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?