I have to be very careful with this one this morning, so take today's blog for what it is. Yesterday I mentioned that there were two things I am very passionate about in my ministry: making those folks feel welcome that don't feel welcome in some churches, and creating an atmosphere where folks know it's ok to bring their faith questions. There's actually a third thing that I'm passionate about, but it just didn't seem to fit yesterday, so I left it out.
I'm passionate about worship. Now, not just any worship, and here's where I have to be very careful. I'm actually considering whether or not I shouldn't just hit on the Transfiguration, which was the gospel text for today, and leave this alone. Today's Old Testament readings come from 2 Samual 6, and 1 Chronicles 13. Both of them mention the point in David's kingship where he decided that the Ark of the Covenant should be brought back to Israel. I don't remember exactly where it had been, but evidently it was somewhere else while Saul was king.
So plans are made, preparations are made, the oxen are yoked, the cart is ready, and they start to the City of David. As this little parade makes its way, scripture describes it this way: "David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, with lyres, tambourines, systerns and cymbals...David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts and with the sounds of trumpets... When David returned home to bless his household, Michal, daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, 'How the king has distinguished himself today...' David said to Michal, 'It was before the Lord...I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this...'" (2 Samual 6:5, 14, 20-22)
That sounds like worship.
Bishop Robert Schnase wrote a book a few years ago that has kind of become a theme for our Annual Conference, "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations." In it he lists, believe it or not, five practices of fruitful congregations. One of those is passionate worship. But honestly, most worship is not passionate.
Now, some folks might try to turn this into an "out with the old, in with the new" argument, but that's not what it's about. Worship can be passionate regardless of what form it takes. Personally, I'm not a high church kind of guy. I love to feel the pipe organ when Vera cranks it up loud, but responsive readings and 150 year old hymns just don't do it for me. I'm more into video clips, guitars, smelling the Communion bread baking, and more multi-sensory stuff like that. But high church worship can be very passionate, if the people bring the passion with them. So can contemporary worship, or a capella worship outside under a tree, or house worship with just a handful of folks, or a coffee shop kind of worship with candles and an acoustic guitar.
The point is, it's not what form your worship takes, it's what you take to worship. Allow me a second to put my clergy robe on and speak for my brothers and sisters around the world designing and leading worship...it's hard to stand up front, week after week, and watch as folks sit and stare out the window, if they even come, or read, or play with their phones, or pass notes and giggle. It's not the crying babies that distract us as clergy while we're leading worship, it's...well, it's disinterest that distracts us, and I don't know how to fix it.
So, here's the quandary. With so many other things vying for our attention and time, even on Sunday morning, what can we do to bring the passion back to worship?
I have the appointment that pastors only dream of. I absolutely love serving the folks of Hickman First and Beech Grove, and want to see both of these churches grow. The problem I'm encountering is in a church with 75 or so active members, on any given Sunday we average 40 in attendance. That tells me that our worship isn't passionate enough. Now, I know folks are busy today, and the days of Ward and June Cleaver are gone, along with the time in history where worship was the climax of the week. But there has got to be something we can do to make this one hour per week a passionate priority again.
So, as a worship planner, I'm asking you...what can be done to bring the passion...and the folks...back to worship? I would especially love to hear from those who once attended somewhere but now don't. Shoot me a message.