Conference challenges a rethink on how we worship

By Sheila Allen
NW Baptist Convention

“I believe that a lot of times our worship ‘service’ is more of a barrier to God than a bridge to God,” said Tim Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clovis, Calif.

Brown and Ken Hendrix, worship and financial pastor at First Baptist, spoke to pastors from across the Northwest who are in cluster groups sponsored by the Northwest Baptist Convention.  Invited guests to the recent meetings were worship leaders who serve alongside these pastors and set the tone for weekly corporate encounters with God in their churches.  “In many churches we worship the style of music and order of worship more than the God we are worshiping,” Brown said. “We should always be looking for better ways to engage people in worship.”

Brown noted several different ways God spoke to Old Testament figures, such as from a burning bush and through a stubborn donkey. “It’s not about style; it is about finding ways to speak to the culture surrounding you so they can hear from God. We need to change our ‘voice’ to relate to creation just as God did.”

Brown and Hendrix encouraged participants to begin planning worship experiences with the end in mind, and crafting a service around it by working closely with each other. Brown plans the themes of his sermons several months out and Hendrix then begins his work with a creative team to dream of ways to bring the topic to life. They often help worshipers engage the five senses with props to drive home  spiritual truths.

The duo often uses videos, drama and music thatreinforce the theme of the message.

“I handpick particular people to dream about what could be done in a sermon series,” Hendrix said. “These people must be invested in the church and includes many people in their 20s so that we are relevant to the culture we are trying to impact.  You don’t have to use props every Sunday, but using a team allows you to generate more ideas that work.”

While Brown likes to use video clips interspersed through the worship service, he warned participants to hold on to good videos until an appropriate time, foregoing the tendency to use it immediately.

“The placement of a video is very important; leaders must talk through every aspect of it with technical team members and remember the stage it will set particularly if it is just before the pastor speaks,” Brown said. “You must design a service that flows and keep the non-church person in mind, remembering to explain elements that seem routine to members.”
Hendrix insists that worship team members in his own church practice their craft outside of weekly rehearsals, always seeking excellence in all they do.

“We even choreograph where the team is standing, looking for ‘planned spontaneity’,” Hendrix said. “We also rehearse areas of concern for when a service might be lengthened or shortened as needed. I have my tech team at rehearsals to assist with designing services that flow and always think about the next steps. Our purpose as the worship team is to create environments where people are introduced to Christ and have an opportunity to connect with Christ.”

Worship team members are asked to deal with personal issues that might impede worship, recognizing that “obedience is an act of worship.”  First Baptist staff members routinely ask themselves questions about who needs to hear the message, what are their needs and how they can best hear the message.

“Worship should always reflect the timelessness of God along with his changing ways of relating to his creation,” Hendrix said. “Since God’s timing is always right, worship then should reflect the fruit of planning and thinking ahead. When our times of gathered worship are thrown together, unplanned or unrehearsed folks will conclude this is not worship worthy of God or this is not a God worthy of worship.”

Hendrix held an afternoon question and answer session with worship leaders only, which allowed dialogue for many who rarely have opportunity to network with other leaders.

Those interested in information regarding future pastor cluster groups should contact Joe Flegal at [email protected].

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