Just Thinking ...
This week Dr. Ed Phillips asked my DMin cohort to consider a question for discussion. He asked us, "What is good worship?" Well, that truly is a loaded question. In a day where worship wars abound and where everyone has an opinion about what good worship looks and sounds like, the question is as subjective as questions get at first look.
I attempted to answer the question within the 500-word limit, but even now I struggle with my response, because worship requires more than 500 words for me to express my understanding of good worship. Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining that there was a limit; I can be a lazy student at times, but there is simply so much to say about what good worship is ... to me. I'm sure you have an opinion of what good worship is for you. In fact, you'd better or you and I need to have a serious talk!!
It would be an easier task to share what is not good worship. Good worship is more difficult to define, because it is subjective to the one involved. In its purest sense, good worship is an experience that honors and expresses gratitude to Almighty God for the gifts of life, salvation, and purpose. Worship is good when it involves the majority of individuals who have gathered in the honoring and expressing of gratitude as participants and not as an audience. It is good when those involved, holy and righteous or sinful and broken, are drawn to give of their full selves to the worship of God. For me, this happens when Word, table, and water are signs that continually draw the people back to the understanding that worship is about and for God. We, with the guidance and help of the clergy and worship leaders, offer our best, even if it is broken or seemingly insignificant.
These dynamics mean for me, as the one prayerfully planning worship (hopefully with a team) that we must prepare the best experience possible. I believe in excellence, not perfection, in this time of worship to and for God. I felt a similar sense of spirit with Trey Hall in his article, Failure Makes Worship Good. I loved how he stated that "... failure is part of living a true story and, therefore, can be a sacrament of freedom." (Failure Makes Worship Good, 21). We all come to this moment of worship having failed in many ways, and yet scripture tells us that God accepts with an open heart. Offering honesty and vulnerability, our true selves in the worship are feelings of amazement that cannot be forgotten. I believe planning and hard work on the part of the pastor and worship team do this. I am old-school; we are expected to give our best to God in all things especially our worship. Hall states "hyperpolished and overproduced liturgies ... leave no space for mess." (Failure Make Worship Good, 22). I disagree because we bring ourselves to this time, and we are, a great deal of the time, "messes." No matter how polished we are, there is always the element of humanity creating all kinds of messes, and
that is pure and holy; even if for this pastor it makes me cringe.
Good worship is more than music and preaching. It takes into consideration the deeper work of bringing the people to a place where they might honor the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life, not only Sunday after Sunday, but every moment of their messy lives.
(Failure Makes Worship Good found in Liturgy, The Journal of the Liturgical Conference, Vol 29, no. 2 2014)
With fear and trepidation, I share my post with you and invite you to dialog with me regarding this as well throughout the semester as Dr. Phillips has us define our understanding of Leadership and Witness 1: Cultivating Church. I'm not using you as guinea pigs, but rather as sounding boards and as colleagues so we might grow together.
Hopefully, my thinking is not too far off, and I am hoping you find good worship this week.