I am afraid in many churches a disturbing trend continues, creating an order of worship based on the favorite songs and an un-written liturgy of passed down tradition with no thought to the Gospel. My personal history includes one of the free-church tradition where no specific order of worship is demanded. However, in the services I attended there was a liturgy, one that included starting with a fast song, end up with a slow song and between the two add a welcome, an offering and maybe a testimony and/or solo.
Over the last 29 years my vocation has been that of the worship planner/leader. Each week I face a blank piece of paper on which I must place items that will be presented in a corporate worship gathering. Many of these years I begin to create these services by putting songs on the page that were familiar or that I thought would produce a particular emotional response. They were then placed in an order that was dictated by the un-written liturgy of congregation tradition.
Lately I have witnessed the same plague of poor worship planning taking place in both traditional and contemporary services. If there is any thought to a flow of the service it is dictated by familiarity or drive to a sermon theme.
It is important to include items that are familiar to the congregation so that there can be participation and not just observation in a worship service. However, there should not be a sacrifice of the Gospel for the sake of what feels good to the participants.
I believe to create authentic, Word-filled worship services we need to give significant attention to the Word and as Bryon Chapell states “a re-presentation” of the Gospel. Please know that the word Gospel is not just a call to salvation but a call for all to be radical Christ-followers who live a life that is totally surrendered to God.
With that said please know I am not an advocate of following a prescribed litany of some printed book.
I am a believer is starting worship planning by asking ‘how will I tell the story of the Gospel this week?’ And how will I encourage the congregation to participate in the conversation that God has begun by revealing His glory and His grace?
When we start our worship planning we are really not starting with a blank piece of paper. The story of God is active and we have been given an invitation to join. It is our job as worship leaders to remind the participants of the story our role in hearing and responding to that story.
Let us never plan services and add songs or other elements to a service just because we have always done it that way or because these are the things our people like. Let’s be conscious to engage in the Gospel.