How Structured Should a Worship Service Be?

popcorn.gifThis topic of how much structure we should have in our worship gatherings is very much on my mind at this moment. For the past several days, I have been working diligently to complete the Tech Schedule for the Smoky Mountain Student Bible Conference. More on that in my blog post called God Can Move In Tightly Scheduled Worship Services Too!

In this entry, I want to give you my take on the role structure should play in worship gatherings. That will help us discern how much structure is really needed.

I like to think of a well-written, pre-planned “Order of Worship” as one of those popcorn buckets you can buy at Blockbusters Video. Maybe you’ve purchased and used one before. What is the purpose of that bucket? We don’t buy it so we can enjoy the bucket, do we? Of course not. We only buy the bucket for the popcorn that’s inside it. In the same way, we shouldn’t be so focused on getting every detail of our order of worship right that we miss the reason for the order of worship, which is so we can better praise and worship our Lord.

Now, consider the container itself: The container provides the structure to hold the un-popped popcorn in place. The walls of the bucket give it direction as it pops. However, when things “get popping” inside that tub, it doesn’t restrict the popcorn. Rather, it allows that wonderful smelling stuff (especially if it’s buttered!) to come bubbling right out of its top!

The parallel to corporate worship here should be rather obvious. How do we reconcile “God is not the author of confusion” with “Quench not the Spirit“? (See 1 Corinthians 14:33 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19) I believe those two verses can come together quite tastefully, especially when we as God’s chosen people come together to praise Him.

In advance, we should plan and structure the events of the service so every element – song, testimony, video, etc. – is carefully prepared and thought through. We should ask ourselves (and the Lord!) questions such as, “Will that particular song add to the flow and theme of the service we are planning?” Furthermore, we should plan out as many distractions as we can possibly foresee. Then, in turn, we need to clearly communicate our plans to everyone we know will be participating. Clear communication helps keep down confusion, which we know God does not like or want.

With all the necessary planning and preparation done, we are then ready for the actual worship event. When God begins to move in people’s hearts and lives during that service (i.e., when things “get popping”!) we should allow our planning and structure of the service to act like the sidewalls of a popcorn bucket, if you will. In other words, the structure should serve to do no more than direct our spontaneous and sweet-smelling praise toward the nostrils of our King!

To state it more briefly, we should put all the necessary ingredients in ahead of time, then turn on the “oven” (of prayer and praise) and get out of the way! No telling what God will do if we will entrust the service – His service – to Him.

So, how much structure should we have in our worship gatherings…? Here is the simple rule-of-thumb for us: First, second, and third, pray. Then, add only as much structure to that service as is helpful and absolutely needed

To learn more about worship and planning and leading worship, check out Dwayne’s worship study, Praise More Powerful.

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