You know... it's really difficult to plan and prepare worship experiences week after week after week. Sunday comes every seven days and here at Mainstreet we throw in extra services throughout the year; like for the past few months we've added a "1st Wednesday Worship." I don't think that most people understand what it takes to pull worship off every week unless you are involved with planning a worship experience yourself.
Used to be in the old days you picked three or four hymns and selected which 5 of the 15 verses you were going to sing from each one. Even with a hymn book filled with hundreds of hymns you still only sang about 15-20 different ones over the course of a year. And of course you sang all 6 verses of "Almost Persuaded" every single week at the altar call; waiting for that last lost soul to bravely slip out of their row and head down the aisle - all eyes watching.
Which reminds me - remember this? "Every head bowed, every eye closed; no one looking around; just slip your hand up saying yes pastor pray for me...I see you in the back thank you, just slip your hand...yes over there to the right, I'm praying for you...anyone else...don't be afraid; every head bowed...yes young lady I see your hand and so does Jesus (choir looping back around to verse 1 of Almost Persuaded quietly in the background.) It always seemed like this went on for an eternity...everyone by this time was starved, so some people either made their way down the aisle or raised their hand week after week just so the thing would finally end.
There was always a fiery sermon straight from the KJV Bible and a solo sang at the pulpit by a operatic soprano (sometimes my own mother), or maybe the house quartet would do a special, and after the aforementioned altar call they'd read the names of those who received Jesus or joined the church and off we'd go (we usually came back at 7 for the evening service)...ah the good old days!
Church is a little different nowa days. First of all, our pastor labors endlessly over what his message (not called a sermon any more) topic should be for the culturally relevant series we're going to do, then he brings a "bottom line" to the planning team. We can spend hours just deciding on what the title for the series should be, and it's got to be one that would make an 18 year old want to get out of bed and come to church - totally cool (err sweet) and totally connected to something in the culture.
Once we have a series title we labor over graphics...something grungy with a broken font and maybe a close-up of a skateboarder doing an ollie or something from Rock Band - (uber sweet). Then and only then do we start planning individual services. "How about a secular song for a prelude...Aerosmith..." "Yeah, but don't they do drugs? What if someone thinks we're promoting drug use..." "No, not anymore, they all went to rehab in the 80's... it'll be fine - let's do Love in an Elevator." "We should probably do a drama for week two and shoot some man-on-the-streets to tie each week together." "Hey, the new Miley Cyrus song has a great message..." "Yeah, but doesn't she do drugs?" And on it goes...week after week.
We do have a particular challenge putting services together. Cirque Du Soleil (which I love) can spend months and months preparing their show, and they do the same show over and over night after night. But they have one advantage...a different audience for every show. We have the same audience week after week...some of which still long for the old days. How do you keep it fresh and interesting week after week? Church was rarely fresh and interesting (sorry) when I was a kid but we went...week after week and so did everyone else.
Guess what...I think worship at Mainstreet is usually fresh and interesting. Oh, sometimes we fall into a routine and have to change things up a bit, but generally? I like the music, the grungy graphics, the videos, the messages, the dramas... I like to go to other churches to see what they're doing too. God is so creative and He has given us creative people - I love hearing creative ideas flying around the worship planning table and see it come together on Sunday morning.
Many people received Christ and built the foundations of their faith on the church services of the past. It's a privilege to use all the things at our disposal today to help people connect with God - I wouldn't change it for anything. But you know? The Bible says..."faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God..." Hummmm.