The ability to bring dynamic worship to your church is not a great mystery. It comes from meeting the challenges that lie at the core of what congregational worship is intended to be and addressing the unhealthy predispositions and expectations we bring into the worship environment. How do we do that?
Worship begins with an invitation. We are invited into the presence of God by God. We are able to enter into that presence by the power of Christ’s loving sacrifice. We are made aware of God’s presence by the power of the Holy Spirit. Dynamic worship takes the inviting nature of God and reflects it in the actions of the leaders and the people. If you are wondering how your worship meets this invitational initiative, find your answers to these questions.
Are the people being given opportunities to engage in worship?
One of the recurring criticisms of worship in every style is that what happens on the platform appears to not require the engagement of the people in worship. In fact it would sometimes seem that if there was no one in the room, the persons leading worship might not even notice, especially if the stage lights are bright enough! There are those who design and lead worship as if they do not trust that the people in the church, if given the opportunity, will be able to respond appropriately and so the people are rarely given that opportunity if at all. Some leaders believe that their role is to “demonstrate” how to worship which can unfortunately still leave the congregation to understand how that applies to their worship actions.
Dynamic worship invites the people to worship God through planned actions in worship and by their actively participating in those opportunities. Again, remember we are talking about an interactive relationship here and there is no place for “worship by proxy,” meaning only by those in worship leadership. In dynamic worship mere attendance does not equal participation. While individual, personal worship has its place, for worship in a congregational setting to be dynamic it must include and involve the actual congregation. I realize that this sounds obvious, but it is amazing how often worship is designed with apparently little regard for the congregation actually participating. Does the congregation know and understand where and how they are supposed to participate? How has your worship design and/or instruction informed them in matters of participation? Many times it is not a congregations unwillingness to participate that precludes them from engaging, but rather poor planning and a less than encouraging invitation to do so.
What is being done to make everyone feel not just welcome, but included?
I hear many churches describe themselves as welcoming. Some now use the term inclusive. That may be true on a personal level. But, is your worship inclusive? Does your worship design really take into consideration such things as multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-language, multi-economic, multi-Christian experience, and so on? Some of these may not apply to your church. Some of these may need to be added to your consideration. The bottom line is that dynamic worship is again, relational, and even if you welcome people into your church but, your worship design and practices marginalize them in participation, then you are not being inviting. The good host sets a table with the needs of the guest in mind. What kind of table for the guest (and even the “members”) is your worship setting?
How are you assessing if your efforts are successful?
If we are being intentional about invitation that is inclusive, then we should also be assessing if our efforts are producing the desired fruit. While attendance and worship actions visible from the platform are certainly good indicators, I have found that I cannot really know how things are going until I talk to people. As I speak to people I should hear stories about new experiences both in worship and in how spending time in the presence of God in worship is changing lives outside of the weekly worship event.
Dynamic worship involves everyone. It does not simply encourage worship participation, it leads, guides, instructs, accommodates and includes. Next up we look at how we invest in worship.
Dr. Craig Gilbert is an experienced worship leader who is passionate about all aspects of congregational worship. With a graduate degree in conducting and a “road degree” playing in bands, Craig brings a love of all musical styles to his worship planning. In his 20 years of church worship ministry Craig has served in churches of all types, sizes and worship models. He has been blessed to serve with pastors of all types as well; even a Catholic priest! Craig is the founder of the worship renewal ministry TheWorshipDoctor.com.
What's Your Reaction?
Dr. Craig Gilbert, a consultant and coach fondly known as The Worship Doctor, is the founder of Purposed Heart Ministries, a worship renewal and education program for all churches. Craig 25 years as a music and worship minister working with choirs, bands, and various artistic groups while leading and designing worship in churches of all sizes and styles. Now he spends his time helping churches across the country imagine what worship could and should be in their local context and then helps them get there!