As I plan corporate worship for a large body of people week after week, one principle I constantly remember is this: The higher the predictability, the lower the impact. Remember that daily drive along the Pacific to the college campus? Whenever I got used to it, I began to lose the impact of that beautiful sight.
So, I also look at each element of worship from different angles, to see how it might be approached freshly or arranged in creative combinations and yet with dignity.
For instance, with Scripture I ask myself: How can it make a special impact upon these people who routinely sit in this room Sunday after Sunday? Does it always have to be read as a monologue? Can it be read responsively by two people? Can it be sung? Can it be read dramatically by a practiced readers team? Is this a conversation between one, two, four people? Is there a crowd involved that the choir could represent? Can the prophet shout or call from some distant vantage point in the room? Can different people in the congregation stand and proclaim God’s Word from where they are? (Hayford, J. W., Killinger, J., & Stevenson, H. (1990). Mastering Worship. Mastering Ministry (28). Portland, OR; Carol Stream, IL: Multnomah Press; Christianity Today, Inc.)
When we must stage worship activities to make it fresh or have worship teams, we fall into the trap that the church produces worship for the believer. However, the true freshness of worship is in a believer who privately worships prior to the church service. This premise does not mean that worship cannot be encouraged by a well planned and executed assembly event.
There is no wrong in planning the happenings in the course of an assembly meeting of the church. In fact, it is important to plan for a proper service. It is important to provide direction and freshness to the elements of a church assembly meeting. It is equally true that confusing these efforts as creating worship or avenues to worship of God is dangerous. It is dangerous to create in the assembly a concept that worship is created by staged events during assembly.
It is possible, that the most effective church assembly event, is one in which diligent participants have personally made plans to worship when the worship opportunity presents itself in the assembly.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Each of the Wise Men prepared to worship when the moment presented itself. In private, they prepared to worship, and in public they demonstrated their preparation. Although they were not believers, it is possible that they understood worship better than believers.
It is also possible, that the most effective church assembly event, is one in which thoughtful participants have gained true knowledge of worship through private study of God’s word, and have prepared to worship when the opportunity presents itself in the assembly.
John 4:19–24 (KJV 1900)
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Jesus exposed the fallacy of organized, ignorant corporate activities in the name of worship. True worship comes is the private preparation and in the knowledge gained from private study of the truth.
Modern churches are filled with assembly events of “worship”, some wild in nature, to convenience the willingly ignorant or unprepared believer of worship occurring. These events convince participants that they have worshipped. They are fooled because they personally bring a lack of the knowledge of true worship to the assembly.