First Presbyterian Church Fort Dodge


Austin's Update 4/18

Posted by Austin Hill on

Have you ever felt like you’ve just been going through the motions, like you were simply doing what was expected of you? I have to be honest; sometimes worship feels that way. Maybe you’ve heard somebody say something like “I just didn’t get anything out of worship today.”

In recent years, I’ve reflected at some length about the question, “Why do we participate in a local church?” or more specifically, “Why do we go to a Sunday morning worship service?”

These questions have nagged at me more recently as I’ve reflected on church statistics. Many of you have heard me point out that in 1998, our average worship attendance was around 440 while more recently it’s been in the high 200’s. These statistics are peculiar because our membership has remained roughly the same. What I’ve been able to conclude is that Presbyterians in Fort Dodge are attending church less often than 20 years ago.

So back to my questions about worship service attendance, why should one come to church. My preaching is good, but I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not Matt Chandler, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, or Tim Keller. Who needs Austin Hill when anybody can download the best of the best in preaching right to their phone? Similarly, you can listen to the most slickly produced worship music in the world for free with Spotify.

Even the fellowship of Sunday morning can be found in a small group, serving together during some other church event or community activity. So what difference does it make if we go to church 8 times a year instead of 48?

The only answer I can give you for these questions stems from experiences I’ve had during this season of Lent. I recall our Ash Wednesday service. Perhaps more than other years, I decided to emphasize our frailty, our finite nature, and the fact that the present moment is fleeting. I had it all figured out, the sermon written, some different worship elements to incorporate together. But when the service began, and I saw various church members who have truly experienced how finite we are in recent months and years, it broke me. I had to hold back tears while singing hymns in the pulpit while living, breathing examples of faith in God despite our frailty stood before me, worshiping along with me.

Similarly, many of you are aware of the difficulties my extended family has experienced in recent weeks. The height of these difficulties (at least at the time of this writing) came in the days leading up to Holy Week, the busiest time in the life of a pastor. With so much weighing upon my heart, how could I preach a Palm Sunday sermon, or lead a Maundy Thursday service? In both services, the words proclaimed by all of us together, spoke directly to my circumstances, and I again found myself barely able to keep it together.

God met me in these times of corporate worship. Now, do I feel these feelings every week in worship? Certainly not. Is God still present, working in me and in you? Certainly. Is worship about how I feel? Certainly not. Does God still move us and draw us closer to him? Certainly.

Thank you for worshiping with me week after week. Let’s “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as we see the day of our Lord approaching.”



Austin D. Hill