What we worship

Published 10:53 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

by Andrew Book

A few Sundays ago, we broke out the pom-poms in worship. The kids had made a banner the week before saying “Hosanna to the King,” and we stretched it across one of the entry ways into our worship space. During our opening song, we had 45 kids run through the banner with pom-poms to cheer and celebrate Jesus. While we need a little practice on how to run through a banner, overall it was a great way to call the church to a time of celebration and praise.

Now, you may be thinking this sounds more like the beginning of a football game than a worship service, and you would be right: pom-poms and running through banners are part of our sports culture. But here’s the thing: Our sports culture often does worship better than the church.

I am an alumni of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. UGA’s athletic department creates a culture of football worship as well as anyone I know. Almost every week during the season, they put together a hype video to get everyone excited. They work hard to create an atmosphere of high energy where people are cheering and shouting in support of the team. They strive to make being a UGA football fan a way of life — they invite people to support the team through our activities, our clothing, our friendships, our allegiances and more. If you don’t believe me, put a UGA fan in the same room with someone who supports the University of Florida and see where the conversation goes!

Now, I expect that some of you are objecting to the idea that being a serious football fan is “worship.” It would help to step back and ask the question, “What is worship?” Worship is “the feeling or expression of adoration.” Worship does not need to be focused on God, and, in fact, I think the level of adoration in our society for football teams usually far exceeds the adoration we have for God.

How can we measure what a person adores? Maybe we could look at what they talk about most or what they spend the most time trying to get other people to support. Maybe we could measure adoration by how much money someone spends or how much time is devoted to a pursuit. By any of those standards, I expect we would find that the worship of football and other sports exceeds our worship of God.

We could take another step to look at youth sports programs and the time, money and focus that we, across society are investing in these ventures. It is common to hear people bemoaning the increasing popularity of Sunday morning leagues because they interfere with “worship time,” but my bigger concern is the sheer number of hours and amount of money invested by many families. Youth sports have gone from exercise, recreation and fun to a way of life that pushes out most other priorities. By any measure, many families involved in travel teams or other “serious” youth leagues are worshipping sports above anything else in their lives!

I continue to cheer for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, but, measured by my time, conversation, money or energy, they are not the object of my worship. I think youth sports are a good idea too —so long as they do not overshadow the rest of life.

We all could use a hard look at what it is that we are worshipping with our lives. Simply attending a “worship service” is only one step in living a life that is truly worshipping God. What we worship is based on how we spend each of the 168 hours in a week, not simply one hour on Sundays. Our worship is also tied to what we do with our money, where we focus our thoughts and conversations, and how we try to influence the people around us. What we “adore” can just as easily be football as it is God — the question that each one of us needs to ask ourselves is, “Am I OK with what I am worshipping with my life?”

At Courtland United Methodist Church, we are trying to look honestly at ourselves and at what it means to truly follow Jesus. We recognize that shifting from lives worshipping sports, money, possessions, power, or anything else to truly worshipping God is a challenge — but we are living out the challenge together. If you need a community to help you on your journey of worship, come join us Sundays at 10 (for Sunday School) or 11 (for worship) — but don’t forget that an hour of worship does not make a life of worship!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.