Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Your Thoughts On Worship

Monday, March 12, 2007

Your Thoughts On Worship

Having readers from a rather diverse theological and denominational background, I am interested in your thoughts on what makes a "successful" worship service.

A couple of side notes. 1) I am referring to the typical Sunday morning activity (or Saturday morning for my adventist friends out there) that we call worship. We all know, or should know, that worship is an ongoing activity of offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. So, for the purposes of this discussion, when I say worship, I mean our corporate gathering time on Sunday mornings. 2) Please don't respond with a philosophical mud pie of how we can't calculate worship services as successful because God is in control. I am aware that worship is from God, but those of you who are fellow ministers know that every Sunday we walk away with varying ideas of just how well that particular service went. If that is a fault of ours, very well, feel free to address that, but I am more interested in what you think makes a service successful.

For example, is a worship service successful if:
- the singing is good
- people make a decision for Christ
- there is a big altar call
- the preacher delivers a great sermon
- the sanctuary is stone silent with meditation
- the sanctuary is filled with screaming and yelling
- the Holy Spirit "moves" (and what does that mean?)
- none of those things matter
- all of those things matter

I am probably going to get several, "as long as God is glorified" comments and that is fine, I agree. But will some of you dare to actually get specific, what makes you leave a church and say, "that was a great service."


Blogger Barry said...

This is a discussion my wife and several friends at our church have been having for a while. We're involved a lot in the "feeding" aspect of ministry, in that we're in the choir, presenting drama or special music, puppets, etc. Except for the sermon, there's not a lot of opportunity for us to be "fed" during worship. And while we like our preacher, his sermons have never really inspired me or made me think. Part of it is because I'm usually in the choir loft staring at the back of his head, which as a performer and director I know not seeing facial expressions, gestures, fully hearing variances in tone and volume can make a difference in how you "get" the sermon. There's a reason sermons are spoken and not just printed up and handed out at the door.

To me, a skilled preacher with a connection to the congregation, one that has the congregation's empathy (and I don't mean necessarily they have to have uber-evengelical "charisma" but they must be able to be taken seriously) and they must have a good, honest, thought-provoking message.

It doesn't even have to be specifically scriptually based, although that's preferred. By that I mean if you're preaching the benefit of using extra Daylight Savings Time to spend time with family rather than on the golf course, you don't have to necessarily cite Genesis 1 ("Let there be light!") - that's a given. The point is the message.

If I don't get a good message, to me, the worship is not successful.

March 12, 2007 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I've never really thought about the specifics, I just know that when my wife and I leave church we are either filled up or left empty. I think it is probably a healthy combination of all those elements you listed and any highlighting of just one over the importance of another can lead to a service being lopsided. I will say that in our congregation what you call "silent with meditation" is more like "silent with sleeping."

March 12, 2007 1:25 PM  
Blogger Der Bettler said...

We all know, or should know, that worship is an ongoing activity of offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice.

This is rather begging the question, isn't it? The primary actor in the Sunday service is God himself, not us. Thus, we go not to give, but to receive. We receive the Word that tells us of our salvation through Christ alone. We receive the forgiveness of sins through the Lord's Supper. These are God's gifts to us.

In fact, it is not enough simply that the sermon be true, or enlightening, or Bible-based. The congregation is there to receive what Paul called "the power of God unto salvation" -- the very Gospel through which the Holy Spirit works faith in us. Whether your preacher is boisterous or meek, flighty or monotoned, engaging or downright boring, he must deliver the Gospel -- Christ crucified for sinners (1 Cor. 2:2) -- or he has failed.

Is good music nice to have? Of course! Is engaging preaching better to listen to? You bet! But we measure success by whether God's gifts of forgiveness were faithfully received. To concentrate on anything else is to miss the point. And you're absolutely right -- it is not enough simply that God be glorified. Frankly he has legions of angels, martyrs, and saints who do a better job of that in heaven than we do on Earth.

March 12, 2007 5:11 PM  
Anonymous agog said...

I can testify what does NOT necessarily equal a successful service. . .sheer number of people. Many of these so called mega churches have not preached the gospel in years, so their mega numbers are no indication of their actual spiritual success.

March 13, 2007 12:00 AM  
Blogger Kelly Klages said...

A good and important topic for discussion. Suffice it to say, as someone coming from a Lutheran perspective I agree with der bettler. For the Lutheran anyway, the primary point of the Sunday morning service is to receive the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through God's instituted means. If this occurs, then the Holy Spirit is most definitely "moving" because that's simply where he's promised to be. We don't need to conjure him with human tricks. A service is sucessful and effective because, being a delivery of the Gospel, it is the work of God for our salvation-- objectively. Other general worship observations:

-Success can't be measured by numbers or popularity. The Gospel is going to be offensive and not always produce what seems successful in our eyes. Faithfulness to God's Word is what's important.

-Along with numbers, if we tried to base a successful service on "decisions for Jesus" tallies, there would essentially be no successful services in Christian history until 19th-century revivalism came along. Forget it. ;o)

-The Holy Spirit moves through his Word and should not be confused with mere emotional experience and manipulation. It is dangerous to speak of a church as "feeling dead" simply because one doesn't feel emotionally manipulated. This too is a recent and romantic innovation. The first person who got me to seriously realize this was actually Rich Mullins. I was in my late teens at the time, when it's all the rage to manipulate emotions as much as possible and hint to kids that this mob mentality and these stirring ballads equaled or proved the movement of the Holy Spirit. He shot a hole right through that. Any cult can give as good a showing.

It is a great privilege to gather together for fellowship, the apostle's teaching, the Lord's Supper and the prayers, for God blesses us through these things. And in response with our feeble voices, we on earth even get to join in "with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven," lauding and magnifying his glorious name. I think it was John Kleinig who described worship as "heaven on earth." :o)

March 13, 2007 12:21 AM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park said...

I am not in Church to be entertained, nor to feel that I am inherently a "good" person...for I am not.

I go to Church to hear both Law and Gospel...the Law, to remind me of the fact that man has failed to meet what God spelled out for us...the Gospel, to remind me that Jesus Christ suffered, died, was buried and rose again for the forgiveness of my sins. Nothing could be more clear than "It is finished".

From a personal, human perspective, I enjoy the fellowship of Christians and the opportunity to support them in any way I can.

March 13, 2007 7:31 PM  
Anonymous Floyd said...

I believe a successful worship service happens when the people have prepared all week to enter into the Sunday AM service by focusing on the things of God and allowing God to work through their lives.

Entertainment? . . .certainly not!

Not that we are desiring boring services but our meditation needs to be cenetered on hearing and responding to God's preached truth!

March 14, 2007 12:20 AM  

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