Friday, 31 July 2009

Do we get it all a bit backwards?

I think most of us do church in around the same sort of format. Our styles or music and preaching and interaction may all be very different, but generally we use a similar format, with perhaps some variations.

But I’ve been wondering a bit recently, are our meetings… well a bit backwards? Is the order slightly wrong?

Let me elaborate. Out meetings usually follow this order (or something similar) Welcome and prayer, Praise songs, Notices, Worship songs, Breaking of bread, Worship songs, Word, Final prayer and final song. Give or take a bit that’s a pretty fair run down of how most churches have their meetings.

Now for me, there are some things in this that perhaps are not the best that we could do. First of all is the word. Everything flows out of the word of God. It’s the first thing mention in the list in Acts 2 when the fellowship of the believers is “Devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles”. Everything comes out of the teaching of the word – worship after all is a response to His glory and goodness.

The trouble is we structure the meetings with “the word” as the main event. It’s something that the rest of the meeting leads up to. I think worship suffers as a result of this: I‘m sure everyone has experienced one of these; People arriving 20mins later during the worship “but it’s ok as they are here before the message starts”, An amazing time of worship cut short because the preacher needs to get up, aimless worship that really doesn’t connect with the word that’s going to be brought, interruptions from the notices that totally ruin the flow of the worship. I could go on.

Can I suggest that the reason that worship sometimes seemed rushed, or just an opening to the meeting or short changed in some way is that the best place for worship in a meeting is NOT before the word?

Worship after all is a response to Him. How much more meaningful worship is when we’ve got something to respond to. Whatever it is that the word brings, a call to repentance, an encouragement, a challenge – worship feeds of these things and a good worship leader can run off the back of a message and make the worship relevant to its context.

We’ve tried this a few times before, keeping the main body of worship until after the word and it really ignites. Could it be that the reason that we have worship before the word is because we always have done?

I’ve been encouraged a lot recently by this question – if you could do everything again from scratch, would you do it the same? And of course if the answer is no, why not change it NOW?

How about breaking bread? This fits into the time of worship, so in our church it takes place before the word. But surely communion is a time when we examine ourselves. Where we deal with issues. But yet our issues have not really been challenged yet in perhaps the way they will be later in a meeting during a word. Surely communion is something that should be done after the word, after a response and a time of repentance. Again, if the worship took place at this time then the two would still fit together.

No longer would the time of worship feel short changed by the Word, but instead it can thrive off the back of it. You don’t have people checking their watches if the speaker goes a few minutes over he should, because this no longer signifies the end of a meeting – but instead it’s the start of the worship. It’s amazing how little people look at their watches during a great time of worship.

I’m not suggesting for one second that this is the way we have to do it. However I am wondering if perhaps having the main body of worship after the word is beneficial to both elements. Do we only have the structure we have out of habit, or because the people may have to adjust to something different? Just a thought….