Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's the Order?

In a restaurant that question means what do you want to eat? In church it means what is the chronology of songs, announcements, offering, specials, sermon, etc...? The truth is that in many churches you would never have to look at an order of the service because it is nearly identical each and every week. That may provide some personality type with a warm and fuzzy sense of security but it can also lead toward mindless ritual or just being mindless period. I quit printing a detailed order of service in the bulletin (the church bulletin that is a subject for another post, don't let me forget to do that one) when I observed a couple of years into my first senior pastor position. The reason I quit doing it was that observed people looking at the order and moving ahead to the next song before we were finished with the current one. Mind you this was back in the day before we used power point and projectors, even before the overheads on the wall. We held books and people were turning ahead to the next song without thought of finishing the current one. Being a patient and thoughtful person I wrote a note right then that the order would no longer be printed for the bulletin, and it wasn't.

I spoke with Dad about it that week (he was a pastor for 44 years in case you have forgotten) and he told me of something he did early in his ministry. He was pastoring a church that was really into the ritual of their order but kept verbalizing that they were very flexible. So my Dad tested their flexibility without informing any of them in advance. He didn't receive the offering. That's right he never called for the ushers to come forward. They sang, the ushers got up after the magic number of songs and stood ready, but they Dad had them keep singing and other stuff. The ushers stood there, then waved their hands at him, then they waved the offering plates at him, people began looking around wondering where the ushers were and all the while my Dad just kept going. He even preached his entire sermon and announced the benediction. That's right no offering. As people began to file out, he announced that people could place their offerings in the plates that the ushers were still holding in the back of the sanctuary on their way out. That shook things up more than a little in that church.

Recently we have planned our worship with my message in the middle of the service instead of the end. The couple of times we have done it there have people who got ready to go when I finished only to hear the worship team start leading the congregation in more singing. We have received generally positive comments the times we have done this, but they still have that "normal" order ingrained in them. Guess we will have to do a few more shake-ups to get us to be aware and attentive.

Why does it matter? It matters because God is not limited by our order, but we must attentive to His order. We need to not mindlessly move ahead in our walk with Him, but always be expectant and anticipating what the next exciting thing is that He desires to bring into our lives. We need to quit being so comfortable that we nod off in His presence. We need to on the edge of the seats of our lives expecting great and awesome things. We need to have the mindset that God is not limited by our plans, but that we must be available for His plans, even when it doesn't fit our order.

So what's your order? What is your ritual that you have attempted to squeeze God into? How is that going? Here's to being open to His leading and His order. Here's to shaking it up a bit in your church. Here's to exciting worship. Here's to having an expectant mindset.


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