January 19, 2015

Make Room for Singing on Sunday (Part 8)

Other Things That Help People Sing on Sunday (Part 7)

There’s one thing we started with that we should probably end with as well: people can sing on sunday and it may not be worship. People may not sing on Sunday and may be worshipping. The Spirit’s presence is not always felt by volume or visible or audible participation. But if your congregation doesn’t have time to sing, then your worship pastor and his or her volunteers can’t do what they’ve come to do.

Lead pastors, this one is for you. Music and the arts have their place within gathered worship, but so does the sermon … and the sermon’s place isn’t at the top. Let that sink in for a minute. The sermon - a performance art in and of itself, if I (and others) may say so - is not the top of the food chain when it comes to our time of gathered worship.

Don’t close your browser; hear me out. 

When we gather together, we come to engage God, to respond - as a group - to the mercy extended us. That happens in a lot of ways, but we must be very careful not to take each element out of its place. Your sermon, for all the time you put into preparing it, crafting every word, practicing … am I the only one who does that? … for all the effort and study and time you put into preparing your message, it is only PART of the story of the morning. It is not your words that drive the worship of your congregation - it is the Living Word who extended them mercy. It ALWAYS starts with God. What that means is that the Living Word must come first, then the written word, then everything else; message, music, announcements, slides, sketches, painting, stage design, environment, etc. What I’m saying is this:

The music and message only play supporting roles in the rest of what’s happening.

Our primary purpose is to gather together in God's presence.

Not to sing. Not to listen to a sermon. Not to give money. Not to announce that pot luck coming in a few weeks. These things aid that purpose, but as we said many times earlier, that purpose only requires two things: God and His People.

Like the scriptures say, don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought. You and I know all too well that we can all get pretty big heads about our crafts. But our words or melodies are not what change lives; only God does that. Yes, He does that through what we sing, through what we preach, through our careful crafting of a gathering and the story we tell. But He can do that without those things too, if He chose to. We’re fortunate that He DOES choose to use those. That’s the kind of God He is - He invites our participation in redemption. He doesn’t do it alone, though He could. We’re always invited to be part of the means. Oh, and what’s cool is that our willingness is a visible expression of redemption in progress.

It’s beautiful.

Furthermore, do not forget that the time of gathered worship is only one time on one day of a whole week. God doesn’t simply stop working when we finish the benediction. In fact, many times, when our congregations are SENT into the world, that is when the real work of being the church - of transformation - begins. While we gather in the name of Jesus, we must also be SENT in His name or our gatherings are all for nothing. Without our good works, without actually participating in the mission of God to redeem our world (you know, the one you just preached about), our faith is basically dead.

Like I said last week, leaders must participate if they expect their congregation to follow.

Make sure you make time for singing and don’t crowd out the music with too many extra words. The average attention span for spoken word of your congregation is shrinking anyway; make every word count. Don’t dishonor the word you’ve been given by beating it to death or adding extra, and in so doing crowding music and the arts right out of your gathering time. Let the music help you tell the story and let it help to begin to cement the principles on which you teach in the minds and hearts of your congregation.

And then send them out to cement it in practice ...

Next time: I have no idea, what questions do you have? Did I miss anything?

No comments: