Thursday, September 2, 2010
An Invitation to Grow in Worship
Dear worship leaders,
Next Tuesday, September 7, we will launch our first night of “Growing in Worship.” I am excited about this new venture and I want to encourage you in the strongest way that I can to urge you to participate.
Solo planning has always been my gig when it comes to designing worship services. There are many reasons why I’ve always done it this way. Certainly, it is the most efficient and time-effective method. None of the churches that I’ve previously served expected me to draw others into the planning process, though most everyone felt free to critique the results. Most of my friends in ministry who were doing contemporary services were planning by themselves (with, of course, oversight and some input from the senior pastor). Trying to put together a team and schedule them to meet on a regular basis has not been an additional task that I have eagerly wanted to take on.
I have come to realize, however, that the solo planning model, while efficient, is not the most wholesome model for a church family. First, since worship is “the work of the people” the people should have a voice in evaluating and planning the corporate experience. Second, no matter how imaginative the planner, it is nearly impossible to avoid creative ruts. Engaging others in the process will enrich the experience for all. Third, a worship evaluation and planning team enables others to exercise gifts and abilities that might be otherwise hidden. Finally, bringing others into the process will encourage much greater “ownership” from the worshippers themselves.
These truths are “self-evident” to me. But still, I’ve been reluctant to push forward and initiate involvement of others in the process. Up until forty years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of controversy in what Evangelicals did in their worship services. Most everybody sang the same songs from the hymnal, had a sermon, and an invitation. If contemporary praise and worship music did anything, it raised worship as a topic of passionate conversation in our churches. That conversation hasn’t always been civil. I’ve had my fill of “worship wars,” to be sure. I’m not averse to passionate conversation or even controversy if it will produce real community and growth. But unfortunately, conversations about contemporary worship, by the popular nature of its music, have often been rooted in nothing more than personal preference or the top ten songs that are playing on Christian radio.
I’ve hesitated to open the doors of group planning to others because corporate worship is too vital to the spiritual health of the church to be simply subject to the winds of popular consensus. Those who would plan corporate worship for the church need to be biblically and historically informed, as well as have a pastoral sense of mission. By that, I do not mean that all should be pastors. But corporate worship is a vital part of spiritual formation for the individual and the corporate body. Concern for spiritual growth and nurture must be first when planning corporate worship. In light of the great responsibility involved, it is easy to rationalize worship planning as a pursuit reserved only for “experts.”
But I am not satisfied with that rationalization. My highest ministry priority in coming to FirstB was and is to empower others to plan and lead worship. I don’t want to be a solo planner. I believe that our worship will be impoverished if that is the model we follow. How many gifts of artistry and leadership will remain dormant if people are not empowered and released to plan, evaluate, and lead worship? And frankly, I don’t want to carry the burden alone. I am excited to see what the future will bring when we work together.
I have invited several individuals to participate in a worship planning group for both services. If you would like to be in such a group and did not receive an invitation, please talk with me. If you are so inclined and impassioned about worship planning, I’m certain we can find a place for you. The most important piece to this initiative of inviting others into the process is the teaching and conversation we will have about biblical and historical worship. I certainly don’t “know it all.” But God has granted me the opportunity and charged me with being a student and teacher of Christian worship. I want to share what has been given to me. So each month, when we gather on the first Tuesday night, I will teach and facilitate discussion on a worship topic. As I unpack what I have discovered about worship and we talk about these topics, I believe that we will come to a common understanding of worship essentials. It is from that point – being, as they say, “on the same page” – that we will be able to evaluate and plan meaningful corporate worship. The burden and the joy will be shared and I am certain that the church will grow in community and spiritual depth.
Convinced? I hope so. If you play a role in facilitating corporate worship either as a musician, an usher, or in tech support, I hope and (candidly) expect that you will want to be a part of the monthly “Growing in Worship” teaching series that will be held September through June on the first Tuesday night of each month. This is not the planning team, but rather the study group that is open to everyone in the church. We will start at 6:30 p.m. and end at 7:30. The study will be held in the Youth Room (#109). Study notes will be provided for each session. Please forgive me if it seems I’m heavy handed in this matter. I am convinced that our time together will really make a difference. I hope you feel that it is not too much to ask or expect since these worship study sessions are only one hour a month for such an important formational time together. I know that some have work obligations that will not allow them to participate in the studies. If that is your situation, please let me know and I can at least provide you with the session notes so that you will be aware of our journey together.
I am genuinely looking forward to our time together.
Warmly, in Christ,
Pastor Bob Myers