Worship Service – The Power of Upsetting the Routine

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In the last post I mentioned something that happened in one of our worship services that I will never forget. The main reason I won’t forget it is not just because we prayed for her but because many of us got to meet her and encourage her that Sunday. I was later able to visit her in the hospital as she lost her battle with cancer. She was a real person with a real challenge and we stopped everything that Sunday to put it before God as a congregation. That is powerful.

Another aspect of that, that makes it stand out is that something different happened. The Sunday morning routine was upset. It is even a shame that I have to refer to it like that, but that is kind of how it goes…right? I am not being negative when I say this but we have pretty well formalized our worship (and for some pretty decent reasons) sometimes it becomes routine. I would bet some of the things you remember best that happened in a worship service were times the routine got upset. Someone (maybe you!) dropped the communion cups or maybe the lights went out or a song caught on and just kept going over and over and everyone was excited! Those things aren’t planned. Some don’t really mean much at all but other times upsetting the routine is powerful.

So what do we do with that? Sometimes upsetting the routine is unplanned. But we can plan to do this and when we do, it will get people’s attention because you are no longer going through the motions…instead of knowing where the service is going, you are engaged because you are wondering what is going to happen next. It is powerful to highlight different areas of the worship at different times. Have a communion Sunday where you spend more time on it with less sermon time. Or have a Sunday worship where you do more singing or more praying or more scripture reading. Have the worship in another location. Involve different people (the kids, teens, etc).

Upsetting the routine is powerful because it breaks us out of the realm of predictability. Once something becomes predictable we lose interest in it.

6 Responses

  1. I believe there is a difference between worship routine (what happens at the Sunday assembly) and worship experience (what happens in the daily lives of Christians). There is nothing wrong with routine. We are creatures of habit, and often that is good. I have a routine in the morning that never changes, and it allows me, a very unstructured person by nature, have some structure. But if routine is all we do, we will fail to experience worship in a meaningful way. We see Jesus doing both routine (Sabbath worship) and experience (healing the man lowered through the roof, willingness to break routine of worship on Sabbath to experience worship on Sabbath, etc.).

    One thing that we did here to give people a chance to experience worship in a different way is to begin a monthly worship Sunday at 5:19PM. It’s based on Ephesians 5:19 and is nothing but praise and worship. There is no set routine, so it varies from month to month. We didn’t want to copy and paste Sunday morning into Sunday evening. Anyway, great thoughts. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I tend to agree with you. I remember reading C.S. Lewis where he argued the other side. He wrote:

    But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. …

    A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question, ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste.

    Just a reminder that some people don’t want their routine upset. 🙂

    1. I would add to that the leadership principle Robert Heifetz explains in his book Leadership Without Easy Answers. He calls it productive tension. If people have no tension they can stagnate and not grow. If you put them under too much tension they jump ship. You have to know your people (smell like sheep, if you will) in order to know where they are at, what they need, what they can take and what they can’t…all while balancing that with what is biblical and what is not. Easy job, right? Maybe that is why we would rather just not mess with it and do the same thing week in and week out for decades.

  3. In Argentina, I had the privilege of spending time on a regular basis with a gentleman who had worked on the space project in that country. (with Van Braun and all those guys before they went to the U.S.)

    He introduced me to the concept of wobble. He said in a launch, neither change nor rate of change are a problem. But change in the rate of change creates what they call wobble, and it can be disastrous.

    He felt that culture was feeling the effects of wobble. My guess is that churches can as well.

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