There is a discomfort we must address. Before leaving our homes, hitting the button on the garage remote… before we weigh whether or not to rush the traffic signal on the road… before trying to figure out how on earth we learned to tie our shoes while wrestling our children into their own shoes… we have to evaluate why we are putting ourselves through this preparatory ritual known as “getting ready for church.”

When I was a teenager, preparation for church was as simple as a shower, three bowls of cheerios, and buckling my mind up for lots of not paying attention and then waiting for my parents to get done talking to all of the people. All of them. Including that one Chatty Cathy who did not have any friends outside of her Sunday people.

As a young married couple, we would prepare for church with the shower, three bowls of cereal and asking one another if we were ready to go or if we should have another cup of coffee.

It would take us 90 seconds from “yes” to vehicular ignition.

Currently, I’m looking at leaving the house in seventy five minutes. That means in fifty minutes to tell the children in which order and which bathroom they will go potty. Fifty five minutes until I have to unlock the first bathroom door, sixty minutes until we play “find the right shoe,” not the “correct” shoe, just any of the ones that go on the right foot. At seventy minutes we decide that mismatched shoes are a new fashion trend to hit America soon anyway. At seventy three minutes, the van ignites and at eighty minutes we turn around because I forgot to put my own shoes on.

Still trying to kick that whole Hawaii no shoes no problem habit.

Still trying to blame Hawaii for that one…

In ninety minutes, I will begin to approach a new church.

In ninety five minutes I will not know anyone there.

In two hours I am expected to participate in a worship service where I know no one, have no history, no connection, and if I were to get up in the middle of the service and leave forever, would not be missed. I have to prepare to bring myself into communion with other people with whom I am bonded through a similar faith. I very much hope they are preparing for me.

And here is the problem. Most of us do not spend time preparing for people when we prepare for church. We prepare clothes to convince people we own clothing and know how to operate it. We prepare our teeth to not make people faint at the coffee behind our teeth. We prepare our deodorant so people don’t question whether it’s us or the sandwich shop down the street chopping onions. We prepare our children to simulate good parenting.

But have we prepared to be honest?

Dr Vernon Whaley, the dean of the school of music at Liberty University and author of books for nearly every class I took during my first semester of study says this of the preparation necessity:

Our public worship must be an outgrowth of our private time with God. How can we please God in worship on Sunday if we live according to the rules of this carnal world during the week? How can we hope to worship God in spirit and in truth as a congregation when the sanctuary of our heart is crowded by busyness, pride and selfish thoughts? [1]

If I’m honest, I’m coming in to worship with a heart full of doubt. But how on earth do you worship with doubt? All of our worship music declares our allegiant faith. We resolve to believe. We know! We follow! We sometimes even convince ourselves of it. But the fake it till you make it format for faith is rarely the successful formula in the Bible, and it is definitely the main ingredient for most walks away I have taken from faith.

If I’m honest, I’m coming in not sure if God and I are reading off of the same sheet of music. I’m still looking for my place and my people. I’m still looking for fulfilling work. I’m still watching the calendar days pop up when my son has to receive poison to fight his dormant cancer.

People exult over the survival rate for his leukemia. High nineties of percentile of people to survive this particular strain. But in the dark unspoken dialogues of my heart is the refrain that you have to take care quoting high chances of surviving a cancer that you have a low percentile chance of contracting.

True optimism requires faith.

Or stupidity.

But I’m not stupid. I know what we are up against.

I also know that God has been very good to me and my family. He has preserved us. He has protected us. And He has never abandoned me. He has never failed me.

And the nagging doubt, the honest part of me that I need to prepare to come into contact with God whispers,


The accusation of shame and sin very quietly and persistently tells me that I have not been dealt with


It tells me that I have not received my true justice


It tells me that the reality of my soon to be fall has not been delivered


It even tells me that God is holding me up and hasn’t dropped me


I’m still in Your hands, this is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet. [2]

I have heard people have reservations about that “yet.” I have felt reservations about that “yet.” I have done everything with that “yet” except be really honest because it is a part of my heart when I show up to worship my God. There is a “yet” in my heart right now about whether or not it even matters to write about this. It is the same germinated seed of doubt that grew in the heart of Gideon when he needed God to make the ground wet and the fleece dry and the fleece wet and the ground dry.

What is very important, though, is that though the vine of doubt grew in the heart of Gideon and in mine, God still worked with that doubt. He worked to speak past it. He works even now.

And it is important for me to confess my doubt because God is not looking for simulated faith. He is growing real faith in me and I have to bring the fruit of His work and my life to be with Him. I have to know everything He has done and I have to know everything I need Him to do. I have to know that I am depending on Him and that I expect from Him to not withhold himself. Dr. Whaley says,

At the heart of successful and dynamic worship, private or public, is the issue of being honest with God and ourselves. We must honestly evaluate our love for God, genuinely express love to God, and sincerely expect love from God. [3]

The wonderful thing about that song is that it is a journey of thought from the land of doubt to the oasis of pure faith. Brown et al write their song pensive, quiet, and slightly broken. After all, it is not the ritual that God is looking for. David writes in Psalm 51,

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (16-17)

God desires us to bring our brokenness, not for us to create idols of our need, but so that we may lay our idolatry which has generated that brokenness and let it be destroyed in the light of His love. He asks us to bring the sacrifice of our needs that they may be consumed in His provision. It’s a little like saying you got rid of a hole by filling it with dirt, but we sacrifice our lack at the altar of His bounty. What we receive varies in the specifics. But it is uniform across the board in one aspect. When we walk away from honest worship, we walk away with our hearts filled with His love and our lives illuminated by His life. When we walk away from honest worship, we walk toward another opportunity to worship and the sweet anticipation to do so well.

He reminds us of what He has done, not to brag but to reassure.

And I believe, You move the mountains. And I believe I’ll see You do it again. You made a way, when there was no way. And i believe I’ll see You do it again. I’ll see You do it again! [4]

In thirty minutes my garage door will close with my family on its way down the road. For seven thousand years, or billions and trillions (whatever don’t care) since the first dawn of the first day, God has waited to meet me here with you as I write and you read. He has waited to roll down the road with me, arrive with me, and exult over me as I discover the power of His love. He wants my preparation, minuscule in comparison to His own, to simply be honest. I will bring my “yet”.

I will encounter Him honestly and trade my “yet” for “I believe.”

1. Vernon M. Whaley, Exalt His Name: Understanding Music and Worship, Book 1, (Calumet City, IL: Calumet Training Association, 2017) 65.

2. Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Matt Redman, Steven Furtick, “Do It Again,” There is a Cloud, Elevation Church and Provident Label Group. 2017. CCLI#7067555.

3. Vernon M. Whaley, Exalt His Name: Understanding Music and Worship, Book 1, (Calumet City, IL: Calumet Training Association, 2017) 66.

4. Brown et al, “Do It Again,” 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s