Opening Day for the Worship Driven Church

by vernsanders on June 4, 2009

One of Creator‘s former editors, Rod Ellis, sends me a weekly update/newsletter about his ministry. He’s about to move into a new worship space, and it made me remember that I wrote an editorial when another friend was experiencing the same thing. This is from the May/June, 2000, issue, and was written just before the San Francisco Giants’ new ballyard, Pacific Bell (now AT&T in name, but never to those of us who’ve been there from the beginning) Park, was opened. I’ve left in the references to Pac Bell because they provide context…

I’m a big baseball fan. And around here the biggest thing going is the new stadium being readied for the San Francisco Giants. Pacific Bell Park—one local sportswriter calls it “the big phone”—promises to be a magnificent place to watch a game…combining the intimacy associated with old parks like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park with the latest in technology—the park is wired for the internet. Personally I’m looking forward to having my own cupholder right there at my seat.
So what you say? Well it makes me think of a friend of mine who is in the last throes of moving into a new sanctuary. His church burned a couple of years ago, and they will have their first worship in the new space on Easter.
Talk about exciting. Imagine, those of you who are stuck in a terrible worship space, the anticipation of moving into a “state of the art” environment. Trouble is, of course, that my friend’s new space may be “state of the art” in wiring, air/heat, lighting, and sound  (OK, let’s not go there for a minute…play along) but is it a great worship environment? Do great sightlines, a fabulous PA, the best microphones, and communion cup holders ensure worship success? Of course not, anymore than with a baseball team.
There’s that word—team. Worship team, praise team, ministry team…call it what you will, it will be women and men who, in the best of circumstances, work together to “lead” a congregation in worship.
Here’s the deal, though. In the best of circumstances, a baseball team is “our” team. Those who attend a game are involved in the action (frequently I turn to my next seat neighbor and say something to the effect of: “Do you sacrifice here?”), and not just standing to cheer. They are mentally engaged, anticipating what might happen, understanding the gifts of the players available, and personalizing the success and failure of the team effort. Some are even motivated to play the game at  school, or after work.
The best worship works the same way. Those who attend understand the framework for play (Scripture), are mentally engaged, anticipate what might happen, understand the gifts of those on the worship team, and, best of all, personally benefit from the success of the team effort. The opposite is also true.
Too often we in the worship ministry are caught up in “bricks and mortar.“ We want better sound, better light, a bigger organ, more microphones. If the need exists, great, but the object is worship, not the acoutrements.
Robert Webber’s wonderful article Preparing for Ministry in a Postmoder World: The Worship-Driven Church is a call to return to the truth of worship—not the flash. Worship, in this day and age, needs to be truthful, and deliver the truth. The latest Rolling Stone states: “No generation has been marketed and spun and pitched to as ingeniously and relentlessly as today’s…it’s beyond not believing the (garbage); mostly we don’t even hear it.”
While the subject is not worship, it might as well be. Let’s team up to be the Worship-Driven Church.

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