I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.

Donald Miller

I’ve a confession. I don’t connect with God by singing to Him. Not at all.

I know I’m nearly alone in this but it’s true. I was finally able to admit this recently when I attended a church service that had, perhaps, the most talented worship team I’ve ever heard. I loved the music. But I loved it more for the music than the worship. As far as connecting with God goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.

I used to feel guilty about this but to be honest, I experience an intimacy with God I consider strong and healthy.

It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of sermons I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him. So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.

*Photo Credit: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

I’m fine with this, though. I’ve studied psychology and education reform long enough to know a traditional lecture isn’t for everybody. There’s an entire demographic of people who have to learn by doing, not by hearing. So you can lecture to them all day and they’re simply not going to get it.

Research suggest there are three learning styles, auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (doing) and I’m a kinesthetic learner. Of course churches have all kinds of ways for you to engage God including many kinesthetic opportunities including mission trips and so forth, but if you want to attend a “service” every Sunday, you best be an auditory learner. There’s not much out there for kinesthetic or visual learners.

Interestingly, I learn a great deal by teaching, which is interesting to me.

I learn by doing the very thing I don’t learn by hearing! My guess is because teaching is a kinesthetic discipline rather than an auditory discipline. But that’s a side note. Here’s the real question:

How do I find intimacy with God if not through a traditional church model?

The answer came to me recently and it was a freeing revelation. I connect with God by working. I literally feel an intimacy with God when I build my company. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe God gave me my mission and my team and I feel closest to him when I’ve got my hand on the plow. It’s thrilling and I couldn’t be more grateful he’s given me an outlet through which I can both serve and connect with him.

My friend Bob Goff says when we study somebody without getting to know them, it’s called stalking. Bob says Jesus is getting creeped out that we keep stalking him. He’d like us to bond with him in the doing.

So, do I attend church? Not often, to be honest.

Like I said, it’s not how I learn.

But I also believe the church is all around us, not to be confined by a specific tribe. (tweet this)

I’m fine with where I’ve landed and finally experiencing some forward momentum in my faith. I worship God every day through my work. It’s a blast.

So are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner? And if visual or kinesthetic, how do you connect with God?

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • dmoneytrue

    I am running into the same problem and thank you for this article. I too seem to connect to the Lord by serving him and I’m finding church is not much more than a Salvation Christainity 101 type of gospel. it has gotten so bad that I am turning to YouTube to get the deeper meaning of the gospel. I kinda had the revelation tonight if I’m going to go to a Salvation type of church I need to be serving in it or go find another church where discipleship is mixed with salvation Christianity.

  • Carri

    After reading this I came away with a few thoughts: Worship songs in
    today’s Church are so shallow and repetitive, it’s no wonder why
    Christians can’t worship in Church. The Heart cannot rejoice in what
    the mind cannot comprehend.Or the mind will tune out when it’s not given any thing worth pondering. Songs today are all about “US”. Man centered and subjective. We’ve lost the art of singing objective truth songs. But there are great theologically rich worship songs out there! Worship leaders have to search for them (they usually are not the popular ones being sung) But they DO stir the heart to worship. Only truth can stir our hearts.

    Secondly: Many men in pulpits today do not belong there. There is an evident lack of the teaching gift and once again, it’s no wonder why Christians are bored at Church. My advice is to find a strong Bible teaching church that also values theology in their worship in song.

    Thirdly: Church is NOT all about us. We are not to be consumers
    but givers. The scriptures tell us to NOT forsake the assembling of the
    saints for good reason. We each have a purpose within the local church
    and we unconsciously further the Kingdom of God when we regularly attend church. There’s something powerful in the unity of numbers as we corporately gather with other like minded believers. We need to base all of our behavior on what the Bible says not on what we feel.

  • Samantha Butler

    Hey, Donald. My name is Samantha and I’m not replying to this post for any reason but to engage in dialogue, and because I believe dialogue is crucial to the Christian community. This is not a rant, I promise!

    That said, I am a little unsettled with the conclusion you come to in your article. Your personal choice to not attend church is up to you, but I’m not sold on the route you took to get there and I feel it might be detrimental to other people that fill the same blanks in as you. People like me!

    The reason is, my husband and I are kinaesthetic learners, too. In University, I had to bring pipe cleaners (or Facebook games) with me in order to survive through a lecture: I needed to be “doing” so what they were saying would soak in and I wouldn’t flunk out.

    And like you, we’re business people, too. We run a company and we feel like God connects with us and through us when we do our business with our clients. It’s exhilarating. We’re blessed to have that. I’d even venture to say that we get a strong sense of community from our business – even though it’s a staff of 2, we meet thousands of people along the way.

