As a church leader, there can be, at times, an overwhelming sense of pressure for your worship service to be awesome and really, they should be. But what makes it awesome? For many church leaders, they feel that the service would be absolutely amazing if they only had a bigger budget, bigger speakers, bigger lights etc. The reality is, you can have all that stuff and still not be an inspiring worship service. You would just be another show. Now, to clarify, that doesn’t mean that if you have lots of technology, lights, smoke etc, that you are just a show. There are many churches all over the world that have inspiring worship times that have a modern expression with all that stuff. However, as we will see today, the key elements making it inspiring are not what you think.
What do you think of when I say the word tradition? For some, this is an ugly, sinful word that only quenches the fresh move of the Holy Spirit. For others, it is a beautiful word that could bring forth memories of times past when they encountered Gods presence and were refreshed in their soul. So, what’s the difference? I would say it comes down to two key tests for the traditions in our services. One, is it biblical? I don’t mean you got out the spiritual crowbar to twist a scripture to mean what you want it to mean but is it clearly a truth in the Bible? Number two, is it life giving? We cannot control the choices people make within their own heart to either allow God to minister to them or not but we can make it easier. This is directly connected to how we apply the principle proven true by the first test question. For example, Jesus spoke that as often as we meet together we are to take communion, remembering his body broken and blood shed for us. Now, this one easily passes the test of being scriptural. However, we could administer this in a way that is not refreshing and life giving to our people. Are we just checking a spiritual box or are we giving time for people to genuinely connect with the Lord? The traditions we have must always be connected to our values. For example, at the where I am a part of the eldership team, we have an open mic available for those who feel led by the Lord to share a testimony or encouragement during worship time. We valued the body ministering to the body and people feeling free to exercise their gifting’s, so we now have a tradition that is life-giving. We have had over the year’s great testimonies of times where someone shared a word from the mic and it spoke directly to someone’s situation in the audience that only the Lord could know. There have also been times where it wasn’t so good but those have been few and will be saved for another blog. 🙂 At the end of the day, the church exists for God and for people. We should value both being welcomed in our services. I would encourage you to look at what you do during your service and ask the Lord is this biblical and is this life giving to the people you lead?
In Christian Schwartz’s book, “Color your world with Natural Church Development” he mentions an African Pastor he had connected with. This pastor had led his church through the NCD Survey and it had shown that they were low in the inspiring worship service column. So, in the time since the survey had been done they had invested allot of time, energy, and resources into their music ministry. Unfortunately, the results were still the same after all this work. Why? Well, it became clear that they were just trying to copy the style of some larger model churches with thousands of people in them. What was amazing is when this was revealed they actually scaled back the amount of effort in that ministry making it more simple and relevant to their context and grew substantially in this area on their next survey. They grew 21 points in “Inspiring Worship Service”. A really cool point as well was that they also grew 18 points in “Need Orientated Evangelism”. I say all that to say this when it comes to the aspect of praise and worship in our services there are is countless models and styles but only one principle. The principle is that the Lord is the focus of it all. How that is expressed can be different and as we saw from that story sometimes it has to be. The church should be, in some ways, in the time and culture in which it is present. You may say, “that sounds like seeker-sensitive stuff.” No actually, it’s wisdom. If you are speaking Chinese to me I have no idea what you are saying. Why? Because I don’t speak Chinese. If someone comes into our church service who is unchurched they are not going to connect with a style that is not relevant to them. You are not seeker-sensitve, in the negative sense, if you are willing to change method. It’s only when you start to change principle in order to keep people around. That it is dangerous. If we are keeping the exultation of the risen Son of God, Jesus Christ, at center stage than its fair game.
When it comes to teaching in our services, just like the praise portion we discussed, there is a huge difference between principle and model or style. It’s not up for debate whether or not we teach the scriptures. Not is non-negotiable. However, when it comes to style there is a huge amount of freedom. Whether you want to use video, drama, or otherwise you have a great opportunity to teach biblical truth in a relevant and applicable way. I want to make this clear teaching is not a boring version of preaching. Teaching can be exciting relevant and life transforming if it connects with the people you are ministering to. It doesn’t matter how many theology degrees you have if the people don’t understand what you’re talking about and see no way to apply it. This is where we as leaders can explore different options for the word of God to be released through. At our church, we have recently taped testimonies of people’s stories, to be played in the message, that would connect with the topic. For example, we had a series on restoration in which people openly shared about their pain in which God had restored in their life. It was a powerful time because within it all was the revealing of the truth of who Jesus is without having to try and prove it true. It was already proving true because of the life declaring it. There is a fine line in preaching, where you need to preach to where people are but still move them along to where they need to be. If we only preach to where they need to be people can easily get stuck and overwhelmed never seeing how they could ever make a change and grow in God. It’s one thing to be a traveling minister and speaking once then jump on a plane or something, not having to help people navigate the turn of change. It’s a completely different thing to be in the pulpit with the same people week by week and gently but firmly guide them into the character of Christ. This is where we need the Lord to give us insight in how we can inspire our people and reach our community. We have had to adjust something is our congregation where it came to the allotment of time for preaching. An older friend of mine who pastored for longer than I have been alive once said, “you need to be brief, be brilliant and be gone.” We as an eldership decided that we needed to increase our potency in teaching while not taking as long to do it. It’s a challenging reality to see that all the problems in people’s lives are not going to be solved in one sermon. What you need to do is be faithful to what the Lord has called you to speak and let Him handle how it plays out in a person’s life. If you do what you can do, He will do what you can’t do.
In closing, I want to say all three of these areas are worth asking some hard questions about. It is of eternal importance. Are your traditions biblical and life-giving? Is Jesus the center of your praise or is your style preference? Are you being relevant to the scriptural truth to speak into people’s everyday lives? Are you using your time effectively to clearly make your point known without losing people? I believe that as we turn to the Lord and ask for His help He is more than able to do so.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Eph 3:20,21