Do you remember when drums and keyboards came to church for the first time? I remember the unrest of the saints about how loud it was going to be and how church shouldn't sound like a concert! Look at us now! Over time, we've grown to accept and even expect the best drums and keyboards at every service. The presentation of worship has continued to emerge from a worship service into an experience. What are you experiencing?
As worship has evolved through innovation, what was once a simple service of responsive liturgy, hymns, and the preached Word has now emerged as a full-service production experience with intelligent lighting, broadcast productions, full orchestras, multiple services. "Does it really take all of that?", some ask. Why has worship become so involved? Periodically, studies announce an updated range of attention span that is continually decreasing at an alarming rate. The most recent study was reported by Microsoft at a chart bottoming 8 seconds. This is greatly due to the usage and dependency on smartphones to manage, direct, and focus our lives. Because of this, many worship planners are fighting to win the war against ADCD (Attention Distracted in Church Disorder). Though not clinically diagnosable, you will surely find that 4 out of the 5 members on each row suffer from this phenomena on a weekly basis.
The Sunday morning mission has become, "How to keep the congregation's attention while effectively ministering the Gospel." Unfortunately, all too often the production elements introduced into the environment serve more as a distraction from vertical God-centered relationship and focus us more on the awe of the production itself. The music, lights and screens should function collectively with the liturgy to encourage us toward God! Training and rehearsal should allow musicians and technicians to become comfortable with their tasks in order to experience worship
There's nothing more distracting from worship than the audible crickets heard as the congregation waits patiently while the sound team troubleshoots the feedback squelching during the morning announcements. Because we do ascribe to a consistent method of worship, it would seem like someone would focus on ironing out the kinks from week to week. Have we embraced the age-old "this is how we've always done it" so much that were willing to compromise on the quality of what we offer to God? We must progressively seek to give God the best we have.
This general guide will be helpful in transforming our worship services into experiences. 1) Worship Programming must be relevant and engaging for all ages.
Recently I had an opportunity to engage a room of millennials in a conversation about evangelism with social media. I asked them simply to review for me the content of the preached Word from the previous worship experience. 3 of them responded. There were at least 65 of them in the room. Our goal in planning weekly congregational worship should be to engage the hearts and minds of diverse worshippers in an experience of a lifetime. It is during that brief moment in time that chains are broken, bodies are healed, and deliverance takes place because of the yoke destroying power of God. But if God is not presented in a way that is easily relatable, then have we successfully shared the gospel?
As a preachers kid, I vividly remember traveling home after the benediction being asked, "What did you get out of the sermon today?" This creates an opportunity for my father to cleanup any misunderstandings and clear up any exogetical vernacular that overwhelmed the cognitive prowess of a child. As I ventured into pastoral ministry, I employed that same weekly routine. Not to challenge my children, but to get my weekly report card. The Bible challenges us to present the Word so that even a child could comprehend. Song selections, liturgy, video presentations, printed bulletins, and every other media available should be used to drive home a concerted effort to communicate the message of hope. I truly believe that younger believers do not share the same appreciation for hymns and Spirituals because we have not been intentional in the presentation of the content. Is the Doxology presented as a weekly clarion call for those who have been blessed to give thanks to God? Or is it just another thing we do during service that is given a lackluster nod of effort? Our youth will respect and appreciate our liturgy when they see a consistent model that encourages participation. It should be our endeavor to prepare experiences that offer a presentation of worship that will engage and inspire the entire congregation. Song selections, if possible, should feature repetitive choruses and should be presented in a way that encourages the congregation to participate.
The most effective presentation allows the worshipper to take the experience with them. This encourages them to hum the song on Monday morning as they take a coffee break at work. Then a coworker asks, "What's that you're humming?" Now the member is engaged in a moment of witness and Evangelism provoked by the song selection they experienced during worship on Sunday morning. Job well done! 2) Worship is best experienced when it inspires participation and outward expression, and lifts the worshiper upward to God.
Through worship, we denote a measure of value toward God by how we respond. Have you ever heard someone offer a musical selection that made you want to stand and shout! If presented with excellence and enthusiasm, every movement of our corporate worship experiences should inspire response. A call-to-action should be clear and evident throughout the experience and the appeal for salvation should not be breezed over, but should be presented intentionally with an expectation to extend to someone a complimentary all access pass to eternal life with Christ.
3) Must be life-changing...can you take it home?
After the benediction is over, what did the un-churched visitor retain from the experience? Do the children know what it means to "heist up the windows"? To be truly life-changing, the experience of worship must be portable enough to take with you. Not referring to carrying the organ in a suitcase, but answering the question, "How can I reproduce that experience in my everyday life?"
Songs with catchy, repetitive lyrics
Scripture references should include some method of participation
Clearly communicated theme
This isn't suggested to be a fix-all for our 8 seconds of attention. That actually comes through becoming a disciplined worshiper...a completely different article. I would hope, however, that you would consider the experience that you had on Sunday. Was it portable? What did you take away? Who did you tell? I look forward to an emerging experience of worship with you...wherever you are.