Lesson X Characteristic 5: Inspiring Worship Service
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances Do not put out the Spirit's fire." I Thessalonians 5: 16-19
Many Christians believe they must adopt a particular worship style because it is more biblical than others. The conclusion of Schwarz and Logan is that it is not important whether services target Christians or seekers, whether we celebrate in King James or modern English, whether we worship using a liturgical or a more free-flowing style. The key factor is whether the worship service is an inspiring experience for those who attend. People who attend inspiring worship services declare that they leave feeling renewed and closer to God. They think about God more during the week and are more likely to talk about Jesus in midweek conversations. Christians, who attend the worship service to fulfill a duty, are less joyous and less likely to share their faith. Among the crucial decisions a church must make is what it desires to accomplish during its public worship services. Is the primary
purpose to edify church members, to train them, or to evangelize and assimilate the unchurched? Most churches attempt a combination of all these, though the primary focus is on edifying and training church members.
Worship is generally thought of as an activity. Psalm 95:6,7 states, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." Worship is something that we do at a given time and stop doing at another given point. It is also a state of being, a lifelong activity.
In I Thessalonians 5:17, Paul commanded: "Pray continually". Worship happens inside the church facility and outside. Although worship can be a personal activity we can engage in while driving on I-95, worship at its best is a corporate activity. True worship is not a static activity. It is a dynamic process of receiving vision from God. Dynamic worship is one of the most attractive aspects of a growing church
Yet, most unbelievers perceive worship as dull, boring, and irrelevant. Quality worship is vital not only to the spiritual life of believers but also to the church's ability to attract and assimilate the Unchurched.
The balance between celebration and reflection is absolutely essential to healthy worship. Most churches err to one side or the other. Usually we favor the reflective side. Our worship is morose, self-flagellating and humdrum. We practice the "Such a worm as I syndrome". The doctrine is heavy and difficult to understand or live.
Those of us who err on the celebrative side have worship that is nothing
but happy, happy, happy. It seldom, if ever, gives the participants the opportunity to reflect upon their relationship with God. The doctrine is shallow. There is no opportunity to grieve our sin.
Different personality types display their feelings in different ways. They congregate in certain types of churches or denominations that employ different levels or types of worship. That is part of what I mean when I say worship service must be culturally relevant. Other factors that can be classified as cultural are: How we dress. Building décor. Worship days and times. The style of teaching. It is difficult for church staff to acquire an attitude of true worship. Our mind is always on the details of environment, transition and mechanics. We are focused on management of the service rather than on communicating with God. Using a team to lead worship helps lessen this problem. A worship team shares the responsibility among variously gifted leaders and avoids the dangers of making the service a one-man show.
Characteristics of Vital Worship
Vital worship occurs where there is effective communication of attitudes, values, beliefs and information:
Between God and believers
Between believers and their fellow believers
Between believers and the Unchurched.
1. Successful worship is strategic. In growing churches, every element is well planned in advance by the worship leaders. Those who are leading model the behavior that the worship leaders desire to occur.
2. A clear theme and focus is found in a strategically planned worship service. Always have a planbut always be open and willing for God to change it at the last moment to accomplish what he desires.
3. Another crucial dynamic of strategic worship is flow. Growing churches have learned to make transitions smooth and quick. We have a great deal to accomplish in a short period of time.
4. Maximize audience participation. We need to bring the congregation into what is happening. Responsive readings, interviews with ministry leaders, personal testimonies, drama, prayer, music, communion, Scripture readings, are ways to involve the congregation.
A multitude of things can distract us from worship.
1. A poor sound system.
2. Air temperature
3 Quality of seating. Being full is having more than 80 percent of the
available seating, children's Bible class, or parking filled.
4. Poor lighting
Some distractions can't be foreseen. Several weeks ago, I was preaching to a group of 90 people. When I arrived at the church, I discovered that I had left my suit coat in my apartment. It was to late to return. So I used the incident as a sermon illustration about how our best intentions do not always result in our desired action. I thought it was innovative on my part. At the end of the service, a little old lady walked up to me and said, "I'm sure glad you explained why you didn't have on a coat. I like my preacher to wear a coat." She was more concerned about how I was attired than receiving a message from God.
The Results of Effective Worship
1. Effective worship will be meaningful to the regular attendees. They will leave feeling they have moved above their problems and focused on God. They will be refreshed and revitalized. I always tried to have my congregation leave feeling better than when they came.
2. Effective worship will be understandable to new comers. It will not be filled with religious jargon. This communicates to the Unchurched that we are an exclusive club with obscure prerequisites. We need to convey to the Unchurched why we meet, what we do, and what the results and benefits are.
3. Effective worship will be alive to the presence of God. Those present will recognize that something greater than the individual parts is taking place. They feel the moving of the Holy Spirit.
4. Effective worship will be response oriented. Our focus is not on accumulating cognitive knowledge. It is on a personal life response. There should be opportunity for the congregation to express their faith and repentance.
Objective Measures of Effective Worship
Effective worship can be measured objectively by:
1. The number of people actively preparing for it. How many people serve on our worship team? Do we involve a variety of gifted people for maximum participation and creativity? Does our worship team eagerly anticipate meeting with God? Are we on time and paying attention to what is happening?
2. Worship Attendance. Study not only your total attendance, but also your attendance patterns. What is the percentage of individuals who faithfully attend? What is the age breakdown? Growing churches have a system for tracking and analyzing attendance.
3. The number of individuals in our worship service who invite their relatives, friends and neighbors. Survey new comers to discover how they came to the church.
4. Feedback from those exiting. When someone misses three out of four consecutive worship services find out why. When someone leaves your church, visit him or her and find out why. Ask: Why are you leaving? What could we have done to encourage you to stay?
5. Annually survey your members to determine what they do and don't like about the worship service.
6. Listen to audio or video recording of the entire worship service. Evaluate the weak points.