The wifey and I had a nice chat last night about ‘polished’ church services. We couldn’t help but admit that the flashy lights, slick powerpoints and all-round seeker-friendliness of it all kinda irked us, somehow. But what was it?
The first thing we recognised is that we really do believe that God calls us to be excellent at what we do. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us a bit about that, I think. So it’s not inherently the ‘slickness’ that’s necessarily wrong, I think we all know that. That got us to thinking well, what is it that is excellent about church services? We think it’s when the Spirit is moving through something like the worship, preaching and teaching, or even some ministry time. So we think that’s what we, as The Body of Christ, should be seeking in our ‘services’. The Spirit and His leading.
We listen a lot to Bill Johnson and generally anything out of Bethel Church in Redding, California. (By the way, we highly recommend the Bethel Podcast– XML or iTunes). Anyway, Bill’s teaching is not sensual, he’s not a particularly eloquent speaker, but the thing that’s great about Bethel’s teaching is that they’re really obsessed with making sure the Spirit is speaking through them. And that’s why it’s so consistently great– not because of their schedule, powerpoints or bankroll, but because of the content that God gives them.
So I think it’s fine to make things beautiful and slick at church, heck, why not? But please, oh please don’t prioritise that in the name of seeker-friendliness. Especially because God actually knows what He’s doing, and if hearing from God is not our priority in our services we’ll end up running them ourselves, and that will, inevitably, suck. So if you’re a preacher, teacher, worship leader, band member, ministry team member or heck even just the A/V guy, make sure that your first priority (when it comes to running a service) is to look for what God wants to do– right there and then. If you’ve got a schedule, great! Stick to it! But when God wants to do something, it seems best to jump on it. Especially if it bucks the existing schedule! That probably means it’s gonna be really good!
In the meantime, and playing a bit of the Devil’s advocate, it doesn’t hurt to make it a point to raise the quality of everything that comes out of church. If some old dude like Richard Branson can make billions of pounds with a company called something as dumb as Virgin, then surely we hipsters can come up with a better logo that a dove and a cross for our church?