Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beyond the Four Walls

It may sound blasphemous to say this, but more often than not, my greatest times of worship occur outside the confines of a church building. I'm not negating the value of regular church attendance--I grew up going to church every time the doors were open, and the importance of gathering with fellow believers is deeply instilled in me. I have worshipped inside of humble country churches and large, extravagant sanctuaries and other points in between, and have experienced many wonderfully uplifting, convicting and challenging worship sessions inside.

But there is something special to me about worshipping beyond the four walls of a church building. One of the ways I most see God's handiwork is through nature, so it's no surprise that some of my favorite worship experiences have taken place outside. I remember several years ago traveling to Disney World for a work conference. We arrived on Saturday but my conference didn't begin until Monday, so my co-workers and I spent Sunday at Animal Kingdom. My favorite ride was the animal safari ride, which we rode first thing that morning. As we rode through the park and saw lions, giraffes and other exotic creatures up close and personal, the song "This Is My Father's World" ran through my mind. I celebrated seeing these beautiful animals that God had created, animals that I didn't normally get to see during a worship service. That day remains one of my most beloved worship experiences.

One of my favorite places of worship is at the beach. Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting on a hotel balcony at the beach on Sunday morning, sipping coffee and reading my Bible and watching the waves crash upon the shore. There is something calming while also invigorating about being at the beach, smelling the salt air, feeling the fresh breezes wash over me and hearing the pounding of the surf. I remember a singles retreat in Panama City many years ago, when we had a beachside communion service just after midnight Sunday morning. There was something so special about sharing in the Lord's Supper together while sticking our toes in the sand and seeing the stars overhead.

While I'm certainly grateful for the amenities that a church building offers (heat and air conditioning for one thing, indoor plumbing for another), I think that having occasion to take my worship to the great outdoors will always be special to me. How about you--what are your favorite worship experiences?


That Girl said...

I'm tellin' ya - God lives at the beach! He lives out loud there! I'm looking forward to worshipping him there next week! I bet he's looking forward to me meeting him there, too!

Lisa said...

Lucky you, getting to go to the beach next week--I'm sure it will be a meaningful time of worship for you.

Tara said...

I agree that we are told to collectively worship as a body in the Bible, but I think of how many more times the Scriptures refer to our personal worship time. We love meeting with our church family several times each week for time together, but I cannot negate the time that I spend in situations alone with God and nature.

When staying at the lake we used to hurry up and rush to get to a church 40 minutes away feeling frazzled by the time we got there. We now sit and enjoy the beauty of the lake while singing, partaking in the Lord's supper, and reading the Lord's Word as a small group. It is much less harried and gives the chance to slow down and really grasp what God has given us!

Donna G said...

I believe more and more that our assembly time is not meant to be primarily for worship, it is suppose to be a time of encouragement and edification. Where we can go out and worship and serve the rest of the week. True worship is not about a "place" but about our hearts...being tuned to him.

And yes!! He is always so easy to plug into at the beach.....and I for one think it is because we lead a simple uncluttered life for that week at the beach...we take time to see God.