By Peter Hanson, Lead Pastor
I’ve started to lose count of the number of times I’ve heard this in the past few weeks. Variations include the words “meaningful,” “cohesive,” and “moving.” On the surface, it’s a rather curious comment—sort of like telling a doctor that her surgery was particularly “medical.” But I do hear the appreciation in these comments, and I am truly grateful for them.
In the past several months, there has been a good deal of focused effort put into the crafting of our worship experience at Christ the King. As I first shared in the course of the Worship and Music Study last spring, let me reiterate three broad-stroke “movements” I feel we are being called to make in the way we think of, talk about, and engage in worship at CtK.
At its heart, Christian worship is the gathering of the whole body of Christ. Far from being a passive audience, the assembled congregation are active participants in worship—through songs, prayers, and readings as well as gestures and movement. While there are some performative aspects to worship, even these are meant to lead, engage, and support the activity of the entire body. A broadening of those involved in worship leadership also helps reflect its participative nature.
Movement 1: From Performance to Participation.
As one person reflected at a Worship and Music Study forum, “We need to be less concerned about what I like and more about what we need.” In a similar way, the various elements of worship need to serve a larger purpose in communicating the message of the Gospel and engaging people in that message. We all have songs we don’t really care for, ways of praying we’re not used to, instruments we enjoy more than others, and preachers we’d rather hear from. Part of the corporate nature of worship is that shared purpose ought to outweigh individual preference.
Movement 2: From Preference to Purpose.
It’s good to have high standards for our worship. But worship is a collective effort of flawed but forgiven people who often fall short of perfection. All of us make mistakes—from a sour note on the violin, to a reader mispronouncing “Abimelich,” to a confirmand lighting the “wrong” advent candle, to a missed mic cue, or late PowerPoint slide, to a pastor getting tongue-tied over the Words of Institution. But God’s grace abounds—and while we strive to do our best, we would do well to remember that an authentic heart seeking to connect with God and God’s people far outweighs a flawless anthem, sermon, offering, or slideshow.
Movement 3: From Perfection to Authentic Practice.
Yes, worship is more spiritual lately. God’s Spirit is on the move, and the result has been movement among the people of God. Let the people say, “Amen!”
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