Heard this story by Robert Nordling, a professor at Calvin College.
A number of years ago our son was invited to his friend’s 4th birthday party. Bursting with anticipation, he was most excited about finding his friend a birthday present. Finally the great day arrived. We drove our son over to the little boy’s house, took him to the door, met the hosts and then said goodbye. We arrived back a few hours later and quickly saw a much less enthusiastic boy get into the car. We could tell right away that something was up. We asked,
“How was the party son?”
“Oh, alright… I guess.”
“Why? What’s the matter? Didn’t you have a good time?”
“Yes… but I didn’t get any presents!”
“But… um, son, it wasn’t your party.”
Unconvinced and unconsoled, he sat for the rest of the ride home generally depressed by the seeming injustice of it all.
That story comes to life every week in some churches when people’s hopes aren’t met. Tens of thousands of people with thousands of different “worship preferences” attend church every Sunday all over the world. How many of them walk away with the same attitude as that little boy when they say things like, “I didn’t get anything out of it…”.
That story reminds me that worship isn’t an experience for me, it’s a gift for God, on Sundays or any other day. It’s not ultimately about me, it’s about Jesus. I’ve been invited to the party, but it’s not my party. My focus should be on God- not my feelings, likes, dislikes, preferences, emotions or opinions. God should be at the center, not me. I should adjust my preferences to accommodate his feelings, likes, dislikes, preferences, emotions and opinions. If anyone should receive anything on Sundays, it’s Jesus.
Preferences are fine, and it’s OK to like or dislike certain things. We’re human; that’s normal. But our worship should be God-centered, not man-centered. The difference is huge.