I’ve been thinking a LOT lately about worship services and I’m admittedly uneducated about the whole topic. In a way though, I’m sort of glad I’m uneducated about it. When I talk to other people who are perhaps more educated on the topic (pastors, church leaders, etc.), I get the impression that the education has tainted their impression of worship services. They’re so integrated with the services they’re a part of that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a church visitor, looking for a church and a worship experience that is appealing.
Yeah, I said it. I used the word “appealing” in the context of worship.
I bet some people just stopped reading.
I typically get a lot of backlash when I use words like “appealing” to describe worship services. Usually the argument is something like this: “Looking for an ‘appealing’ worship service is a self-centered approach and worship is supposed to be God-centered.” My problem with this argument is that while a worship service may be created as a God-centric time, the choices made while designing the service are based on human appeal and preference.
Let me describe what I mean. Some churches I’ve been to have fancy (ostentatious?) lecterns or pulpits from which readings and preaching take place. Other churches have little to no supporting “props” to support such activities. One extremely large and very local church (it’s maybe a mile from where my wife and I live) typically has just a simple stool and a small table where the pastor is able to lay his Bible down while he’s preaching. Is either approach more “God-centric”? Is either more worshipful? What drove the decisions to choose such decor?
Another example is music. The church I mention above uses loud, energetic, contemporary worship songs complete with drums, electric guitars, huge projection screens, moving lights, etc. Other churches use pipe organs and choirs. Which is more “God-centric”?
Yet another example is language. Some churches employ flowery or archaic words when they craft (yes, craft) their prayers or select their opening call and response texts. Others use simpler or more modern (more straightforward?) language.
Is an organ holier than drums?
Is a robe more Godly than jeans and a t-shirt?
What role do personal preferences play in designing a worship service? How much do the personal preferences of church leadership and members influence a typical worship service? If personal preferences drive the choices we make when we design a service, does this make our services self-centered?