There are at least three types of moments I think should happen in every worship gathering: awe, aha, and haha. Let me explain.
Awe moments are those moments when we begin to realize who God is and who we are in light of this. These are very experiential moments. Moments of awe are those moments we become aware we are standing in the very presence God together. These are often moments when we feel the tension and joy and mystery of the paradoxes surrounding the knowledge and experience of God (confronted by God’s grace and truth, holiness and love, beauty and mystery, majesty and closeness, and so on).
Biblical Awe Moments
- The Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai while Moses is receiving the law: “…thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled” (Exodus 19)
- Isaiah in the temple: “Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6)
- Ezekiel and the spinning wheels: “The rims of the four wheels were tall and frightening, and they were covered with eyes all around” (Ezekiel 1).
- Peter, when they pull in this huge haul of fish under Jesus’ direction, after not catching anything all night. “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you” (Luke 5:1-11).
- The person who falls to their knees exclaiming, “God is really among you!,” in Paul’s description of what he wants to happen in the worship experiences of the church he planted in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14).
- Those worshiping around the throne in heaven: “I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it” (Rev. 4).
Aha moments are those moments when we “get it.” When we finally grasp something in a way we can live it. This happens sometimes when a worship leader takes an opportunity to lead the church by making a connection to real life through the lyrics of a song. This happens when a teaching pastor is laying down the Word in a way people can understand.
Biblical Aha Moments
- Ezra reading the Law to the people and the Levites translating it. The people “get it” and are broken and in tears because of it (Nehemiah 8:1-9).
- Jesus teaching in the synagogue “today, this is fulfilled in your hearing…” (Luke 4:14-30). The people in the passage “get it” and are so challenged and offended by Jesus’ message they try to push him off a cliff. There are positive and negative aha moments. This is “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” Just because people “get something” doesn’t mean they’re going to like it.
Haha moments add “personality” to worship services. They add a relational element. Have fun. Be real. Connect with people. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Share that funny video or story to illustrate a point. This is about human connection (in this light, we do more than just laugh, sometimes we have to cry together when appropriate too).
Biblical Haha Moments
- Elijah and the Prophets of Baal – Speaking about Baal not answering his prophets: “maybe he’s going to the bathroom…” (1 Kings 18:26-27)
- Jesus’ teaching techniques – he used techniques like hyperbole (overstating to make a point) and exaggeration (“camel through the eye of a needle…,” or “…if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake?”)
- Peter, in his first sermon. Some in the crowd on the day of Pentecost were accusing Jesus followers of being drunk. But Peter “warms up the crowd” by saying, “These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that” (Acts 2:15). Zing!
Awe, Aha, and Haha in the Early Church
Maybe you don’t buy it. Consider this: the early church structured their worship together around four things: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Would these fit into the framework of awe, aha, and haha? I think so.
The apostles’ teaching is full of “aha moments.” That’s an easy one.
Where’s the awe moment? This is found in the “breaking of bread and prayer.” This “breaking of bread” phrase would’ve included the Lord’s Supper. This moment of communion together with Christ, where Christ is the host of the meal and we remember his body broken and his blood shed for us, is most definitely an “awe moment.” Also, they met together for prayer. In one early prayer meeting we’re told that, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). I would say that’s an “awe moment.”
What about the “haha moment?” The haha moment is about human connection, about being real with one another. The Apostles communicated in a relevant way, just like Jesus did. Also, their devotion to “fellowship” fits in this category. What believer hasn’t experienced deep “haha moments” in fellowship with other believers?
Awe, aha, and haha. Three moments that provide a simple way of planning and evaluating worship services.
Alex Robinson (@alex_robinson) is a Creative Arts Pastor in the Harrisburg, PA area. Alex loves his family and helping people to meet Jesus through worship and the creative arts.