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Thursday, May 19, 2011

5 Questions to Guide the Development of a Christian Worship Service

What kind of lighting will work best with the opening song set? What sound equipment do we need to pull off the service this weekend? What videos will most effectively capture the attention of the people? What songs can this worship team play with gusto? How much time should we designate for each element in the service? These 5 questions, of course, are necessary considerations for the person or team planning the worship service. However, these concerns are secondary to more significant considerations for the planning of the worship service. Here are the big picture questions that, if answered, can guide the development of the more detailed and practical components of the service toward God-glorifying worship.

Theology: What will this worship experience reveal about God? There are so many things that can be said about God that perhaps we don’t know where to begin or what to say at all. We must, of course, find a way to say something substantial about God in the context of worship. If the worship service reveals nothing about God, no matter how emotionally therapeutic and engaging, it essentially fails to be a Christian worship service.

Bible: What major part(s) of the biblical story will this worship service rehearse? The Bible contains one complete meta-narrative that moves from creation to corruption to salvation to mission to restoration. Identify the major chunk of the biblical story the service will emphasize. Perhaps it will audaciously touch on all moves in the story.

Anthropology: What realities of the human condition will this worship experience highlight and address? The service might focus on human angst, joy, suffering, peace, hope, sin, or disappointment. The local, national, and global human contexts should influence, to some extent, the vision of Christ the service holds up. We usually call this relevance.

Tradition: What orthodox and historical church traditions and practices will guide us in this worship service? It is vital for those of us who lead worship to keep in mind that Christian worship has been going on long before any of us arrived on the scene, for nearly two thousand years actually. There are rich liturgical traditions and practices that have stood the test of time and can enrich contemporary Christian worship.

Theme and Flow: What is the best way to position the parts of the service so that the theological theme is clear and flows from the gathering of God’s people toward the sending of God’s people? The gathered people of God benefit from a worship rhythm that ushers them intentionally toward an encounter with God that reveals a transformational theological theme.

If you are the pastor of local church or the leader of your church’s worship team, the 5 questions above are worthy of your most prayerful, thoughtful, and creative attention. Of course, there will always be those important practical issues to address as well. But all of the best practices and methods without the thoughtful underpinnings that surface from wrestling with the questions above will fall far short of the potential of Christian worship.

© Lenny Luchetti

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