15 Questions (and maybe some answers), Part 8 of 15
If you missed parts 1-7, you can find them here: http://bravester.com/author/worship_fermata/
Question #8: Are our worship song lyrics too simple? Can we go deeper in 30 minutes?
As you probably have read in my other blogs, last year I took a long sabbatical from my church of 20-plus years and then resigned when the sabbatical was over. During the course of the past year or so I have been to many different churches in the Washington DC area. With that backdrop and rereading Question #8 I have to laugh. At my previous church our time of worship (music) on Sunday mornings was usually around 45 minutes, but I knew that was longer than most churches spend in worship. So when I posed the question I dropped that number to 30 minutes, thinking that surely every service has 30 minutes of worship, right? Not so fast. After many church visits I can say the majority of churches spend 20 minutes in worship and 30 minutes would be the extreme end of the spectrum.
So I will pose the question again. Are our worship song lyrics too simple? Can we go deeper in 20 minutes? Or maybe better yet: Is 20 minutes enough time in worship on Sunday mornings? You get the point.
I’ve also come to the place where I believe that worship time allotment on Sunday mornings is often centered around a church’s particular culture that they have created—intentionally or not. For example, though Bethel Church has great teaching on Sundays, they have really become known as a church that has awesome, powerful times of praise and worship. Great worship is in their DNA. Spirt led worship is in their DNA. Their times of worship vary greatly (but usually 45 minutes or more). That’s just who and what they are. They spend a great deal of their resources on worship—from the elaborate stage, to highly skilled musicians/singers, to the sound and audio/visual gear they use. And Bethel is just one of hundreds of churches that operate this way.
And other churches where the draw is the teaching do three rehearsed-down-to-the-second songs in 12 minutes, 30 seconds and they are ready to give and hear the message. This is ok. This is why the people in these churches are there. There are thousands of churches that are foundationally built on teaching not musical worship.
But the question remains the same: how deep can you go in short worship times? Is 12 or 20 or even 30 minutes enough?
I would contend that 12-20 minutes of worship music is more of a warmup for the speaker or teaching than an actual time of worship. And I would even go as far as to say in some churches it appears to be light entertainment before “real church” begins. I know that sounds a bit harsh but I believe it to be truth. In 12 to 20 minutes you are most likely going to get three songs. And in three, four-minute songs you are most likely going to get simple lyrics (I hope), simple music (I hope) and something singable (I really hope).
To develop a worship set that goes deeper simply takes time and flexibility in the schedule. You are not going to use one of your three songs in a short worship set to sing about pain, sorrow or struggles. That’s not the 12 minute message you want to deliver in a short worship set. But in a longer set you can build towards something. You have time and space to interject multiple thoughts, directions or messages within the set. You can tell a story in a worship set if you have time. You can let the Spirit flow in a longer set. You can let emotions, praise, fear and joy into the same set if you have time. You can let people work through their struggles and come out the other side in a longer worship set.
I’m not writing this to advocate adding time to your worship set. I just want to call it what it is. If you’re in a 12-minute worship set church band or are even its leader or pastor, are you getting what your vision is for the time of worship on Sunday mornings? If you are I would encourage you to keep the songs simple, singable and joyful. Don’t try to pack a cantata or an opera into 12 minutes. Sing songs that the congregation can pick up quickly and easily. Maybe you are already doing these things—and that’s good. