When Worship Feels Canned

Sly serves as a Worship Leader and Student Pastor at FBC Springfield in VA.  He writes as a contributing author for Rethink Creative Group and makes music with two bands–a Revivalism Rock Project called Beggars Made Believers and an Electro-Pop Outfit named Cartesian Theater.  For more content from Sly, visit slysamudre.com or follow @slysamudre on Twitter.

The power went out, the air conditioning shut off, body temperatures went up and blood pressures skyrocketed—all this happened in the moments leading up to the kickoff of a Sunday morning worship service we had one month ago.  In an instant, our comfortable worship space was zapped of power, and the summer heat slowly siphoned out any hope of a relaxed worship experience.  What followed was one of the most intimate congregational worship times I have ever experienced as a worship leader.  Our church community gathered around an upright piano and acoustic guitar, and we met the divine.

It took a power outage for me to realize how much clutter has seeped into our worship gatherings.  Once the noisy elements of church are stripped away it really just comes down to a community of people expressing a heartfelt response to the word and nature of God.  In the aftermath of this God-centering experience, I offer three suggestions for helping believers embrace living and active worship experiences in their lives.

Emphasize purpose over production.  The allure of church is not in the lights, music, or free coffee.  

The essence of church is community with the breath of God binding diverse experiences into a single tapestry of awe-inspired worship. [Tweet that by clicking here]

You just can’t fake that.  The purpose of a church gathering is to experience the power of God through community.   Streamline this purpose with every aspect of the production that goes into preparing a church experience and the result is God-centered blessing upon blessing for you and for others.

 Strive for creativity over comfort.  Creativity doesn’t need to be loud or soft, it simply needs to be.  A tired spirit can be numbed by familiarity into a spiritual coma, whereas a creative spirit harnesses every aspect of its environment for an encounter with the Creator.   Unfortunately, the ones who suffer from having too much are usually the same people who complain the most about the Church not having enough.  Question is:  Are you willing to utilize all that you do have towards connecting with God in that moment?  The gospel doesn’t need dressing up.  It makes a bed of the heart alive in Christ!

Years ago, I went to Africa with a group of missionaries to care for orphans.  Church, for us, was a dirt field where you made a chair out of whatever rock you could find.  At any given moment, Zambian voices would break out into spontaneous yet unified worship, filling the air above our heads with song.  Whatever meaning we lost in translation was felt in the power and presence of their melodies, which often struck water from our hearts until tears of brokenness wet the earth beneath us.

This is anything but canned.  This is the God of the Universe shattering our monotony and declaring His Supremacy.  Shouldn’t our church gatherings reflect the wild and wonderful creativity of our God?

Rest in the innovative freedom inherent to form and tradition.  The cadence of a well-known hymn can unlock heartfelt spiritual joy just as effectively as the drive of a drumbeat.  The poetic call and response of liturgy can stir the mind to delve into the wonderful mysteries of God as poignantly as time of prayer and reflection in a coffee shop.  This is because the elemental interaction in worship occurs between the Spirit of God and the heart of a worshipper.  The Spirit of God cannot be contained in a style of worship.  We, however, can become self-contained when we choose not to devote our full attention to worship.

I read books on church methodology all the time.  It seems that today’s church culture is caught in temperamental pendulum swings between progressive and conventional methods.  For example, the most recent book I read put forth that our aim should NOT be innovation but faithfulness.  Now for the most part, I agree with this.  I believe our ultimate purpose in life is faithfulness to God, but to box innovation out from the front lines of faithful living seems altogether shortsighted.  The language we use should not pit innovation AGAINST faithfulness, our language should marry the two together.

Faithful living continually draws the worshipper out into the space of innovation so that the Word of God may never cease to prove its sustaining power. [Tweet that]

I think of men like Abraham and Paul—two of most innovative, unrelenting examples of biblical faith I can think of—these men who worshipped in deserts and cities, through captivity and persecution.  What drove them to such boldness?  A holy purpose charged with the creative spirit of God.

Innovation is the fruit of sincere devotion to God in any context. [Tweet that]

The parents who toil through work and busy schedules with kids in tow must possess a fundamental desire for worship to crave time and space in their lives for prayerful reflection.  Innovation seeks to make this time and space possible.  Faith spurs the imagination towards revelation.

How will you employ your imagination for an encounter with God? In each experience of authentic worship, God and His Word are the form, faith is our tradition, and freedom in Christ is our strong reward.  Choose to worship God in every context.  Choose faith-led innovation.

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2 thoughts on “When Worship Feels Canned

  1. Pingback: Our Ultimate Goal | Resting in His Grace

  2. Pingback: When Worship Feels Canned

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