By Stephen Mizell, Lead Pastor
Recently, we shook things up a little in our Sunday morning services. It started out as a nudging from the Holy Spirit about my own personal expectations of how a church service should flow. Many of those things I believe are correct, but I also know that everything does not have to work on a schedule or a calendar. Sometimes we just need to be flexible and enjoy the time of worship and not feel constrained for everything to work perfectly.
What started out as one week turned into an entire month of changing things slightly and seeing what happened. There have been a lot of conversations among people who have been a part of the services, the staff and the leadership team, and even people watching online; so many positive conversations and points of view. I specifically have heard three common themes in those conversations and I wanted to share them with you. I think they probably apply to a lot of places in our lives where we get shaken out of a routine for one reason or another.
The most immediate thing I noticed the very first Sunday when we had no band and sang during the sermon is that almost everyone was in their seat at service time. This is unusual. In general, the room is less than half full when the service starts and continues to fill right up until the sermon. Most of the time it is not because we do not like something that is happening, but rather we know the routine so well, we know when it would be “too late”. Shaking up the routine created an expectation that caused all of us to come and see what might happen. Expectant people are more likely to receive.
Anytime something changes, our awareness becomes heightened. When we are alone in the house and we are used to having other people there, we hear every noise. Why? Because we are more aware. I heard so many comments about how not knowing what to expect changed their personal experience. Our expectancy makes us more aware and when our awareness is heightened, we see and experience God in ways we never have. Anywhere awareness is raised, change is bound to happen.
Walking through this process has also let us see how other things might work. Things that we may not have tried or experimented with because things were working smoothly enough before. I have even found myself at times resistant to adding a single song because the flow of the service would be affected. But what we have seen is that there are some other ways that work really well. Some of the changes gave more time for people to pray. Singing and giving in response to the Word of God raises the impact and importance of both of those parts of worship. Some of the things that we experienced over the last few weeks will have an impact on how we do things going forward.
I hope that this has given all of us an opportunity to reflect on how we approach church and the way we worship. It is my prayer that we continue to be expectant, more aware, and know that sometimes change is for our benefit. As we gather together, may we continue to impose meaning on everything we do in a worship service.