our communities, then we need to acknowledge that such a movement will take place through more than our individual efforts.
While Miller may not attend church every Sunday, I’m sure that he has an inner circle of friends who walk the journey of life with him and keep him accountable. Miller’s article doesn’t give an excuse to abandon local mission. Rather, I believe it would be better understood as a challenge to find out how to connect with the Father through an outlet which still connects you with a strong community and meaningful relationships with others.
- For Christian Loners: Find a community that will help connect you to an outlet where you feel like you can worship God fully. Most importantly, develop your relationships with other believers. Who is discipling you? Who are you discipling?
- For Church Leaders: Have you created a culture where success is measured by Sunday morning attendance and tithing? What other outlets are you giving the church to worship God fully? Are you empowering the people of God to go out and create new expressions of worship or are you making everyone submit to a list of programs?