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Monday, March 09, 2009
Ordering Worship: Part 2

After my last post, i realized I made some big assumptions that people already agreed that we needed a particular kind of order for worship. So do we? Why not just order it in a way that makes the most sense to twenty first century worshippers? Why not switch it up regularly? 

So what do you think? What's the point of an order for worship and is this different than order in worship? How might a set order be a benefit? a liability? Why should it matter? What difference does it make? And if we agree on the need for an order of worship then how should we arrive at it?  Where would we find it? What would guide us? 

I've decided to spend a few posts discussing these questions and related issues. So for starters, I welcome you to inform the conversation with your own assessments and assertions. 

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posted by John David Walt | at 3/09/2009 03:01:00 AM

 

9 Comments:

Anonymous guy m williams said...

The point of having an order for worship is so that worship has a plot. I am not a "high liturgy" guy, but I still appreciate the worship gathering having a narrative to it, rather than 2 or 3 bullet points: music, perfunctory prayer/announcements, message. I call these bullet points because they are generally experienced as non-dependent on their order except that the music functions to calm us down and help us be in a place where we can focus on the message.

Looking forward to you thoughts, JD, and those of others.

10:53 AM EDT  
Anonymous elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Hey JD...just so you know, I posted the youtube click of your and Chris's song at the bottom of today's post on my blog.

Such a powerful Word in melody.

peace~elaine killian olsen

1:17 PM EDT  
Blogger Alison said...

A shoutout to you and a past sermon of yours on my blog today (it's at the bottom on the post)...miss you and the family!

1:25 PM EDT  
Blogger NAJS said...

JD - My first ever Blog post, so hope this reads as it was intended; friendly ponderings from a non-theologian Brother in Christ.

What’s the goal of a service, for me, is a more pertinent question. My view is three fold (i) to gather Gods people together & praise him because he’s always worthy
(in word, prayer & song), (ii) to re-centre ourselves with God as Lord of all and (iii) learn how scripture applies to our life so we can minister to our wider community.

Preparation in itself could be seen as worshipful/respectful, I certainly put considerable prayer & thought into how I select songs, how that flows within the service structure – desperately trying to avoid anything taking away from people focusing on God.

However, we should remain open to the Holy Spirit as a guide for Gods will within the service. If I’m leading musical worship and planned 5 songs I won’t play them “religiously”. I will look to what each song is doing and how it might serve God & his congregation today, I might drop songs. I don’t want to take away/distract.

So offering your orders/plans up in prayerful submission is itself an act of reverence, where being open to the spirit provides a strong service foundation. Should you & the service leaders decide a change during a services course that’s fine, it’s easier to divert from a plan than when you have no plan/goal in mind. Balanced considerations can be made around what your removing/re-ordering and why.

Order for orders sake doesn’t make sense to me. The Tent of Meeting/Temple model of Worship, for example, is one of many helpful ‘models’ we can translate into our planning, but God, in both the Old & New testaments encountered people in different ways & they too worshiped him in different ways.

To conclude my thoughts, I believe it’s a matter of the heart. I wouldn’t invite a guest to dinner without thinking/planning/arranging something that would please or honour them; if I discovered they were vegetarian a change in diet might seem appropriate, but I wouldn’t cancel the evening.

7:40 AM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

NAJS-- I don't think we disagree here. NIce way of framing the issue through the metaphors.

I do contend that those who do the most preparation tend to be the most spontaneous. Something about prayerful preparation makes one more discerning in the moment. So often, spontaneity is a cover for laziness. You are exactly right about making the plan and then dwelling and discerning in the moment, making changes as it seems right to the Spirit and the Church.

I think of structure and order more as wise guidance than strict governance.

It's another conversation-- but i'll broach it here--- So often structure is despised in favor of the "Spirit's" spontaneity. The irony is that without structure, over time one's own sense of spontaneity will become the structure. The first time or twenty it will seem like the Spirit and it very likely was early on. What tends to happen when we encounter the Spirit in a powerful way is that we wind up creating a form to replicate the conditions that made for the encounter. It may be an intentionally unstructured form-- but that in itself becomes a structure over time. It can become as fixed an immovable as the church bulletin order of worship at first methodist church.

i'll ramble on--- the danger we run into without good structure is we so easily reverse the essential pattern of worship. We so easily get away from the Revelation-Response pattern and fall into the trap of thinking we need to perform or engage worship in a certain fashion in order to get God to do something or show up. In other words, our order of worship-- whether written down or not, becomes the idolatry. I mean idolatry in the sense of people making an attempt to manipulate God to make their worship work or their life work, etc.

We must labor to find an order for worship that breathes-- a living order rather than a fixed structure. Worship can't become whatever we want it to become (no matter how much we think the Spirit is leading us). Worship has an essential shape and pattern that has been revealed to us in Scripture. It's a flexible shape and a generous pattern, but a shape and pattern no less.

thanks for bearing with me here as i work out my own thinking. thanks also for stirring me to think.

great first blog post!!

glad you are here.

jd

6:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Kendra said...

I believed in the Lord in a time when there was no religious structure in my home life. The church was first in introducing me to respond to God's words.

Isn't that amazing! By the structure we followed each week, I began to understand that when God spoke (sermon/Bible), I responded. An expectation existed that the heart should respond to the preaching of God's word. Eventually, this gave way to me attempting to read my Bible and respond to God when I was alone.

And it worked! He was really there! I remember those days so vividly. I knew nothing, but God's word spoke right to my heart. I wasn't taught how to do a "quiet time," but responsiveness to God corporately led me to seek it personally.

So, how we order our service is an opportunity for great compassion and instruction to the sheep. It may seem routine to those who lead, but God's presence gives it life. =-)

Now, in the sorority house, I do not have God's word to go before me. I must live God's word and allow them to respond - usually before I can speak. My consistency in such is like an invitation to them. But without God's Word spoken first, by an intentional gathering of people, the process is difficult. Expectation for holiness should be clear, and is difficult when the situation has no boundaries or is inconsistent.

Corporate expectation (such as communicated by structure)benefits the learner when used in consistent, godly, and kind ways.

8:11 PM EDT  
Blogger Jamey said...

When I read the title, "Ordering Worship" and saw the graphic, I immediately thought I was a consumer looking at a menu. . .is that what the order of worship is for many worshippers?

8:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Brian said...

I found my way to your blog via the "first born son," and thought I'd throw in my opinion as a Catholic and liturgy enthusiast.

For me, the regularity of liturgy and the celebration of the Eucharist provide a valuable consistency to Worship- to know that the mass is being celebrated somewhere in the world constantly, and that I can find and participate in a familiar form of worship anywhere in the world is powerful.

I also think it's significant that Catholic liturgy follows basically the same format for all the events in my life- marriages, funerals, graduations, religious and civic holidays, crises like 9/11. The celebration of the mass and sharing of the Eucharist provides comfort and reassurance that Christ is truly present in the sacraments, and by extension, all the important moments of my life.

I guess the problem with consistency is complacency. I'll have to sit on that one a little while longer.

3:18 AM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

that's an amazing story Kendra-- how corporate worship led you to personal worship. the we before the I. i think it is refreshingly biblical. thanks for remembering that for us.

Jamey-- nice observation. ;-)

Brian-- glad to see another brother from the Holy Mother on Farmstrong, as I like to fondly call my Roman Catholic friends. We get some Matt Maher commentary here every once in a while. Seriously-- you could teach us a lot about the order of worship. and what i glean from your post is that the wise ordering of worship leads to the wise ordering of life. worship becomes the order of our entire life. that's what we're after.

12:12 PM EDT  

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