Walk into any modern worship service, and you will likely encounter some variation on a theme.
- Some type of welcome and announcements
- A group of songs, starting with a call to worship, and perhaps with scripture, confession, and prayer sprinkled in.
- A time of giving (otherwise known as the offering)
- A message
- A time of response with a closing song
- A benediction
Sure, exceptions exist. You might experience a video, dramatic element, missions highlight, or communion, but this is the general pattern you will encounter.
At least I have – both in my own planning and in churches I have attended.
And the question is why? Why do we do it this way?
Of course, you may be wondering why I’m even asking the question.
Allow me to refer you back to a post from a few weeks ago. In How to Evaluate a Worship Service, I shared a 4 minute video from Dr. Jim Altizer where he talks about how to evaluate a worship service in four different areas. If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and watch it. It’ll provide necessary context.
One of the statements he made in the video really struck me.
Do we presume to respond to God before hearing from or about Him?
An incredibly simple, yet piercing, question.
Sure, by including a well-crafted call to worship, we can hear about God and His character. But if the essence of worship is responding to a holy God who is with us and who is revealed to us through Jesus Christ and His Word, should not the bulk of our worship take place after the primary declaration portion of our corporate gathering time?
Our tendency though (including mine) is to place the bulk of worship before the message. But in doing so, are we faithfully responding to God as He is or as we think Him to be?
Now I realize that if the corporate gathering is truly an ongoing expression of worship for the people of God because they are living in the circle of worship, then perhaps this is a moot point.
Or is it?
As I began serving in the role of worship pastor in a previous ministry setting, I remember one Sunday being asked about this very thing. He thought that the bulk of corporate worship should happen after the message as a response. Unfortunately, I didn’t give as much credence to his comment as perhaps I should have and blew it off.
Perhaps to my own detriment.
Maybe instead of the 90/10 split we’ve grown accustomed to, we should be considering a 30/70 split. Even a 50/50 split would be better, I think. There is a place for corporate worship on the front side to draw us together and prepare our hearts to hear God’s Word. But I think we’re missing out when we rush through a final song after the message so we can move on with our day.
The declaration of the living Word of God always brought about a response of the congregation in the examples of Scripture. Our modern response, though, seems to be more about appreciation for the sharing of knowledge.
In services where I’ve intentionally planned a greater portion of worship after the message, the response has always seemed to be more engaged and “worshipful.” Especially when it has been coupled with a call and reason to respond.
I realize that this kind of shift can’t happen overnight in most congregations. It would have to be something that is done intentionally and with the full support of the senior pastor and other leadership.
I also realize that the expression of response and worship to the truth of God is something that should carry out throughout the week because of what has been declared.
I’m curious, what do you think? Do you think I’m off base? Am I missing something? What has been your experience in services where there has been a greater opportunity (time and content wise) for response after a message?
Maybe you attend a church community that has or is making this shift. What has been your experience?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s make this an ongoing conversation.