I heard a great quote the other day that was aimed at pastors who plan sermons last minute week to week. It went something like, “When pastors wait until the last minute to plan a message, is it them or the Holy Spirit who does the procrastinating?”
This is not a slam on pastors. Not even close.
What it is, though, is a challenge. A challenge to those in leadership to take weekend gatherings to the next level. People aren’t interested in coming to church because, in general, our presentation of the Gospel, our approach to discipling, and our efforts at helping people become community are lacking.
This includes our times of musical worship. Twenty years ago we could all just come together and sing a few choruses to be considered cutting edge and innovative. In this day and time it takes intentional, strategic planning.
Lest you misinterpret my challenge, my aim is not to convince you to cut out spontaneity or free-roaming interludes of musical worship. My goal is not to convince you to sing this song or that, in this style or that. I’m not trying to convince you to use this technology or that. My challenge isn’t about method, as much as it is about intent.
We have to be intentional in our planning.
If we so wanted, we could just meet in homes, strumming a guitar and having a Bible study (with snacks afterward). We could grow spiritually and we could probably even grow in numbers (up to a certain point). But the bottom line is, we live in a culture that embraces large gatherings. We live in a society that, for the most part doesn’t slow down enough to be comfortable making those “small group” type connections.
Yet, we ALL desire those connections. Enter the large group church gathering. It’s a doorway to small groups. It’s an entry point into community. A springboard, if you will, into dynamic, personal life-change. Relationships won’t ever be deep in a large gathering, but they can start there.
One of the key relationships that we desire to happen is for a person to enter relationship with the Living God through Jesus. I personally believe that people can be open to and even begin those relationships in a large group gathering, which is why we should be so intentional about planning them well.
If we throw things together at the last moment, if we don’t have a plan, if we just wing it; then we’re communicating that the message we do share isn’t worth our best. We also communicate that the people who come through our doors aren’t worth our best as well.
The goal of the large group is to convey basic truths that whet the appetite for life answers that can only be discovered and lived out in small group settings. It also serves the purpose of being a place where a large number of people come together to express thanks, gratitude and worship to God.
That being said, our times of musical “worship” should be well thought out and Spirit-led. And just so you know, Spirit-led has nothing to do with spontaneity or “free” worship. It’s all about listening to the guidance of the Spirit as a team and moving where He directs. The Holy Spirit can and does indeed move through thorough advance planning. It is just as wondrous and miraculous.
Too many times pastors don’t communicate the themes of their sermons to the worship leader in time. Some never do at all. This isn’t a crime, but it definitely doesn’t help.
My challenge is this: If you’re a pastor, plan ahead. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you plan sermons and series well in advance. I know of some churches (mine included) where the messages are planned out for an entire year.
If you’re a worship leader, team up with your pastor and give input! Ask them for theirs as well! Be intentional about planning elements of the worship service. Also, take into consideration the time and efforts of your volunteers. If you plan ahead, say by a month at least, you’ll be able to get your team what they need to be well rehearsed way in advance.
Why? We have to attach an urgency to the purpose of our gatherings. They should be high priority. We should always keep in mind that our large gatherings are not only about just coming together for worship and the Word, but could also potentially be the gateway for someone into a relationship with Christ and community with Believers.
That in itself is enough to motivate me to be strategic about the songs we sing, the videos we include, the skits, specials, backgrounds, etc.
Planning ahead isn’t about being cool. It isn’t about being competitive with culture. It isn’t about being trendy.
It’s all about being strategic in our approach to love God and love people in a way that makes us good stewards of the resources God has given us.