What are we doing when we come together for worship? Every week I’m involved in helping to plan and lead three distinctly different worship services for my congregation. It is easy to get lost in the drudgery of details, or to simply “plug and play” into a template service order without giving much thought. But usually, it is not lost on me that we are organizing opportunities for the people of God to draw together and experience the presence of the One Eternal Creator, even Yahweh, even Christ Jesus.
Behind the bustle of recruiting and equipping laity to read scripture and liturgy, to rehearse and lead choral pieces and praise band songs, to provide hospitality and audio/visuals, to take up and count the offering, to keep the nursery and teach the Sunday School classes…behind all of that is the beautiful opportunity to open our awareness of God’s presence alive in our midst. Behind all of the details, the imperfections, the missed notes and the speaker who went on far past all your cues for him to stop, is the beauty of the Holy Spirit breaking into our community.
So we prayerfully prepare for worship…what Marva Dawn calls “a royal waste of time.” It’s the hour where we’re meant to join Charles Wesley, “lost in wonder, love and praise.” It’s the time where we grow closer with our community as we taste eternity in the liminal overlap of heaven and earth…what John Wesley calls the increase of “an inward heaven” (Sermon 77, II.6). All of our preparation must focus on this question: How may we best glorify God in this community? No template or worship planning website can really answer that for you. It’s totally wonderful to learn best practices of other churches. It’s important to ask how what you’re doing may confuse or better enable new-comers to worship. It’s important to discover ways to engage your congregation rather than produce picky spectators. It’s okay to have good coffee. But all of that needs to fall within the bigger question, the reason we do any of it: How may we best glorify God in this community?