How to evaluate and update stale worship practices.
I’ve heard it said by great leaders through the years that the practices and systems you use in any given organization are perfectly designed to achieve the fruit they are producing. In other words, if you are constantly satisfied with the results you are getting, then don’t change a thing. However, if you are not seeing the results you’d hoped for, or what you believe to be the very best and most excellent results, it’s time to take an honest look at your practices and processes and begin to identify the places needed for renewal. I know you’ve heard this quote with all its variants. It has been attributed to Albert Einstein or Ben Franklin on occasion depending who you talk to. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
I would suggest that in our corporate worship environments, we are never completely at rest with the goals and results! We always want to bring the most excellent offering of worship to our God and effectively create environments where more and more people are captured in His presence. We can be at peace with bringing our best. We just can’t stay there. Furthermore, it is safe to say that we must always review and renew our practices as to not become stagnant, indifferent, comfortable, lazy, apathetic and ineffective. Even the most creative ideas can become dead orthodoxy if overused and never refreshed.
I love walking into my house at the end of the day and my wife Leah has been baking or cooking dinner. I am always arrested by the gift of that smell and immediately I am drawn to the oven or stove to get an even stronger whiff of the tasty goodness I will soon devour. You can smell it as you’re reading this can’t you! Interestingly enough, if I’ve been in the house while she’s baking the goodies the smell isn’t as strong to me. The longer I’m in there, the more used to it I become. In some small way the same holds true for Worship Practices in our local churches. The longer we are in the same place, doing the same things, and “smelling” the same cooking, the more used to it we can become. It can become less special, not in its intrinsic value, but in our ability to engage. When Leah is preparing a meal like that it represents so much more than good food. It means she cares deeply for her family, enough so that she took the time to do something that cost her time, attention, and pure hard work. She labors over the sauces and spices. She picks out only the best cuts of meats and freshest vegetables and she always inspects every apple for her amazing apple pies.
I think many times in Worship Practices we can settle for leftovers and the microwave when it’s time we unpack every cookbook and find every resource that will help us develop something fresh and special. Why? Our Savior deserves our very best, period.
Here are some questions I think we should ask ourselves on a regular basis in no particular order of priority.
- Are we as leaders practicing the presence of God and worshiping him in private?
- How long has it been since we’ve renewed our order of worship in a significant way?
- Are people fully engaged in what is happening in our corporate settings?
- Does our environment look and feel the same way it did 3 months ago?
- Are there historical practices of worship that could be revisited?
- Is there a story that needs to be told?
- Is there some form of art that has not been utilized in worship to help point people to Christ?
- When is the last time we visited a church that is very different than ours?
- How long has it been since we’ve had an all out fun brainstorming session?
- Are the songs we are singing actually being sung in the congregation?
- Are we seeing lives changed as they come to faith in Christ?
There’s much more to say here but this will get the juices flowing. Let’s make sure we are preparing the finest “meal” for our Savior and all those we are inviting to the table.
Michael divides his time among leading worship in churches, songwriting, and being a featured leader and teacher at conferences around the country. In between his travels, Michael serves on the team of Worship Leaders at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, where he lives with his wife Leah, and their three children Micah, Maisie, and Wyatt. For more info, michaelneale.com.