Worship Mythbusters: The Myth of Pragmatic Worship – Is our weekend service an “end” or a “means” to and end?

The Myth of Pragmatism in Worship

This is part of a series of posts began in January of 2008 about our public worship gatherings. The desire is to have a myth-busting conversation about what we do each week as Christians. The question here addresses whether our worship services are an “end” or a “means” to accomplish something else or if our weekend worship service itself is more of the priority.

My initial thought is that worship services too many times in today’s evangelical churches are planned, evaluated and executed for the utility in accomplishing goals other than a communal act of worship and rather designed for evangelism, communication, image building, art, performance and even institutional vision. While I accept some of these as secondary goals for a worship service, I object to defining our weekly liturgy as something as a means, when it should be defined as an “end” for the group of people participating in offering their worship to our God.

What this means is not that production, lights and fancy theme logos for communication are absent, but that they are evaluated as secondary to the spiritual and practical component of people participating together in an offering of worship. Too often it seems that talk about the communication and production techniques drowns out the theology, instruction, devotion and Christ as the center of our worship service.

If people are moved by the music, that itself is a means. If people participate with the music to offer their lives to Christ and following Him more intensely, then we are getting there. If a message is well communicated, but does not call a church as a body to action and worship, then it is a well-crafted essay rather than a spiritual rallying point to galvanize the body.

Now, I am all for excellence in technique and production and good music indeed draws a crowd as much as great speaking. However, that is not the goal. That is the means. Evangelism is a purpose, but not always worship. It’s one thing to make a worship setting that is friendly to unbelievers (see 1 Corinthians 14) it is another to make that the goal. Worship is the goal.

Here are some ideas to plan, execute and evaluate worship as an end, not just a “means”:

  • Ask, what is it that our congregation needs to hear from God this week/month/year? Then plan sermons, and worship sets and elements to support that. (i.e., encouragement, challenge, comfort, etc.)
  • Second, ask “what is it that we as a church need together to say to God?” Plan accordingly. (i.e., confession, corporate prayers, God’s character traits, etc.)
  • Look at the production as tools, not the goal. Does the lighting enhance a point, but perhaps take away from people’s focus on what they need to say back to God?
  • Ask yourself, “do I have more passion for the techniques I employ than people following Jesus more deeply?”
  • At the end of the day, is my faith big enough to put second the tools for the sake of people honestly worshipping and do I evaluate that? (i.e., more baptisms, people singing/partaking in elements, testimonies increasing, sense of “God’s presence” more apparent, etc.)

Well, those are my thoughts. Do you have any to add, support or disagree with?

Share:
Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

28 comments

  1. Great thoughts. I’ve gotten caught up in mixing good audio merely for the sake that I don’t like things sounding bad but not for the sake of helping lead people in worship. I have to continually remind myself that I’m mixing for hundreds of people, not me.

  2. Great thoughts. I’ve gotten caught up in mixing good audio merely for the sake that I don’t like things sounding bad but not for the sake of helping lead people in worship. I have to continually remind myself that I’m mixing for hundreds of people, not me.

  3. Great thoughts. I’ve gotten caught up in mixing good audio merely for the sake that I don’t like things sounding bad but not for the sake of helping lead people in worship. I have to continually remind myself that I’m mixing for hundreds of people, not me.

  4. Great thoughts. I’ve gotten caught up in mixing good audio merely for the sake that I don’t like things sounding bad but not for the sake of helping lead people in worship. I have to continually remind myself that I’m mixing for hundreds of people, not me.

  5. […] Read the full article […]

  6. […] Read the full article […]

  7. […] Read the full article […]

  8. […] Read the full article […]

  9. Great post. I linked this on my blog.
    I would be interested to hear you take your thoughts one step further regarding corporate worship.

    Some would say that the purpose of congregational worship is to the benefit of the believers (and they usually use verses like 1 cor. 14 for support). Others would say that it’s for the benefit of God.

    I’m still hashing this out in my own mind, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with either thought. The first would suggest that if the congregation is worshiping for the benefit of themselves, then they are worshiping themselves, and may be seen as idolization. The second thought would suggest that the Lord needs our worship, and man somehow fulfills God’s needs.

