Questioning Worship

By Tom Lawson

For many, worship is all about answers. Big answers. Little answers. Even ordinary answers. 

“Where can I find meaning for my life?”

“Where can I find a place to belong and be loved?”

“Where can I go when I’m broken and empty and alone?”

For many, worship is all about answers.

Children like answers.

“What is that?”

“Are we there yet?”

“Is it gonna hurt?”

Sometimes college students like answers. “Listen, I understand the three views you presented in class, but which one is the right one? Which one will be on the test? Which one am I supposed to believe?”

Children go to worship mostly to find answers.



But, in the Bible, worship often ends with something closer to a question than an answer.

“Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”

“Will you leave everything and follow me?”

A voice called, “Cry out.” And I answered, “What shall I cry out?”

I like answers because I can grab them, hold them, label them, and then wrap them up in shiny ribbons and set them in neat rows on my shelf. And, if I ever need them again, I just reach up and <pop> there’s the answer.

Questions, on the other hand, are untidy things. They refuse to squeeze into my little boxes and keep kicking off their ribbons. They hang on my clothes and stick to my jacket. They trail behind me, following me home, and snuggle up next to me in those twilight moments between sleep and waking.

“Son of dust, what now will you do?”

“You who teach others, do you teach yourselves?”

Ah, to be honest, sir, I don’t know. I just came here looking for a few good answers. And, don’t get me wrong, I got some really good ones, too. Not the made-up answers most people are peddling these days. But then you have to go and muddy the waters with these questions. And, you know how it is with questions, one kind of leads to another.

“So, just who was neighbor to that poor beaten man on the road to Jericho?”

Which, of course, takes a few trips around on a couple of trains of thought and ends up something more like, “Should I have stopped to help that kid with the flat tire over on Third Street?”



Like I said, these pesky things hang on you worse than cat hairs on a wool suit.

Answers focus mostly on what I want to get out of worship. Questions prod me more about what I should be giving to worship. Answers usually make me feel better, even if they don’t change anything. Questions sometimes make me feel worse, but can lead to fresh insights and changed lives.

How was worship today?

Sometimes, I want to say, “I’m just not sure, yet. Give me some time to muddle over a question I seem to have picked up in there.”




Tom Lawson teaches at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri.

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