It’s been more than a decade ago now that we decided to revamp the worship service at our church. We did not change the style of what we do. We changed the focus. We saw two particular problems with the way we were doing worship. First, our people, many of them newbies to Christianity, were theologically unaware. They know about God to a certain extent, but had no real understanding of the greater realities of Theology Proper. There was no real grasp of concepts like, transcendence, immensity, or even the timelessness of God. Second, our service itself was not focused enough to have effective communicating impact. The music and scripture reading had no real continuity.
We wanted to draw people’s minds toward God–to teach them every Sunday what He is really like. We also wanted our worship to flow from that consciousness. By the way, the real genuine emotional meaning of worship flows from these astounding biblical concepts.
So we began to develop each worship service around a theme based upon a particular characteristic of God. Sometimes it’s about an attribute of God. Sometimes it focuses on a particular Person of the Trinity. Other times we focus on a biblical analogy of God—Good Shepherd, Bread of Life, The Door of the Sheep, Father etc.
Last week, we worshiped Jesus Christ, the Fountain of Living Water. The service started with one of our women describing the biblical account of the woman at the well the problems with having fresh, clean drinking water in ancient Israel. Eventually explanation turned to the spiritual thirst she demonstrated in her life as she was passed from man to man. It was Jesus who provided forgiveness of sins for her and quenched the deep thirst of her soul. Why one of our women? Well, the woman at the well was a woman (how profound!). It made the story more real to all of us.
Then the congregational singing, choir, scripture reading and everything else in the service revolved around that particular theme.
We have developed over 100 worship themes now that we cycle through, adjusting them each time as we go. While this practice has made worship significantly more meaningful and genuine for our congregation, it has also accomplished a discipleship purpose I had not imagined. Our personal Christian growth is deeply rooted in our view of God Himself. That view of God comes from a deep understanding of His nature and attributes. For ten years now, our people have been learning about and developing their view of God every Sunday. They simply now know God better.
One of my favorite things to do every month is sit with a group of godly people and plan our worship services several months ahead. We talk about God for an hour and half, His majesty, glory, splendor, love, holiness, and we explore different ways in which we might communicate that truth to our congregation on Sunday morning. It often moves me to tears. Even worship planning has become a worship experience.
I would not change this for the world. It has transformed me and our church.
Kevin Schaal is pastor of Northwest Valley Baptist Church in Glendale, AZ. He also serves as President of the FBFI.