    Like I said, I’m not comfortable with either of those “purposes” for worship. Which means that there is likely a 3rd option. Anyways, I’d love to hear you thoughts on this. 🙂

  10. Great post. I linked this on my blog.
    I would be interested to hear you take your thoughts one step further regarding corporate worship.

    Some would say that the purpose of congregational worship is to the benefit of the believers (and they usually use verses like 1 cor. 14 for support). Others would say that it’s for the benefit of God.

    I’m still hashing this out in my own mind, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with either thought. The first would suggest that if the congregation is worshiping for the benefit of themselves, then they are worshiping themselves, and may be seen as idolization. The second thought would suggest that the Lord needs our worship, and man somehow fulfills God’s needs.

    Like I said, I’m not comfortable with either of those “purposes” for worship. Which means that there is likely a 3rd option. Anyways, I’d love to hear you thoughts on this. 🙂

  11. Great post. I linked this on my blog.
    I would be interested to hear you take your thoughts one step further regarding corporate worship.

    Some would say that the purpose of congregational worship is to the benefit of the believers (and they usually use verses like 1 cor. 14 for support). Others would say that it’s for the benefit of God.

    I’m still hashing this out in my own mind, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with either thought. The first would suggest that if the congregation is worshiping for the benefit of themselves, then they are worshiping themselves, and may be seen as idolization. The second thought would suggest that the Lord needs our worship, and man somehow fulfills God’s needs.

    Like I said, I’m not comfortable with either of those “purposes” for worship. Which means that there is likely a 3rd option. Anyways, I’d love to hear you thoughts on this. 🙂

  12. Great post. I linked this on my blog.
    I would be interested to hear you take your thoughts one step further regarding corporate worship.

    Some would say that the purpose of congregational worship is to the benefit of the believers (and they usually use verses like 1 cor. 14 for support). Others would say that it’s for the benefit of God.

    I’m still hashing this out in my own mind, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with either thought. The first would suggest that if the congregation is worshiping for the benefit of themselves, then they are worshiping themselves, and may be seen as idolization. The second thought would suggest that the Lord needs our worship, and man somehow fulfills God’s needs.

    Like I said, I’m not comfortable with either of those “purposes” for worship. Which means that there is likely a 3rd option. Anyways, I’d love to hear you thoughts on this. 🙂

  13. James,
    The end of worship is an offering to God. The means is the expression of His people together offering that worship. The context is that unbelievers are and should be present. (I am including ALL we do–preaching, singing, elements, announcements, giving.)

    You can have sub-goals to be sure that address how the “end” (our worship) is done in front of unbelievers, but it is not “for” them. Its “from” us believers, while not being about us believers. And its done in front of unbelievers while not being “about” them either.

    There is tension to say that our public worship service is from us believers offering our expression of worship to God, but in the presence of people not yet believing. You cannot take the people out of it. So, yes we need communication and so forth.

    If worship benefits a believer or unbeliever it is not the goal as much as the by-product or overflow. We consider people in everything we do as leaders. So, that is just a given. Or, rather it should be.

    Purpose for unbelievers? Nope. That is a consideration in everything a church does, including worship. Purpose for believers? Maybe. It matters that the activity is something we do together. But, having a communal act of faith expression worship to our God is really the goal. And, the one thing “added” is that we cannot alienate people who do not know Jesus yet in “how” we do our purpose.

    We simply have to value the faith issue in getting together each week to speak to God and hear from God as His people. Often, we de-value worship services because we see them as a way to build a program or ministry not for the act of worship. Promote ministry and values, but subjugate promotion to the expression of worship–NOT the other way around!

    Thanks for conversing!

  14. James,
    The end of worship is an offering to God. The means is the expression of His people together offering that worship. The context is that unbelievers are and should be present. (I am including ALL we do–preaching, singing, elements, announcements, giving.)

    You can have sub-goals to be sure that address how the “end” (our worship) is done in front of unbelievers, but it is not “for” them. Its “from” us believers, while not being about us believers. And its done in front of unbelievers while not being “about” them either.

    There is tension to say that our public worship service is from us believers offering our expression of worship to God, but in the presence of people not yet believing. You cannot take the people out of it. So, yes we need communication and so forth.

