Miller wrote that he rarely attends church any more. He added that most of the influential Christian leaders he knows who are not pastors don’t attend church services either. He said he loves the church “like a foundational part of my past.” He sees it as something he has graduated from. He was not saying he has wandered from faith in Christ, rather that he simply doesn’t find that being at worship services help him connect with God. He says he is not an auditory learner, thus gets little, if anything from sermons. He insists he is a “kinetic learner” thus, “I connect with God by working.” He feels closest to God “when my hand is on the plow.”
Furthermore, singing worship to God seems to be a high priority in the Scriptures. It is hard to imagine someone reading the Psalms and not noticing this message. All of us have had times when we’ve been in a worship service and have never gotten our brains out of neutral while we were singing the songs that were part of that day’s program. One could easily come away from such an experience thinking “what was the point of that?” The point is that God is praised. When his people gather together and sing praises and songs of worship to him something special happens that can happen in no other way. Perhaps our personal experience may not be an especially tingly connection with God, but God is honored, and that’s the point. There’s also something else we easily forget. I have had the experience of kind of going through a set of songs on Sunday on cruise control only to discover somehow that a particular song from that set keeps popping up in my head the following week. Somehow the Spirit of God seems to implant it in my brain even when I don’t think I’m paying as much attention as I should be.
The concern here is not to defend or promote a particular form of worship service. It is to say that God calls us to gather together, to worship him by speaking and singing his praises and to have the teaching of his Word be an essential element of our worship. A concern I have is Mr. Miller’s focus on “what works for me.” Perhaps he does worship God most at his work. But that could be an argument a workaholic might use to totally devote himself to his work to the detriment of many other important priorities. It also seems to fail to take into account that God calls us to think about how we honor God and how we can serve other people.
I am also a little uneasy with Mr. Miller’s thinking because I’ve encountered it before in other much lesser known people. When I have seen people take that trajectory it has almost always ended up somewhere down the road far from faith in Christ himself. It has often been an early step on a road that leads not to God but away from him. I hope and pray that this is not the case with Mr. Miller. I appreciate his honest wrestling with what it means to know and follow God, but am disturbed when someone “graduates” from church. I could be totally wrong but I feel like I detect the whiff of an odor of hubris in such a statement. I hope I am wrong about that.
The point, as I said, not about worship forms. It is about true commitment to fallible people, about the worship of God, about our need to have our hearts continually encouraged and called to account by God’s word. I find myself far from Donald Miller’s thinking, for I am forever grateful for how God has encouraged and strengthened me through his church.