Mindless worshippers

April 23rd, 2022

If our church services convey that worship starts when we start it and ends when we end it, if all worship resources and energies are spent preparing for and presenting a single hour on Sunday, if we aren’t exhorting our congregation and modeling for them how to worship not only when we gather but also when we disperse, then we are enabling mindless worshippers.

Jesus’s greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, being, mind, and strength and also to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi and us was that “if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us” (Phil 4:8-9).

Worshipping with our minds allows us to approach worship with knowledge, insight, reason, memory, creativity, inquiry, imagination, and even doubt. If we offer our prayers superficially, if we read and listen to Scripture texts mechanically, if we gather at the Lord’s Supper Table hastily, and if we only sing our songs emotionally, the end result is often mindless worship.

Congregants could learn a lot from the Jews who believe the Sabbath begins at sundown. Then the activities and things with which we fill our minds the night before could better frame our worship attitudes as we gather on the Sabbath. What we do, whom we spend our time with, what we watch, and what we think about could negatively or positively influence our worship attitudes as we gather.

My daughter was five years old the first time our family vacationed at Walt Disney World. After months of planning and days of travel, the final preparations for and anticipation of the first day at Magic Kingdom was almost too much excitement for her to contain.

Like a firefighter, she selected and laid out her clothes the night before so she could jump into them the next morning. Sleep eluded her with the anticipation of what was to come. She awakened early, quickly dressed, and inhaled breakfast so she would be ready to depart hours before the park even opened.

All conversation traveling from our resort to the park entrance centered on what she would observe, experience, eat, participate in, enjoy, and then take home at the end of the day. She had been thinking about it, dreaming of it, and planning, preparing, and longing for it. Her mind was so filled with it she couldn’t contain the anticipation.

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Empowering instead of enabling worshippers encourages them to think, plan, prepare, and dream about their worship actions autonomously. It gives them permission to take ownership in their own worship responses to God’s revelation at the moment in which it occurs. Worship empowerment arises from the shallowness of dependency and leads to the full conscious, active, continuous, and thoughtful participation of each worshipper. 

Worship or love of God and others must be something with which we fill our minds or it can become self-serving. Unless we are thinking about it, considering it, processing it, meditating on it, studying it, and learning how to get better at it, how will we teach others how to do it? Until we move beyond enabling our congregations to actually empowering them to think about their worship individually, we’ll never encourage deep calling unto deep worship that also engages their minds (Ps 42:7).

As you reflect with your worship team, here are some questions to consider:

  • What verbal instructions are we using that might imply our worship starts and stops with the opening and closing songs?
  • In what ways can we encourage our congregants to prepare for gathered worship before they actually arrive?
  • How can we empower rather than enable our worship participants?
  • What kind of small-group training or sermon series could we initiate to encourage congregants to go deeper in their understanding of loving God with their minds?


This article is excerpted from Better Sundays Begin on Mondays: 52 Exercises for Evaluating Weekly Worship by David W. Manner (Abingdon Press, 2020).

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