First, are you a P, WL or W? P - preacher: WL - worship leader; W - worshipper. (Yes, I know that P and WL are also worshipers!) I told them their different viewpoints were essential. W's formed the majority, with P's a substantial group though, sadly, WLs were scarce.
Second question - are preaching and worship separated in your church and in your experience? "No", said a few. Scripture, theme, hymns/song, and prayers all flow together. But, it became clear that these few belonged to smaller churches where worship planning was solo - undertaken by the preacher! One or two of these spoke about the lectionary's value in disciplining this solo responsibility.
But others, a majoirty, said "Yes". For them, worship structure seemed to have little relationship with the preaching, creativity was minimal and seemed captive to routine or personal choice. I asked why, and many reasons emerged, such as:
- Scripture had no role in shaping the service
- Lack of time for preparation, as choice of text and sermon (very) late in week
- Already over-committed busy people
- Poor team work between preacher and others involved with worship
- Failure to pattern worship so that there is gathering, confession, word, thanksgiving and sending forth
- Little sense of participation so that congregation is given space to respond
- Sidelining of communion
- Omission of pastoral prayer and place for community intercession
We admitted that so much depends on how we define worship, and understand its importance. In fact, I gave them a number of worship definitions that immediately began stretching our thinking. A big understanding of worship not only embraces preaching but ensures its primary importance for church and ministry.
Third question - in what ways can we improve or reconnect preaching with worship? Some of the bullet points above were addressed in practical ways, but we quickly ran out of time. ( Alas, its always easier to analyze problems than to envision how to put them right!) But this concern won't go away. In my last blog on worship collaboration (Feb 19th), Edward made the comment that in his pastoral experience it doesn't matter about trying to collaborate!
What do you think? How would you answer these three questions? Do they matter? Please let me know.