Thinking Out Loud

November 22, 2009

Worship Service Order Written in Stone

Filed under: Uncategorized, worship — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:54 pm

The church we visited this week incorporates a rather bizarre mixture of informality and tradition.    By that I don’t mean that they blend contemporary and liturgical forms; no, that would be welcome.    Instead, there is a very specific order of worship from which there has never — in the last 15 years — been and possibly never will be any variance.

It’s most evident in the arrangement of the worship songs which always consists of:

  • two songs at the beginning
  • three songs in the middle
  • one song at the end, which must be an upbeat song of celebration, not the more contemplative type of piece you might get after the sermon in other churches.*

Some of the worship songs can be engaging and give voice to the worship inside of you that you are longing to give back to God; but once you know the formula, it’s really like trying to put your worship in a box, when in your spirit you know it’s longing to break free.

Furthermore, in the middle set, just as the spirit of the worship may begin to be really moving, it’s time to sit down again.    Week after week, it’s the same;

  • two songs at the beginning
  • three songs in the middle
  • one song at the end

If we look at I Corinthians 14, we see a picture of the early church that incorporates orderliness and spontaneity.   It’s hard to imagine the enactment of something so formulaic, let alone the mentality that would even want to suggest such a thing.

In verse 26, we see worship originating in a variety of contributors, a kind of melting pot of ingredients that many of the house church proponents are quick to note works well in that setting:

26 So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. (The Message)

26 Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.  (New Living Translation)

However, in verses 33 and 40 we’re reminded:

33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (New International Version)

33 When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. (The Message)

40 But let everything be done in a right and orderly way. (New Century Version)

While their available worship repertoire was probably much more limited than ours is today, I believe they sang their hearts out.   Some of the songs were probably celebratory, but at other times, when they paused to remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood, I’m sure they sang softly and reverently.   At times, I’m sure they sang until their voices gave out.

There were probably a number of spiritual and cultural parameters that were different in their day than ours, but I think if those early Christians could somehow time-travel to our era, they would be both amazed and appalled by the 2-3-1 worship ritual.

I think that those set apart for worship planning and execution have to frequently ask the WWECD question:  What Would the Early Church Do?



* This is essentially what might be called George Costanza Worship, the philosophy of which is, ‘leave them on a high note.’  Instead of being a vehicle for allowing people to leave invigorated and ready to face the week ahead, it has the effect of allowing you to forget any application you might take away from the sermon you just heard.

 



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