Chapel-Goers and Mongolian Grill

“Did you go to Chapel today?” one friend asked another.

“I didn’t have to—I’ve reached the max,” she replied, relieved at her success and the even more satisfying-sounding fact that she’s one worship moment away from the dorm requirement.

And she’s not alone. A slew of us can relate to the sigh of relief that escapes, uncontrolled, from our hearts as we check our attendance record and realize that our required presence is almost over. A…men. And it’s not that we don’t love God. We’re not necessarily fighting to be freed from Christianity, either. It’s just that we haven’t leaned to fully appreciate this 50-minute block that seems to invade our busy schedule. We may even like many of the experiences we have during that time but the knowledge that we must go or else reap unwanted consequences in the form of fines or reports just gets under our skin.

So those of us who really despise the consequences go ahead and do our time, so to speak. For those of us who are likely worship participants, we hope that people will ask us to participate early in the semester. That way, we’re possibly more likely to enjoy the whole experience and it’ll be harder to fall behind the attendance limit.

So what’s the solution? Don’t require Chapel? Whatever! Let’s be honest folks. I’m not going regularly if it’s not required and most of you aren’t either. Some of you will never go. It doesn’t mean our spiritual walk is a failure but what does it mean?

I’m afraid to throw out suggestions, afraid to point fingers. So I’ll stay away from giving the popular answer that the people in charge need to do a better job and I’ll say this: how about we, the students, be the change we want to see?

I compare it to Sabbath services. I typically don’t enjoy sitting down for a couple of hours on a regular basis—I fall asleep. (Yes, even in class. It’s terrible, I know!) The more involved I am in that service, the better for all of us. The pastor won’t think s/he is boring as they watch my head hit the pew in front of me and I’ll walk away remembering the depth of what I’ve experienced. So it’s really helpful if even if I’m not singing upfront, that I’m asked to be an active participant in an intentional, Christ-centered worship experience. And I challenge myself beforehand to go into worship expecting to give just as I expect to receive. Of course I want to hear good music and a good sermon. Of course I want smooth transitions and friendly ushers. I’ve been raised to believe that all of that is normal. But I can’t put all the pressure on the people in charge. Worship isn’t a TV show. It’s much more like going out to eat at Mongolian Grill. The food is there, the cooks are ready but you’ve got to gather the ingredients. And they’ve got helpful tips but if you just want to try your luck and the end product is a bit too crazy for your taste buds, you can’t sue the restaurant.

So what do you do?

It’s Thursday morning (or some other morning depending on your campus area). You enter with a great appetite coupled with an openness to direction. Whether or not people smile at you or sound “authentic,” and whether or not it’s just as your friend said it would be, you determine to be blessed and be a blessing. You grab that bowl or that Bible and you soak up all the yummy goodness that time will afford. And even though it’s a “forced” encounter, you remind yourself that God is present as has something to show you. It may be new, it may be old. Either way, it’s good stuff. And in the end, you’ll say A…men!

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