Worship! What a great experience!!
But, in addition this may be one of the church’s most explosive topics to date. Elmer Towns is famous for saying, “The first murder in the bible took place over forms of worship (Genesis 4:1-16)” (personal conversation cited in my book, Growth by Accident, Death by Planning, Abingdon Press).
In my seminary courses, I regularly ask my students to share their thoughts on worship “hits” and “misses.” In my book Growth by Accident, Death by Planning I explain that “worship misses” are some of the most far-reaching missteps churches will make. From moving worship times around capriciously, blending different genres to poor effect, proud posing on the stage, etc. it often seems the purpose of worship to usher congregants into an encounter with God is undermined.
To help alleviate worship “misses” I ask my students to pick one (1) of the two following questions to answer.
1.) Relate a story explaining how a worship celebration (either in the planning or execution) was handled poorly. Tell us what happened, why it happened (in your mind), and what should have been done differently.
2.) Or, relate a story about how a worship celebration (either the planning of it or in its execution) was handled well. Then tell us what was (in your mind) the cause of the positive outcome, and what all churches could learn from this story.
Try this yourself and send me your experiences. Some of my students’ responses are below (anonymously);
Subject: Re: Worship Hits and Misses by Student A
The worship “mis-step” I participated in occurred last September on Labor Day weekend – unfortunately we had quite a few guests that Sunday. The worship leader and his team were not prepared for what was about to unfold. The service began with a congregational singing of the hymn “Solid Rock”. Verse 1 went well, but the power point slides for verse 2 never showed. The worship leader paused and looked to the back for help. The technician who tried valiantly to find the slides quickly realized it would take a few moments so he yelled to the congregation: “just hum the tune while I look for the slides” and the worship leader went along with hit. Two verses of humming was all the pastor could take and he finally stood and interrupted the rendition. The pastor then tried to use a video clip to visualize a point of his sermon, but the video clip wouldn’t play. After again several long pauses and attempts, the pastor relayed verbally “what you would have seen if the video worked….” The video eventually did play but after he had relayed it verbally – and he told the technician to just forget it. The service ended with the pastor asking the worship leader to close in prayer. He was clearly scattered by that point and had a difficult time focusing. The prayer went on and on and on with many long, silent pauses as he was trying to bring reverence back into a tough situation. People began to sit down and collect their belongings. He finally said “Amen” to bring the service to a close after four “Amens” were heard from various points throughout the audience. Unfortunately, the service created memories of laughter and joking rather than reverence and awe.
What could have been done? Technical difficulties arise and this was one time we should have scrapped technology and opened a hymnal (which we happen to have). I’m sure the pastor in retrospect wished he had taken control of the service, skipped the video and closed himself. Because everyone was going to make a joke about the “humming” and long pauses, the pastor or worship leader could have made the joke themselves – making light of our weak human efforts – and then brought it around to close on an up beat.
Bob W – Lesson: Be careful you do’t lean too much on technology, or get frustrated when it goes awry.
Subject: Re: Worship Hits and Misses by Student B
This reply is not of a serious nature. I figure everybody might need a laugh. We were having candlelight service one Christmas Eve and one of our deacons had an “on fire experience”. This gentlemen was a practical joker but the joke was on him. After tiring of the service, which he was good at, he leaned back against the wall . The next thing Roy had caught his leisure suit on fire with one of the candles in the window. It did cause quite a disruption in the service but everyone got a good laugh at Roy having so much spirit he was literally on fire.