Tonight I’m headed up to Latrobe, PA to lead worship at eight different sessions/services at the Anglican Church in North America‘s Assembly 2014. In addition to hearing some great speakers (J.I. Packer, Os Guinness, Gary Haugen, Andy Crouch, Eric Mataxas, etc.), I’m looking forward to the times of corporate worship and leading the music alongside some good friends who are traveling up there with me. My church has taken the lead on planning/organizing much of this conference, and before I transition out in a little less than two weeks, it will be fun (and exhausting) to be a part of this event.
A couple of years ago I led worship at a similar event on the West Coast, and I taught a seminar called “Ten Ways Anglican Churches Can Grow in Worship”. I posted on it back then, but since I’m going to be knee-deep in the Anglican world this week, and since I think all of these things can apply to other churches as well, I’d like to share them again.
Here are ten ways Anglicans (and probably most other churches) can grow in worship:
1. Worship God out of love, not duty
We don’t worship God because he needs it, we worship God because we need it. To paraphrase John Piper: God demands praise because we won’t be happy until we give it. God isn’t needy. We are. When people come to church because they think God needs it, or because God will be impressed, they’re doing it out of duty. Encourage people to come hungry, thirsty, and expectant to receive.
2. Appreciate all styles of music as God’s handiwork
There is not one style of music that can contain God’s glory. There is not one style of music that is unable to be used for God’s glory. Music is God’s handiwork, therefore we can and should use all of it, with care, for the glory of God. Therefore, we shouldn’t be protective, defensive, or suspicious. We should be glad to see God’s glory reflected in variety.
3. Expressiveness as the norm
When is the last time you’ve taught/offered encouragement on biblical expressiveness? Teach it from the bible and let people know they’re safe to feel free to worship with their bodies. Finally, model it. People won’t go beyond what they see up front. Expressive worship is the norm in scripture. So it should be in our churches too.
4. Clergy as worship leaders
The pastor, or the priest, or the rector of a church is being studied at all times. Especially during a service. If he’s not interested or engaged in what’s going on, people notice. If your congregation isn’t expressive or engaged in worship, look at your pastor. Most often, he isn’t either.
5. Lay Eucharistic ministers, acolytes, ushers, etc., as worship leaders
If you were to walk into a new church for the first time and see people up front, you would understandably assume that those people were in leadership. And if those people look bored during the service, you would understandably get the idea that worship isn’t terribly important. In Anglican/liturgical churches, most often, the people that we put up on the platform look bored. And I think this is a major reason why our congregations do too.
6. Do contemporary well
I remember when I was visiting England and I ordered a burger at a restaurant. I could tell it wasn’t the real deal. I remember when I was a kid and my Mom tried to sneak store-brand Cheerios in the name-brand box. I could tell it wasn’t the real deal. People have sharp antennae for fakeness. Sadly, in many Anglican churches, classical music is supported with skilled leaders and some sort of budget, while the contemporary music is not. This should not be so. Do it all well.
7. Go for it: celebration
On a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being a party, and 1 being asleep, most Anglican churches settle around a 3. They’re not totally asleep, but they’re leaning that direction. I think I can get away with saying this stuff since I’ve grown up in this tradition.
Don’t expect a congregation that’s at a 3 to all of the sudden go to a 10. But maybe one Sunday with some explanation and love you can encourage them to a 3.5? Nudge people to celebrate God’s glory with more enthusiasm.
8. Wait for it: stillness
Most people have very few (if any) extended times of stillness during their day. We can give them that space on Sunday. But it’s not enough to just leave silence and expect people to figure out what to do. Imagine you’re stuck on a plane on the tarmac. What do you want? The pilot to give you an update. So apply this principle to times of silence on Sunday: give people a bit of direction and explain what’s going to happen, and encourage them to be still and listen to the Lord and enjoy his presence. It might make people uncomfortable but it’s good for them.
9. See liturgy as a tool not an idol
I’ve written and spoken extensively on this here.
10. Leave room for the Spirit
Which of these two questions are you asking yourself the most throughout the service: (1) where does the liturgy have us going? Or (2) where is the Holy Spirit leading us? Both are important questions. But one is more important than the other. And that’s the latter question.
If, by any chance, you’re going to be at the Anglican Assembly this week, come say hi!