Think about it — the worship service takes up a big bulk of of our Sunday morning. If a typical morning service lasts an hour, probably 20 minutes of that will be devoted to singing, scripture and prayer time. Ten minutes may be devoted to Communion. 20 -25 minutes will be devoted to sermon time. 5 minutes will be devoted to announcements. This post is to discuss the thoughts of chapter 3 of the book 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing” by Geoff Surratt.
I could very easily rant about this one for a very long time. Worship in song and scripture and prayer has always been a very important thing to me. I remember sitting in chapel at Friendship Christian School, when no one else would sing, I would be singing. I was the go to worship leader for our youth group at Maple Hill. On mission trips, if you volunteer one time to lead songs, you’re stuck with it.
At three of the four churches I have worked for now, I have been a worship minister. I may not be the best singer in the world, but I feel like I have a talent for putting together a worship service effectively. I started doing this when I was a child, singing and performing in front of others. I used to think that if you had a desire, and you had a decent voice, you could lead worship. I also used to think that if you just had a good voice, you could be a song leader. I’ve learned that this is simply not the case.
I prefer the phrase “leading worship” or “worship leader” over “leading singing” or “song leader”. When I put together a service, its much more than just songs. Its scriptures and prayers and songs all combined.
For one to just randomly pick out songs and throw them into an order of worship is just not right in my opinion. There needs to be purpose. Verses of songs need to connect together. Scriptures should tie in. It should take the worshiper to a place where they can let the Spirit of God overflow out of them, and not just sing a few songs that sound nice.
Too many leaders just pick out a few songs that go with an agenda, such as make sure you pick out an invitation song that tugs at your hear, lead a song with the same key word as the sermon in the title before the sermon, and make sure the closing song is peppy. Be sure the Communion song makes you focus on the death of Christ.
I don’t subscribe to that theory.
Worship should flow from one end to the other. It should encapsulate the entirety of heart and mind. We should have a purpose and direction with our worship. If the theme of the day refers to all older and slower songs, then use those. If the theme of the day is upbeat and talks about new ideas, maybe new songs with a fresh take on things are the prescription.
I talked about this before about trying to balance new songs and old songs in a worship service. Ultimately, if there is no heart or dedication behind the service, none of it matters. A worship leader can not expect the members of the church to really get into their worship when the worship leader himself has not even gone over the songs.
This topic also encompasses a right or wrong mentality of whether we can clap or not, whether we can use instruments or not, whether we can have a praise team or not, etc, etc. I grow so weary of the church majoring in minor issues over whether these things are doable, acceptable, or sinful. Some people act as if when you lead a new song that you may as well go ahead and sign up the whole church for failure. If a child, or even an adult, claps during a song, there are people who will literally stop their own worship, and enter into the sin of judging. If a person feels the need to raise their hands to God, whether all the way or just out in front of their own personal space, other people may think they are trying to show off.
When a congregation asks people not to do these things, they are guilty of telling people how to worship God, which I don’t feel is out place. Yes God said to worship in truth, but before that he said to worship in Spirit. We are called to make a joyful noise to the Lord. David danced before out God in a time of worship. Teenagers are dropping out of church after high school in record numbers, and all some churches care about is making sure they don’t clap on their way out.
So what would happen if all worshiped in spirit and truth. What would happen to our worship if we removed the stigmas placed on songs we don’t like, people we don’t like leading the worship, time restrictions we put on the service, or even the physical acts of worship we can participate in?
I’ll never forget being in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with my good friend Jason. We were conducting a preacher’s seminar there. Neither of us spoke the Haitian Creole, which is a blend of French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and some African languages. People had traveled from all over Haiti to be there. Wives sat in the back, husbands sat in the front. The building was reminiscent of a covered shelter at a state park. The floor was part concrete, part packed down dirt. There were primitive pews and broken chairs crammed into this small worship space, that could not have been more than about 1800-2000 square feet. Inside, there were about 200-250 people packed tightly. Jason and I, getting rather claustrophobic, but also not understanding what was going on, decided to step out the front door and just listen.
The singing that night was mind-blowing. Never had I experienced such a euphoric worship service. There was swaying, dancing, clapping, foot stomping, hand raising, but most important – joy and emotion. There wasn’t one person who refrained from giving themselves completely over to God in that worship service. There came a time when everyone was to pray. I have to admit, at first it was a bit scary. Everyone started talking, with their eyes closed and hands raised. We asked our translator what was going on, and found out they had asked everyone to pray to God on their own. That experience was phenomenal. Men and women, on their knees with tears streaming down their faces, praying out loud to God, all at the same time. People were even coming in off the street to experience this.
I had a moment that night as well. I realized that I would never experience that. Not in that way. Its just not how we do things here.
When we have someone who just gets up and picks a few numbers out of the song book, and someone who just gets up to pray, and someone to ask God to help us remember the sacrifice of Jesus during communion, and we do this over and over and over and over again, I gotta tell you, it gets old. And if our heart never changes or grows, and if our heart is never filled while do this, I’m afraid it gets old to God as well.
There’s a great blog entitled “Upgrading a Church of Christ Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar” that you can read. I find it to be pretty descriptive about how things are in our brotherhood. I hope all of you will understand that it is up the entire congregation to make the most of your worship service.
I have many many more thoughts on this, but I will stop for now. I welcome any and all comments.