The Failure of Church Worship
A Worship Leader leads worship. A Worship Director directs worship. A Worship Producer produces worship.
As a Pastor, I haven’t found any of the above terms helpful in describing what I do. The “care-of-souls-function” of worship, implies a broader range of nuanced activity than lead, direct, produce, design, or even do.
As a Pastor, my role includes encouraging, equipping, teaching, and providing tools and practices to guide spiritual formation – anything that will sustain my community in their following of Jesus Christ in the world and becoming – in the words of James K A Smith – “a certain kind of people whose hearts and passions and desires are aimed at the kingdom of God.” I want my community to be people who individually and collectively living lives that “build for the Kingdom of God.” (N.T. Wright)
Our gathering regularly, as a community of faith for worship, is likely one of the main opportunities I have to build the community of God in a kingdom mindset. These services of worship, or as I prefer to call them, “worship events,” carry a huge weight of expectation; perhaps more than they can bear, and certainly more than many of us can reasonably expect of them.
So I take what I offer to my community in a worship event very seriously.
And that’s where I run into trouble. The language we traditionally use to describe what we do in worship events suggests we don’t often take those gatherings seriously, or not seriously enough. Or that we haven’t seriously considered what we are doing and what outcomes we desire.
As a result, we get the Christians we deserve – people who most often demonstrate very little understanding of what following Jesus means, and show even less ability to live as people who model to their world what Jesus-following-good-news looks like.
If that is what the majority of my community of faith reflects, I have failed as a Pastor. This results more than likely from a failure to take seriously enough the worship events I have offered week after week after week. The events that have shaped us overtly and subtly, by spoken word, read word, vibe and values, action and activity, reflection and action, and the lifestyles of my community, have in reality been those outside our gathering rather than inside our community worship.
If I understand the purpose of the corporate worship events of the community being those that will sustain my community in their following of Jesus Christ in the world, and in becoming a certain kind of people whose hearts and passions and desires are aimed at the kingdom of God, then I need to shape those events with that in mind, and evaluate them against that criteria.
Asking some better questions can help:
What do I want my worship events to achieve?
Why do we do what we do in our worship events in the order and way we do?
How can we make our worship better meet the needs of our community?
These are the keys to starting to see worship through different eyes, and leading to better outcomes–outcomes that align with those of the role of a pastor nor a performer.
The “success” of worship isn’t measured by how people feel, but by the trajectory of maturing spiritual formation that is exhibited in their daily living.
To then describe the process of designing/leading/producing these worship events requires new language that is up to the task. Worship leader – a role that should describe the entire work of Jesus in the cosmos, refers to, in the common parlance, only to singing songs; this just isn’t adequate.
So I coined the phrase “curating worship” and the role of “worship curator” to help me think differently about what Jesus does in us and through us. Join me in an upcoming podcast and the following series of blogs in the next few weeks. I will help unpack the worship curator concept further. Also, learn more about me HERE, and check out my book HERE.