In my family we like to remind each other, “It’s not all about you.” That’s especially true in the area of worship preferences. Today five very different generations are trying to worship together as one church body, but even if we all enjoyed the same music at the same volume, it would not be about us—“praise and worship” on Sunday mornings and the lifestyle worship of every other moment are always about God.
Having said that, I still occasionally think how different the weekly gatherings would be if I were in charge…..
• The preacher would speak no more than 10-15 minutes at one time. He may deliver a 40-minute sermon (preferably 30) but it would be spread throughout the service. Depending on his topic, the intervals between the segments of his message might be opportunities to practice what he’s preaching—by praying alone or in groups, by meditating on Scripture, by confessing, by singing, by giving financially, etc. Video testimonies, movie clips, or other visual teaching tools might be used, too.
• The sermon segments would end while the congregation still wants more, not when they are praying the preacher will sit down.
• The sanctuary in the simple, chapel-like 19th-century building would include wooden floors, white painted walls, maybe a little stained glass, and comfortable chairs. Sometimes we would gather in darkness lit by candles, sometimes in a large airy room filled with light. The seats might be arranged in the usual theater seating, in one or more large circles, in small clusters around the room, or some other pattern. The decision to do any of these would be determined by what works for the message and the day’s theme, not what seems “edgy.”
• It would be okay to bring your coffee inside, but not your screaming baby.
• High-quality artwork would beautify the space, and would be used as appropriate throughout the service.
• Music would range from David Crowder to Martin Luther and everything in between. Regardless of style, it would be consistently well-done. Think of an instrument—yep, we’d use that one.
• The following exchange would NEVER happen:
Guy Up Front (GUF): “Good morning!”
GUF: “Let’s try again—GOOD MORNING!”
People (louder and considerably more annoyed): “Good morning!”
• Sermons would be grounded in Scripture and would challenge the attendees to greater discipleship, wherever they may be in their individual spiritual journeys. Practical applications of Scripture are fine, but not so “practical” or topical that you leave the service feeling like an audience member at the Dr. Phil show.
• Opportunities for interacting with those worshiping near you would be more genuine than the obligatory “welcome the people around you before you sit down” thing—Catholics have the right idea by offering peace to each other.
• It would be okay to laugh.
• Worship leaders would draw from a variety of sources and traditions in weaving together each service—depending on the theme they might pull from The Book of Common Prayer, the writings of Bonhoeffer, or Chris Tomlin’s chord charts.
• Choices would be made intentionally. No one would ever say, “We need 10 minutes of music before the sermon and a special for the offering. Just pick some songs.”
• The order of the service would differ from week to week. (Does it seem to anyone else that two uptempo songs, announcements, two slower songs, and onward into communion is the new “traditional”?)
• The person cueing up the power point slides for congregational singing would be alert and on top of the task. (Another argument for allowing coffee inside.) Ditto the microphone guy—we’d never miss the first four words of every speaker. - (Note from Allen: Since I'm the Power Point and sound guy, I guess I should practice what I preach!)
• No one would EVER end a prayer with “And all God’s children said……”