Some Thoughts on Worship Atmosphere

Standard

On my Sunday off I had a unique opportunity to worship in another church. I’d like to comment about their atmosphere for worship. It seems that worship today has become so performance oriented. I know that worship is performance for God, yet it seems we on the stage are performing for the folks in the pews. Even though we on the stage are trying to worshiping God ourselves, I believe the folks in the pew often feel like its those on the stage performing for them. We are expected to “perform” in a certain way, with a degree of proficiency, with a degree of professionalism. I know we are supposed to do our best for God’s glory, yet I feel this type of atmosphere is not conducive to an atmosphere of worship.

At Christ Church, the atmosphere was different. It was non-performance. It was non-professional. I’m not being critical. This is a positive comment. Let me explain.

Someone put together an order of worship. Songs were chosen. Charts were provided for the worship team I sang with, and I think we were following the keyboardist. At least I was. We gathered before the service, went through most of the songs one time, took a few minutes break, then started the service.
We didn’t rehearse to get all the right notes. We didn’t worry about not having a bass player or a drummer. We just gathered who was there and worshiped. We weren’t on a stage, weren’t even in the center. We stood off to one side of the platform, on the same level as the congregation, and just worshiped. No one stood front and center leading worship. No one had to encourage the congregation to sing along. There was no anthem or solo. It was just a bunch of folks gathering to worship God together. The atmosphere was conducive to worship.

I’ve been thinking of ways to create this atmosphere in my church. Its going to be challenge. There is a big, elevated platform (stage). I’ve always lead from the front of the stage, sometimes from a keyboard, sometimes without a pulpit. I try to lead the congregation with gestures, encouraging words and a loud voice. (God gave me a big voice, and I like using it.) I would really like to create an atmosphere for worship that is not perceived as performance for anyone but God. I want to create an atmosphere where everyone can worship God, not just those on the stage.

I just hope our folks will realize that if I’m doing something new and different, I’m trying to lead us all in worship of Almighty God. I’m not just trying to be different for the sake of being different. We humans so easily get into ruts. The worship of God is one thing that should never be “rutualistic.” You can’t get out of a rut without changing direction.

Let’s all worship God!

Brad

My Sunday Off

Standard

Every worship leader needs to take some Sundays off once in a while. I don’t think I’ve had one for more than a year. So I took a Sunday off from my church, drove to a neighboring city and found another church to just worship from the pew.

I went to Christ Church in Midland, Texas. I did not plan to go there, but at about 10:30, which I thought was about the time a service started, I saw a sign that said “Christ Church, 3 blocks” with an arrow. I turned and 3 blocks later, pulled into the lot.

It’s not often that I get to experience being a first time visitor. I was promptly greeted, offered coffee and donuts, visited a view minutes with Greg, and was warmly greeted by several friendly folks.

It turned out that the next service (they have 3) didn’t start ’til 11:25, so I decided to just go wait quietly in the sanctuary for the service to start. Laurie, from the praise team greeted me and asked me if I sing. I said yes and was promptly invited to join them. They were just about to go through the songs for the service.

So much for a Sunday off, right? Wrong. It was great. The service was small, about 60 worshipers in this service. This was their “contemporary” service. I believe it meant that they used guitars, keyboards and praise team to lead the music, instead of a piano and a choir. I believe it was a bit less formal. (I’m sorry I missed the earlier, more formal service.)

Christ Church is an Anglican church. They use the Liturgy, so they were celebrating Trinity Sunday. There were some liturgical elements to the service, but the atmosphere was relaxed and unintimidating. The service included singing, praise, prayer, scripture reading, sermon, offering, confession, communion and blessing. We sang the Doxology after the offering and sang the Lord’s Prayer. Most of the music was familiar. Adequate instruction was in the church brochure. Allen also helped me know what to do. I believe just about anyone could have easily joined in the worship. The worship of God was definitely the purpose for being there. It was a blessing to worship with these brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’d love to have an opportunity to worship with this wonderful congregation again, but my job will make it very unlikely. (I wonder if I could make the early service some time and get back to my church on time? I do gain an hour from the time change.) It was refreshing to see how other Christians worship. It was very different than what is expected in most Baptist congregations. Yet I truly believe God was glorified by our worship. I know I worshiped. It was great.

Folks of Christ Church, Midland, thank you. It was a blessed day! May God continue to bless you as you build His kingdom in your neighborhood.

God Bless!

Brad

Handbells are a hit with me!

Standard

I just want to thank our handbell choir for their dedication and hard work. You played marvelously last night at our end of the season program. Almost 40 minutes of music! And you could have played more! You are to be commended. Not many handbell choirs can manage more than 1 or 2 songs in one day. Thank you, and I hope we can pick up next fall right where we left off!

Working with our handbell choir is one of the really fun things about my job. Handbells are a wonderful way to praise the Lord! Thanks!

Brad

Talking about Worship

Standard

How do we talk about worship? I’m a worship leader, so folks often encourage me for the job I’ve done leading a worship service. I always appreciate kind words. I even appreciate kind criticism. I don’t want to be critical of anything said, but I when I hear comments about a worship service, I realize we don’t really know how to talk about worship. Here’s what I hear:

“I enjoyed that song.”
“The music was great today.”
“I love it when ‘so and so’ sings.”
“I love it when we do that.”

I used to know a fella that would always say “good program today.” I never thought of a worship service as a program. These comments sound like we’ve just attended some entertainment venue: a concert, a movie or a show. And why not? That’s what we know. But worship should be different. Worship is not done for our entertainment. It’s done for God’s glory. We just don’t know how to talk about worship.

I guess we just use language we know, or perhaps we are such good consumers that even when we worship God, our only comments are about what the worship did for us. How did it effect me? What did I get out of worship? If worship is supposed to about what we do for God, then why are our comments about what worship did for us?

I don’t really know what would be appropriate. Would comments like these be more appropriate?

“I really connected with God today.”
“You really helped me express my love for God today.”
“God touched me today.”
“The worship today really got me to see who God is.”
“God was glorified today.”
“You really helped me worship today.”

Well, I just don’t know the best words to use. “Thank You” is always most appreciated. I do, however, wonder what God’s comments would be. I’m afraid they would be something like “You didn’t give me your all today.” “I know you tried to worship, but the sin in your heart is all I saw today.” or “You held back today. Why don’t you let go and let me take care of you?”

What do you think? What does He think? Inquiring minds want to know.

Brad

Some thoughts about church

Standard

I had a thought the other day. What if the only thing folks came to church for was to be in God’s presence and give Him glory? What if we went to church without any expectation of what we were going to get, but totally committed to what we had to give? What if the number one consumer in worship was God, and not us?

I believe there are Christians who desire this. But in many churches, I believe there are so many who are there for other reasons. We desire some sort of expectation. We expect a certain style of music. We hope to hear our favorite song, or at least songs we like. Some go out of duty. Some go out of habit. Some go for a certain feeling or emotion. Some go because they feel guilty about something. Some go because others expect them to go. Some go for their friends and fellowship.

So many reasons, and none seem bad. But every Christian needs to examine their motive for going to church. First and foremost, we are there for God’s pleasure, not our own. Worship is all about God. We should expect nothing. What do we deserve? We should passionately, whole-heartedly give God the glory He deserves.

Maybe if we would focus intensely and exclusively on God, we won’t find anything to gripe and complain about.

Have a great day!

Brad