    If worship benefits a believer or unbeliever it is not the goal as much as the by-product or overflow. We consider people in everything we do as leaders. So, that is just a given. Or, rather it should be.

    Purpose for unbelievers? Nope. That is a consideration in everything a church does, including worship. Purpose for believers? Maybe. It matters that the activity is something we do together. But, having a communal act of faith expression worship to our God is really the goal. And, the one thing “added” is that we cannot alienate people who do not know Jesus yet in “how” we do our purpose.

    We simply have to value the faith issue in getting together each week to speak to God and hear from God as His people. Often, we de-value worship services because we see them as a way to build a program or ministry not for the act of worship. Promote ministry and values, but subjugate promotion to the expression of worship–NOT the other way around!

    Thanks for conversing!

  15. James,
    The end of worship is an offering to God. The means is the expression of His people together offering that worship. The context is that unbelievers are and should be present. (I am including ALL we do–preaching, singing, elements, announcements, giving.)

    You can have sub-goals to be sure that address how the “end” (our worship) is done in front of unbelievers, but it is not “for” them. Its “from” us believers, while not being about us believers. And its done in front of unbelievers while not being “about” them either.

    There is tension to say that our public worship service is from us believers offering our expression of worship to God, but in the presence of people not yet believing. You cannot take the people out of it. So, yes we need communication and so forth.

    If worship benefits a believer or unbeliever it is not the goal as much as the by-product or overflow. We consider people in everything we do as leaders. So, that is just a given. Or, rather it should be.

    Purpose for unbelievers? Nope. That is a consideration in everything a church does, including worship. Purpose for believers? Maybe. It matters that the activity is something we do together. But, having a communal act of faith expression worship to our God is really the goal. And, the one thing “added” is that we cannot alienate people who do not know Jesus yet in “how” we do our purpose.

    We simply have to value the faith issue in getting together each week to speak to God and hear from God as His people. Often, we de-value worship services because we see them as a way to build a program or ministry not for the act of worship. Promote ministry and values, but subjugate promotion to the expression of worship–NOT the other way around!

    Thanks for conversing!

  16. James,
    The end of worship is an offering to God. The means is the expression of His people together offering that worship. The context is that unbelievers are and should be present. (I am including ALL we do–preaching, singing, elements, announcements, giving.)

    You can have sub-goals to be sure that address how the “end” (our worship) is done in front of unbelievers, but it is not “for” them. Its “from” us believers, while not being about us believers. And its done in front of unbelievers while not being “about” them either.

    There is tension to say that our public worship service is from us believers offering our expression of worship to God, but in the presence of people not yet believing. You cannot take the people out of it. So, yes we need communication and so forth.

    If worship benefits a believer or unbeliever it is not the goal as much as the by-product or overflow. We consider people in everything we do as leaders. So, that is just a given. Or, rather it should be.

    Purpose for unbelievers? Nope. That is a consideration in everything a church does, including worship. Purpose for believers? Maybe. It matters that the activity is something we do together. But, having a communal act of faith expression worship to our God is really the goal. And, the one thing “added” is that we cannot alienate people who do not know Jesus yet in “how” we do our purpose.

    We simply have to value the faith issue in getting together each week to speak to God and hear from God as His people. Often, we de-value worship services because we see them as a way to build a program or ministry not for the act of worship. Promote ministry and values, but subjugate promotion to the expression of worship–NOT the other way around!

    Thanks for conversing!

  17. Good post – I appreciate that you’ve done more than expose the faults that can happen in an evangelical setting. You’ve given questions to help us evaluate and plan our worship services. Thank you.
    While evaluation is important, it is a tough thing to evaluate concretely is it not – the worship of God?

    We may see the ‘by-product’ of our congregation’s worship immediately as individuals within the body or the body as a whole take noticeable next steps. However, there are times when the ‘by product’ is there, but not as evident to us. Or the evidence comes to fruition at a later time (we see evidence of that in scripture do we not – God preparing people over a period of time. In our ‘get it fast’ culture, I wonder if we lose sight or lack appreciation of what God cultivates over a span of time.)

    Perhaps the toughness of evaluating was God worshipped is why we hear and see so many discussions on the technical or musical aspects of the services.

