Worship Planning with a Long View

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One week ago our community was terribly shaken by the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill. Then over the next two nights the Woolsey and Thousand Oaks fires sent many of our church families evacuating their homes, with the Malibu fire affecting many more. We went through (and honestly, are still going through) a time of uncertainty and wrestling with the problem of evil and assurance of God’s sovereign goodness. Which we’re thankful is preached and loved every week in our church.

I don’t want to dwell on the shooting or the fires in the fear of appearing to capitalize on those events to get a blog post written. I just have a church ministry thought connected to the week we’ve had, that I’d like to get down while it’s fresh.

On Sunday, we gathered to worship together as a church. A good number of our families were sleep-deprived and coming down from the stress of evacuating their homes while the fires burned through the past few nights. And many of us knew some of those killed in the shooting. And I was thankful to have a church family to gather with, and to know we WOULD gather, no matter what had inconvenienced or turned our world topsy-turvy the week before.

And as a worship planner, I was relieved and thankful for God’s grace to provide us with the right kind of songs to sing on a Sunday like this past one. This is the ministry thought that I’m hoping might be best-served fresh: continually be establishing a bank of songs to sing in your church that people know well, and that work on the toughest of Sundays.

This isn’t to say every song you teach your congregation has to be a lament in a minor key; but keep a core of songs rotating that will already be second nature to sing “when Death shows his face.”* Don’t make the mistake of keeping things light and happy all the time, because the real stuff of life in a sin-broken world, when it comes to bear, will require a weightier kind of song. Let those songs be ones your church already knows, so when the tragedy comes the verses they’ve sung often take on a whole new layer of depth.

I still remember the first time I sang “In Christ Alone” (after many, many times) and these lines in the first verse finally made sense to me: “This Cornerstone, this solid Ground/Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.” Some painful circumstances made those lines really matter.

Songs aren’t Scripture, to be sure. But God commands us to sing to one another as a means to get the Word of Christ to take root and live in us (Colossians 3:16). Be advised – sing the full spectrum of human experience in your worship, and get those songs in there now with a long view toward those future times when you and your church will be desperate for them.

*From the excellent tune “New Again” by Sojourn Music. We sing this one about once a month, and it has served our congregation super well.

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