Compelling and transformational: Worship that changes lives


March 24, 2015

By Cathy Townley

Rev. Cathy Townley is serving as lead church plant coach for the Minnesota Conference while Director of Congregational Development Dan Johnson focuses on the Reach • Renew • Rejoice initiative. Townley, who has authored several books, is a worship specialist and coaches and consults both new church starts and existing churches.

I have been doing worship consultations and coaching for over two decades. I have found that we church people are very accepting. We accept mediocrity, blandness, clutter, familiarity, and isolation. Though all the churches I’ve ever worked with say they want to grow, I have found that the most of us “regulars” do not accept the things that will help us, namely: excellence, power, simplicity, risk, and interaction. To grow, let’s embrace and explore list number two:

Mediocrity vs. excellence: Excellence does not mean perfection. It means we care enough to strive not to be mediocre. It means we’ll work as hard as we can to be better than we should be given the talent we have. Most of us are amateurs in our musical and leadership gifts. But we can improve, if we want to.

Blandness vs. power: Research shows that over 70 percent of church regulars do not go to church expecting to experience God. That means we expect the same old ho-hum. And yet, probably every person reading this article can say that they have had a life-changing experience of God in their lives. Don’t we want that kind of power in our worship services too? If we expect God to show up, how might worship be different?

Clutter vs. simplicity: Let’s look at the worship service and the physical space of the worship center and the church building itself to weed out all the stuff that doesn’t need to be there. A good exercise for every church: Bring in a real estate stager and itemize all the “stuff”sitting around that shouldn’t be there. And it’s not just the building; it’s the service itself. Most of us try to put way too much in the worship service. The Holy Spirit is a real person! Let’s make room for Him/Her.

Familiarity vs. risk: Most of us want to do things the way we’ve always done them. Instead, we should learn to value change, not shun it. Change is very difficult. Still, if we aren’t uncomfortable, we probably aren’t trusting God enough, because when everything is familiar, why do we need to reach out to God? Trying something new in your worship service is a risk, and it opens the door for God to be real to both regulars and guests. And that’s why we’re doing this work, right?

Isolation vs. interaction: We do this work to expand the boundaries of the church. It’s not about us! Yet the plight of the church in the 21st century is isolation. Most of our churches do not grow because we are too set apart from the very neighborhoods in which we’re located. When we learn to reach out to the mission field, our lives and our services become interactive, with a continuous exchange of Christ between us. That’s compelling.

Let’s create worship that compels people in seats to go out into the world so transformed that they can’t help but tell someone else about it.




Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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