Monday, November 20, 2023

Interactive Worship

Persons walking into our churches, members and seekers alike, should be getting fellowship on Sunday mornings. Period. If they aren't, we're doing it wrong. 

And I can hear you already saying, "But our Sunday mornings are so full already! We have to squeeze in the worship music and the Scripture reading and the Jesus talk and the invitation. How can we incorporate fellowship when we have so much information to try to pass on in a very limited amount of time?" 

What if those aren't the things we ought to be focused on? 

What if we created services that were more...interactive?

I come from a singing church. Our voices, for much of our history, were the only music we had. And when that was the case, everyone sang. Even the folks who couldn't sing. Even the folks you didn't want to hear singing. We all sang. We were expected to, but more than that, we wanted to. When we introduced instrumental worship, the congregational singing dropped off dramatically. Where we used to shout with joy at the end of a good song in our singing, now, we offer a round of applause. A dignified kind of round of applause. Just that one simple shift of the music being something offered to us instead of something we offer changed something about our church culture in a very powerful way. 

(And I'm not making a case for acapella worship or instrumental, nor am I making a judgment. I am using this as an example of how it shifts a church culture to have an interactive experience vs. an experience we are expected to show up and essentially watch.) 

It was the interactive nature of our worship that invited us to be present at church in a different way. 

For many years, we sat and listened to the sermon being preached. We took notes in our bulletin, following the outline that the preacher provided for us. Tucking away those little papers after the service. Some folks hung onto them for years; some probably still have them. And at the closing prayer, we'd pack up our Bibles and think, "That was nice." But then, some crazy Pentecostal snuck into one of our services and shouted an "Amen!" in the middle of the preaching, and the preacher chuckled and said, "It's alright. You can say Amen to that!" And now, it's not uncommon for us to hear congregational interjections during the sermon. "Amen." "That's right." "Hallelujah." And when the sermon gets going like that, you can feel the whole place firing up. 

Again, it's the difference between being a spectator and being a participant. 

It's little things like this that change the way we experience something. We're there, but when we participate, we feel like we've really been there. We feel a little more togetherness than we do when we're just a quiet mass of spectators all facing forward and paying good attention. 

There's more personality. You get to hear what folks' voices sound like. You get to hear what makes their heart leap. You get to hear what makes them cry. You start to understand a very real human dynamic in your body that you don't get if everyone is just watching.  And as for the singing, I don't think you ever feel more like part of a group than when you hear your own voice as part of theirs. I just don't. 

See, there have to be things in our Sunday services that make us more than individuals in attendance. There have to be elements that make us a body, humans in shared space, beings together. Engaged with one another even as we're engaged with the church. 

This is the first step to creating a body in our churches, a real fellowship - it's getting something interactive going. It's inviting, and expecting, those in attendance to participate. I'm not saying we all become Pentecostal congregations; that's not comfortable for everyone. But there are ways to be together without being necessarily so loud about it. There are ways to participate without all the things the more conservative among us are intimidated by. 

(And there are ways to really get this wrong, too.) 

But if your Sunday service is designed for folks to come in, sit down, pay attention, and go home, then you can't have a body. You have a group. A social club. But not a body. 

No comments:

Post a Comment