Has Our Worship Lost the Expectation of Encounter?

(Unsplash/Joe Yates)

I can remember seeing Michael Jordan play live like it was yesterday.

For years, I had followed his career, watched the games, collected the basketball cards, wore the shoes and hung the posters on my wall. I was a fan, to say the least.

But something changes when you go from collecting a card to seeing your hero play live basketball in downtown Chicago. The atmosphere was electric and full of expectation and wonder.

Looking back, I'm sure I went a little overboard with Michael Jordan. I was literally obsessed. Every waking moment was spent collecting items, working on my ball handling skills or thinking about Jordan. While it never progressed to kneeling prostrate before a shrine of MJ in my room and lifting high praise in a monotone chant, it was pretty close.

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There's a lot about this routine that resembles our relationship with Jesus, isn't there? The live game resembles our corporate gatherings as well. The sad truth? We've lost the expectation. We've lost a sense of encounter. Our gatherings are devoid of expectation.

Let me cite one more example.

It's obvious every Steeler fan across the country is upset right now. Sunday's game was no way to leave the post-season after a great regular season and having earning the coveted bye week. But my point isn't to wallow in sadness.

For a Steeler fan, every game arrives with excitement and expectation. What is going to happen? What crazy catches will Antonio Brown make? How many defenders will Leveon Bell shake? My son and I watch with intensity. We shout, we jump, we sweat, we eat, we dance, we cry. It's an edge-of-your-seat experience.

I'm not here to shame churchgoers into being more like football fans. Nobody wants to see you shirtless with black and gold paint from head to toe. But I am saying that we've lost our sense of encounter, wonder, excitement and expectation in our meetings with God—both personally and corporately.

And if we lose that, we lose everything.

Let's break down both experiences with God and see where things can go wrong.

Personal Encounter

Do you agree with this? Every day we have an audience with the King of kings.

While that's the truth, often that doesn't move us to approach our devotional lives with the fire of expectation. We put it off. We forget. We don't prioritize it. We rush through our mornings. We hustle to be more productive and are addicted to accomplishing what's next. It's rare to have eyes for the moment, ever set on what is to come.

I've started to read a new book this year—Reset by Bob Sorge. It may be the smallest book I've ever read, but also one of the most practical. It's less of a book to read and more of a book to practice. The subtitle is 20 ways to a consistent prayer life. It's helping me return to place of daily prayer—of sitting and communing with God.

I'll be honest, I've lost the joy of devotional prayer over the last few years. The pull of productivity has led me away from just being with God, which is actually the most productive thing I could do.

Maybe that's what you need: a 20-day prayer reset. To sit before God not out of the shame of broken promises but out of a present desire to see Him and know Him. It doesn't matter how consistent you've been. All you need to do is start.

Corporate Encounter

When was the last time you couldn't wait to get to church? Where your expectation to meet with God was greater than anything else you wanted to do that day? If you're like me, maybe it's been a while.

As a "professional" worship leader, Sunday can oftentimes feel like a job. Or maybe you're not on a worship team but simply attending church, and it feels more like a duty than a delight.

That's OK. There's nothing wrong with the duty of attending church. But God is after more than simply duty. He's after a people who delight in Him. And the presence of Jesus is more glorious than anything in this world.

But you know all this. You know you need to spend time with God. You know you need to worship with abandon. But just how desperate are you?

David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared at davidsantistevan.com.

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