Worship has been a major focus for me over the last several years, and just in the last week I had several significant conversations on the subject. Yesterday morning, as I was thinking about something else, suddenly a picture popped into my head, fully formed. I don’t know what, if anything, God will do with all this, but I’m excited to see what He brings of it. In the meanwhile, I’d like to share it with you.
I envisioned a small community — 10 to 20 people, maybe 50 at the absolute most — that plans its own worship, week by week. They view growing into conformity with the biblical picture of worship as an ongoing task. To that end, they invest time in learning what the Bible has to say, but they don’t sweat what they don’t know yet. They do the best they can with what they know. At the same time, they don’t delude themselves that they’ve arrived and need no longer grow. They don’t imagine their worship five years from now will look like it does this week, and they’re okay with that.
On any given week, I imagined a planning meeting that starts maybe 30-45 minutes before the community begins the worship service proper. Anyone who wants to can come early and bring with them something that they need to bring into God’s presence in worship. It could be a painting, a story of something God did that week, a challenge from God’s Word, a song that they feel a need to sing with the community, a prayer request, a need they have or an offering they want to give. It could be just a feeling — “My heart is just broken, and I need to bring that before God. Could we do that somehow?”
There’s a basic framework that the community fits all this into — a framework that they’re developing together, and that works for them — but the planning meeting is to fit all the elements for *this* week’s worship. The result is a plan for a worship service where all the elements come together into a harmonious whole, a plan created in an exercise of submission to one another, and then carried out before God together in submission to one another and to Him. It’s a plan, not a rigid script; things may need to be added, deleted, or altered on the fly in response to the needs of the community, and the worship team is prepared to do that.
Speaking of the worship team, the underside of the vision is a team of historically informed, biblically sound, relationally competent and very nimble liturgists/worship leaders with a wide range of resources to draw on and an absolutely unflinching resolve to engage things that scare them senseless. People who are not there to play with their toys or to do things because they think it’s cool, but to submit themselves to the needs of the community they serve, and willing to go wherever God takes them to do that.
I feel a serious tug in my heart to help bring this about, somewhere, somewhen. It doesn’t have to be at my home church — doesn’t have to be sponsored by a church at all, in fact. And it doesn’t have to happen this Tuesday; in God’s timing, it might well be a while. I don’t even need to lead it — although I’d like to, and I certainly aspire to be capable of it — but I really want to be part of it.