  18. Good post – I appreciate that you’ve done more than expose the faults that can happen in an evangelical setting. You’ve given questions to help us evaluate and plan our worship services. Thank you.
    While evaluation is important, it is a tough thing to evaluate concretely is it not – the worship of God?

    We may see the ‘by-product’ of our congregation’s worship immediately as individuals within the body or the body as a whole take noticeable next steps. However, there are times when the ‘by product’ is there, but not as evident to us. Or the evidence comes to fruition at a later time (we see evidence of that in scripture do we not – God preparing people over a period of time. In our ‘get it fast’ culture, I wonder if we lose sight or lack appreciation of what God cultivates over a span of time.)

    Perhaps the toughness of evaluating was God worshipped is why we hear and see so many discussions on the technical or musical aspects of the services.

  19. Good post – I appreciate that you’ve done more than expose the faults that can happen in an evangelical setting. You’ve given questions to help us evaluate and plan our worship services. Thank you.
    While evaluation is important, it is a tough thing to evaluate concretely is it not – the worship of God?

    We may see the ‘by-product’ of our congregation’s worship immediately as individuals within the body or the body as a whole take noticeable next steps. However, there are times when the ‘by product’ is there, but not as evident to us. Or the evidence comes to fruition at a later time (we see evidence of that in scripture do we not – God preparing people over a period of time. In our ‘get it fast’ culture, I wonder if we lose sight or lack appreciation of what God cultivates over a span of time.)

    Perhaps the toughness of evaluating was God worshipped is why we hear and see so many discussions on the technical or musical aspects of the services.

  20. Good post – I appreciate that you’ve done more than expose the faults that can happen in an evangelical setting. You’ve given questions to help us evaluate and plan our worship services. Thank you.
    While evaluation is important, it is a tough thing to evaluate concretely is it not – the worship of God?

    We may see the ‘by-product’ of our congregation’s worship immediately as individuals within the body or the body as a whole take noticeable next steps. However, there are times when the ‘by product’ is there, but not as evident to us. Or the evidence comes to fruition at a later time (we see evidence of that in scripture do we not – God preparing people over a period of time. In our ‘get it fast’ culture, I wonder if we lose sight or lack appreciation of what God cultivates over a span of time.)

    Perhaps the toughness of evaluating was God worshipped is why we hear and see so many discussions on the technical or musical aspects of the services.

  21. At re:create, we really need to have a conversation about how to evaluate worship services, esp from the perspective of: did what we program help people engage with God? Did what we program please God, never mind what people think? Interesting challenge.

  22. At re:create, we really need to have a conversation about how to evaluate worship services, esp from the perspective of: did what we program help people engage with God? Did what we program please God, never mind what people think? Interesting challenge.

  23. At re:create, we really need to have a conversation about how to evaluate worship services, esp from the perspective of: did what we program help people engage with God? Did what we program please God, never mind what people think? Interesting challenge.

  24. At re:create, we really need to have a conversation about how to evaluate worship services, esp from the perspective of: did what we program help people engage with God? Did what we program please God, never mind what people think? Interesting challenge.

  25. I am in, Mark!
    Evaluating is the deal. Yes, it is tough but if we do not measure in some why the response people have as far as engaging in worship then we simply are not leading to spiritual things.

    And, yes, the tech and production and presentation is important, too. Its just that those things are secondary goals, not the end.

  26. I am in, Mark!
    Evaluating is the deal. Yes, it is tough but if we do not measure in some why the response people have as far as engaging in worship then we simply are not leading to spiritual things.

    And, yes, the tech and production and presentation is important, too. Its just that those things are secondary goals, not the end.

  27. I am in, Mark!
    Evaluating is the deal. Yes, it is tough but if we do not measure in some why the response people have as far as engaging in worship then we simply are not leading to spiritual things.

    And, yes, the tech and production and presentation is important, too. Its just that those things are secondary goals, not the end.

  28. I am in, Mark!
    Evaluating is the deal. Yes, it is tough but if we do not measure in some why the response people have as far as engaging in worship then we simply are not leading to spiritual things.

    And, yes, the tech and production and presentation is important, too. Its just that those things are secondary goals, not the end.

Leave a Reply