So, for the sake of debate, I will preface this with my opinion that everything we do in worship services and in our student hour on Sunday mornings is worship; we worship in our giving, in our listening and studying the Word, in our singing, our prayers, even in our fellowship. All of those represent different parts of our worship. But it does alarm me in some ways just how expendable the most obvious demonstration of corporate worship, our lifting our voices together in song, has become.
This isn’t a critique of other leaders; I’m frustrated with myself on this one as well. There are three main components to our student hour on Sunday mornings; singing, announcements and offering, and teaching. Sometimes other things factor into the mix, but those three are there every week. Here’s the problem, though: our hour goes from 9:45-10:45am, and as much as half of our group isn’t even in the building until 10am. So here’s the reality of what I have to decide – what is the least essential for the highest number of people to experience? I can’t just change the time to 10am; then everyone would start showing up at 10:15am and I would only have a half hour long ‘student hour.’ Obviously the teaching time has to be protected so that’s saved for last (and the bulk of the hour). What’s the point of having announcements if we make them at 9:45am to only half the people? So we save those for just before the lesson so we get the highest number of ears possible.
Which leaves us treating worship as the expendable element in our Sunday morning student hour.
But this is true across the board. During our large church worship hours the same thing is true; announcements and offerings are absolutely delayed until the highest number of people are in the room. If you show up 15 minutes late, you will have ‘only’ missed the singing.
I’m not sure what makes me more uncomfortable; that as leaders we are using worship as a time filler while we wait for people to show up, or that people see it as so unimportant that week after week they miss it so they can run into Dunkin’ Donuts, talk in the foyer, sleep in a few more minutes, whatever. I don’t think blame goes in any one direction; more of a general church culture of putting all the focus on the message and not enough on expressing our love and worship to God.
All that to say, I’m uncomfortable. I hadn’t thought of it in this way before, but it does trouble me to realize that I have, however unintentionally, communicated the idea that our worship music is the least important part of our hour.
2 thoughts on “When did worship become expendable?”
Matthew thanks for your heartfelt post. My question is simply this: why not just do announcements at the beginning or cut them altogether. Cooperate worship should be placed higher than announcements. We have made a shift recently in our Sunday morning worship service – IF we do announcements they are at the end if time allows. We have them scrolling on the screen as people are coming in, they are in the announcements, the ministries they affect communicate them through the week to those they affect. So why not just cut them? Utilize email, facebook, twitter and maybe the church mailboxes (if you guys have them) for the announcements?
It's never easy cutting anything but for us it was important what we cut. So we cut the thing with the least amount of spiritual emphasis (if any at all) which was the announcements.
The announcements are so much the problem since they only take a couple minutes and so many people are 15 or more minutes late routinely. What my bigger frustration, if I'm really honest, is that so many people who are able to be on time to work, school, sports and entertainment because they make it a priority don't make timeliness to church that same priority. I think it reflects a deeper shift in our culture, something I've been reading a lot in Kenda Dean's book, 'Almost Christian,' where church is a nice thing but not really all that important. It bothers me that the idea of worshiping God in music doesn't seem important enough to get to church on time, and it bothers me that we haven't communicated that that demonstration of love of God to people as having the same priority and importance as the teaching.