    But. Although we get more out of the “doing” (whether inside or outside a church context) than the listening or the singing, we still believe that it is crucial to the lifeblood of Christianity as a whole – and more importantly, of our personal faiths and to our family – to be intensely connected in a church. So much so that when we skip a Sunday, people call to see where we were at. The kind of connected that scares introverts like me but holds me to accountability when things start to slip, or that catches me when I fall.

    From my understanding, the Bible is very clear that intentional community is important. And I know, you mention that you do receive community outside of the church building. But I think that having friends that love and serve Jesus, while important, is different than having a weekly intentional gathering – even if it’s just a weekly intentional gathering near a hole in the ground in sub saharan Africa, or in my church’s case, in an old movie theatre in rural Ontario. Friends that love and serve Jesus can come and go, and they aren’t held to any standard that says they will always be there no matter what, in the way an intentional church community is. Friends can be accidental, not intentional; they can be cliquey and closed off; and they may not be open to inviting new people in, and to me that’s where the issue lies.

    Hebrews 10:25 encourages people to “not neglect to meet together” and 1 Timothy 4:13 tells the church to be devoted to the public reading of scripture and to preaching and teaching. If you believe that the Bible is Holy-Spirit inspired, then you should believe God wants us to meet together and to be committed to public reading, preaching and teaching – not to see ourselves as exempt from it because it doesn’t fit with our primary learning styles. You say that if you want to go to a traditional service, “you best be an auditory learner”. But if I want to be a kinaesthetic do-er of the word (James 1:22), I need to follow through with what the rest of scripture tells us, which is to find intentional community that’s devoted to public reading and teaching of scripture. The things I “do” can support my church, my community and my city – and I can be more effective in doing them when working alongside a larger body.

    If the group of community you’re friends with does not neglect to meet together and read scripture publicly and then explain it, then you have a church.

    And one last point. This one’s from my husband. He noticed that your revelation was that you connect with God when you work – which we all agree is an incredible feeling. But what he thinks is that because you are so blessed to connect with God in this way every weekday, you really have something special to offer a church community on the weekend. There are so many people who only connect on Sundays, something we all agree is problematic. You are in a unique position to get to know and show a community of people how fun God can be in the every day. Even if you can’t remember the sermon afterwards, even if the music is only okay, you have a unique opportunity to know people intimately and show them what God shows you. This is bigger and more valuable than having a blog or writing great books. It’s biblical.

    My pastor Jeremy is currently writing a series called Why We Gather and he mentions this blog post in his series. You can read them here (http://www.jeremylittle.org) – when I read your name I thought that he might have misquoted or misunderstood your take on church gathering because from my understanding, Blue Like Jazz is a call to community. So here I am, responding to you and I hope you respond back! Let’s dialogue.

  • David Mason

    Hebrews 10:25 says to not neglect the meeting of the body, and the preceding verse says to stir one another to good deeds. We are also told to bear one another’s burdens, greet each other with love, worship and eat together, and pray for one another. Being a Christian is being a part of God’s family and being a member of Christ’s body. Walking with God is a group effort.

  • Ric Lippmann

    Donald, I wish I could meet you, and hang out with you. I love this. 21st century churchianity is so stuck in a rut, that everything revolves around people attending finely tuned and choreographed performances and motivational talk services…even the health of peoples connection to God is judged and assessed by how many services they attend, how much money they give, and how many “ministries” the are invested in.

    What a ridiculous unbiblical concept.

    Thankyou for your honest and transparent sharing.

    Never mind all the critique – most of them are, simply put, stuck in a rut!

    Of course there is a place for a community of believers to meet and fellowship and share and love and live, together. You never criticised that.

  • Peter Walters

    Donald while I do understand your point I hope you do find a place to plug in because I am sure you have gifts that would be a blessing to many in a local church and on the other end you would also benefit from the gifts of others.

  • jaaigner

    Singing in a corporate worship service isn’t about connecting to God personally, it’s about being the church and responding together to God’s self-revelation. The “worship industry,” which is big, big business, makes a huge amount of money off of persuading everyone that worship is about cuddling up in god’s soft, roomy lap and telling him how nice he is and how comfortable he makes you feel.

    There’s nothing wrong with being emotionally stirred during sung responses in church, but there’s nothing wrong with not, either. The point is the discipline of participating and responding together.

    Other than that, I’m with you. The stuff most churches call “worship” today is just bizarre.

    http://www.theologyinworship.com

  • VOICEOFREASON

    I can relate to this…. Although sometimes music can inspire a spiritual shift that facilitates worship, I feel closer to God walking in the woods or surfing most of the time. Well written thanks for sharing.