In case you haven?t seen it yet, take two minutes and watch ?The Song of Worship? featuring the voice of N.T. Wright, produced by the fine folks at RELEVANT:
I?m a fan of Wright, so as usual his words got my mind turning. As I see it, this short video has three important things to say about the creative process of Sunday mornings:
1. Let the people play their part.?
As Wright begins by talking about the particularly physical and participatory nature of singing ??and the resulting transformational significance ? I wonder if you were struck, as I was, by how very unique singing is in our modern worship services. As we sing, Wright says, our bodies become instruments through which truth resonates. Often, by contrast, the other 45-60 minutes of a modern worship service are essentially a spectator sport. Listen to these announcements, watch this video/performance, then listen to this sermon.
As people who play a role in planning worship services, we have to always look for opportunities to get the people in the seats involved. Meaningful elements and practices such as Communion, responsive readings, and simply having audience members greet one another are all ways to engage more of a person than just her eyes or ears.
2. Know the why behind the what.
Notice how it only took Wright two minutes to introduce a rich and inspiring theology of singing. What that means is that while he served the Church of England as a bishop and conducted services, he understood why the congregation sang before and after the homily, and the reasons obviously went much deeper than a utilitarian mechanism for warming up the crowd before a killer sermon.
The onus is on all of us to develop a strong understanding and intentionality behind the elements we incorporate into worship services. If the RELEVANT crew called and asked why you do a greeting or announcements or a video or a choreographed dance, could your answer inspire a video like this one? Could you inspire other churches to follow suit? One book that tremendously influenced my thinking in this area is James K.A. Smith?s Desiring the Kingdom, which will change the way you think about everything from church to the shopping mall.
3. Put artists and theologians together and get out of the way.?
Some amazing things happen when artists and theologians get together. (And yes, I realize those two vocations/categories aren?t mutually exclusive, so whether an artist and theologian come together in the form of one person or an intentional pairing doesn?t matter to me.) Consider the great worship songs written by pastor/musician duos such as Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio and Aaron Ivey & Matt Carter. Consider The Voice Bible, a unique translation produced by a group of poets, scholars, musicians, and storytellers. Consider the video that started this whole post, which is comprised of wise words, moving images, and a stirring score.
Like I said, some amazing things happen when artists and theologians get together, and the church is better for it. Find ways to make that happen in your context.
I?m sure there?s more meaning to mine from the words of N.T. Wright, but I hope this handful of observations is a good start.