How Long Does Your Sunday Service Last?

It’s Monday afternoon and the Sanctuary is empty. The lights are off, the microphones are put away, the guitars are in their cases, the projectors are powered down, and the room is totally quiet. The people who just 24 hours earlier had filled the room are now scattered around the city – at their jobs, in class, at home, in their cars, at the Doctor’s office, in court, at an airport, in meetings, or maybe sitting on the couch.

We sang a handful of songs yesterday morning. We heard God’s word read to us and preached to us, we prayed together, and we shared the Lord’s Supper. From beginning to end the service took a little over an hour and a half. But for those people who are now scattered around the city, did it last any longer than that?

I ask myself: for the man who left his house at 5:30am to beat the traffic on his way to a job that he hates, or the Mom who couldn’t get any sleep because the stomach flu has now struck all five children, or the guy who left church yesterday afternoon and proceeded to get drunk at a downtown party that lasted until 3am – might the songs that we were singing just 24 hours ago have lasted into today?

It’s easy for worship leaders to get caught up in what they’re seeing in the room as they’re leading. Do people look engaged? How many hands are raised? Are people clapping? Is that guy scowling at me? How does it sound? Did people like that last song? Can anyone hear the electric guitar? On and on the questions go.

Sure, we should be concerned that people are engaged with God as they sing to him, that expressiveness is encouraged and modeled, and that the musicians lead effectively and skillfully. But it is possible to get so concerned with the here-and-now “how is this service going right at this moment” questions that we forget to ask ourselves the questions that matter more.

Are we singing songs that feed people with God’s truth? Am I seeking to point people to the glory of God in Jesus Christ? Are we, in our planning and in our leading, dependent on the Holy Spirit? Was Jesus made central today?

The fact is that very few people can remember a single song we sang yesterday. Even fewer will be able to remember them the next day. By the end of this week, hardly anyone could name a single song we sang this past Sunday.

This always amazes me, by the way, since I could probably tell you what songs we sang on a particular Sunday a couple of years ago. I think about songs a lot – which ones to sing, where we should sing them, how we should respond to a particular sermon most effectively, etc. –  and for some reason, I am able to remember them for months, if not years, later. Most people (thankfully) are not like this.

So on a Monday afternoon, a little over 24 hours since our Sunday morning service ended, it’s good to ask myself “how long did that service last?”

I want to plan services and choose songs that will feed people long after they go home, long after they get to the office, and long after the lies and deceptions of the world start grabbing hold.

For the woman who has lost all hope – she needs to know that “on Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…” not that I pick the newest and coolest songs.

For the man who is seeking pleasure from the world – he needs to know that “wonderful, so wonderful is (Jesus’) unfailing love” and that Jesus’ “cross has spoken mercy over me…” not that my bass player and drummer are totally locked in together.

This is incredibly freeing for worship leaders. And it’s incredibly serious.

Choose songs and plan services that will last longer than an hour and a half, and longer than Monday morning. Use every opportunity you have to point people to the glory of God and the truth of his word which never passes away.

5 thoughts on “How Long Does Your Sunday Service Last?

  1. Mary Jennings January 4, 2010 / 3:34 pm

    I cried tears of thanks while thanking God for giving us His son during the 9:00 service. I’m still grateful. That’s some kind of long worship.

  2. joan stansfield January 4, 2010 / 7:59 pm

    Jamie, I think I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I’ll say it again…what a difference your leading makes to MY worship sunday mornings….i must say! The longer the better, as far as I’m concerned. It’s really evident that your priority is to make it ALL about HIM. You really help us fill up our spiritual plates to the point of flowing over, by making the effort to deliberately point us to the glory of Christ. Thank you, Jamie for serving Jesus every Sunday and allowing for such deep, meaningful worship.

  3. Jonathan Las January 5, 2010 / 3:38 am

    Beautiful and thought-provoking post! Thanks!

  4. Jeff Lindeman January 7, 2010 / 10:30 pm

    Hey Jamie, I found my way to your blog from the TFC website and read some of your posts. I appreciate the gifts God has given you in thinking about worship as well as in leading it. This post caused me to think about how quickly I can “leave” church on a Sunday. At times I can be mentally gone, thinking of other things, before I have physically left. The songs we sing on Sundays not only welcome me into the Lord’s presence but also bring me back – some times during and other times after the service. Thanks for caring so much for all of us whom you lead in worship. It is to God’s glory, my friend. Jeff

  5. James January 8, 2010 / 9:32 am

    Good post

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