Churches that are committed to revitalization must also be committed to vibrant, relevant and transformative worship. If your worship service is bland, boring and mind numbing you can be assured of a two things.

  1. Visitors will not return, if they happen to visit
  2. Members will not invite other people

It is imperative and not optional that a church in revitalization nurture people every Sunday into the presence of God. Every Sunday the worshipping community needs an opportunity to experience God in a way that is continuously transforming. The people need a safe place to bring their everyday humanity , the stress and struggles of the marketplace, the home and community involvement into a sacred place where God can correct, encourage, nurture, shape, mold, or usher them into position to realize God’s grace, love, favor and instruction for their lives. Sunday mornings are meant to be a filling station so that worship occurs every day.

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

Worship that is bland, boring and mind numbing can not inspire people to desire God’s presence beyond the Sunday morning. Worship that is bland, boring and mind numbing can not inspire the unchurched, pre-Christians to become disciples.

23 But the time is coming – it has, in fact, come – when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. 24 God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” John 4:23-24

Worship that is bland, boring and mind numbing drives people who are hungry to have God’s presence in their lives away from your church.

In most revitalizing congregations there is a remnant of people who have a few well defined ideas about worship. It was good enough for me and my family15, 20, 25 and 30 years ago so why does worship need to change now. The volume of cultural paradigms, life experiences, worship technology and ministry support options has shifted the fundamental assumptions that under girded the church and established in many cases a firm foundation for growth 25- 30 years ago.

  • The church is no longer the center of a community activity
  • The church is no longer the primary social institution
  • The church is no longer essential to gain spiritual nurturing

Culturally we have seen additional shifts

  • Stay at home mothers are no longer the norm
  • People are no longer loyal to a denomination
  • People look for a church like they are shopping for a car
  • Sacred Music has expanded to be more like the music that people listen to everyday in contrast to the hymns and classical music that predominated the early 20th century.
  • Many churches are in communities that no longer reflect the community where they are located
  • People look for a church that fits into their life style instead of fitting the church into their lives.

Churches that are experiencing bland, boring and mind numbing worship are usually in that position because they have ignored the paradigm shifts or they have decided that it is easier to die than to change. The question is how do you move a congregation that is experiencing “dry bones” worship into a position of vibrant worship. Here are a few reflections.

  1. As the pastor make sure that you are telling the Jesus story. Poem’s do not transform, cute stories do not transform, the social gospel does not transform but people who hear the Jesus story and decide to embrace a relationship with the Great Transformer will experience transformation. The preached word is the beginning of the transformation and small groups carries the process through to maturity. Pastor’s that don’t take time to exegete the text by default will place their own baggage in the text. Pastor’s who are unprepared inspire the spirit of complacency in the congregation. Whether you follow the lectionary (which I do not recommend), the uncommon lectionary or develop your own lectionary make sure that your messages embrace the central truth that Jesus lived to teach first century and 21st century disciples how to love, died as an example of God’s love for us and rose as a mandate for us to go out and love others.
  2. Share the responsibility of communicating the message with a worship design team. Most worship services can be designed with the Minister of Music and the pastor. If you are committed to developing worship services that are vibrant and relevant to the wide cross section of people that are currently in your worship service you must have a worship design team. This team should have an opportunity to absorb the scriptures. The central learning them and the intended action theme should be clearly communicated. Then the selection of the music, readings, metaphors and the worship arts, (drama, multimedia, dance or video) should be chosen by the worship design team and implemented as a team. (Contrary to a previous article (Worship at Concord – 1996) I now advocate for 2 or more worship teams per congregation. The more people that you involve the better chance you have at using hidden talents and meeting the needs of most of the people)
  3. The appropriate worship support systems need to be designed. If the children are going to stay in worship then there needs to be coloring books, crayons and quiet resources in the sanctuary. If you are going to have a nursery you have to have a professional or a committed volunteer who will coordinate. If worship is in the evening then you may consider a weekly pot luck.
  4. Worship must be supported by small groups. Men and women may begin the process of transformation in worship but I find it difficult to see how we can teach, nurture and hold someone accountable without a small group.
  5. Everything must be done with excellence.

To develop a transforming worship experience 52 Sundays a year is not easy but it is essential. The Tully Principle of 52 Equal Sundays gives us great insight on how to approach this. Dr. Lovett Weems is the author of the article. If our churches are to be revitalized then we will have to focus on vibrant, relevant and transformative worship services.

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