I want to get this out of the way before I say anything else.
Before I was a full time youth minister, I preached for a small congregation in the Pacific Northwest. I worked alongside one of the most thoughtful ministers, worship leaders, and Christian men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. On a weekly basis, we could be found meeting and discussing plans for worship services that were still far down the road. Discussion could last for hours about the order of worship, song choice, scripture reading(s), message, illustrations and a million other little details. We tried hard to make sure that every service was thoughtfully considered with the intention of creating a good experience. I think the work we did was important. I think all services should be prepared thoughtfully and with consideration for wether or not it allows the participants of the service to express their appreciation and love to God. Now that we’ve established that:
I read a lot of blogs about a wide topics. Theology and/or ministry is towards the top of that list. As a result, I run into the ongoing debate about the “worship experience”. Depending on the background of the writer a debate on worship experience can range from the lighting of the auditorium to the benefits of hymnals over projectors. I’ve read it all. The debater will usually suggest that 1) there is something wrong with worship services as they exist now 2) people are looking for x, y, or z in worship services 3) as long as the Church fails to change x, y, or z about their worship services, the Church will die. I believe this line of thinking is dangerous. I plan to do three posts on this topic over the next few days. Lets begin with point one.
There Is Something Wrong With Our Worship
You know how that one guy sings off key every time your Church does that one worship song? Remember how much better the preacher before this one’s sermon slides were? How about that spelling mistake in the scripture on the screen? Wasn’t last week’s service so much better because so-and-so didn’t lead a closing prayer that rivaled a congressional filibuster? Did the communion bread taste “off” to you this week?
We’ve all heard these comments before. All of us. If you are a part of the Church and you’re old enough to have even most of your adult teeth, you’ve heard these things. Most likely you’ve uttered words like them before. It’s a universal thing, we all notice when something goes wrong or is different. We all know when the person leading worship gets the lyrics to our favorite song wrong.
No matter how well thought out, intentional, and prepared a service may be, you can count on one thing: people will make mistakes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but the Church is comprised of people. People make mistakes. I can’t tell you how often I’ve planned a lesson for weeks only to get to the delivery and botch it because I skipped an important point. A point in my notes. A point I underlined. A point I knew I needed to make, but for one reason or other it just didn’t happen.
If you are looking for a worship service without flaws, a worship service in which everyone executes their duties with erudition, a worship service with perfectly seemless flow from one moment to the next, you will always be disappointed. Before we can venture any further into a discussion of worship, lets just cement this idea in our heads: if you are looking for a worship service that has the polish of a multi-million dollar production, and anything less will draw you out of your holy communion with the most high, you’re looking for a performance.
Worship will never be flawless. Worship services sometimes falter and stumble because of a bad projector bulb or someone getting larengitis. But God does some amazing things through and because of (not in-spite of) our stumblings.
Tomorrow we’ll be looking at point 2: People Are Looking For What We Don’t Have.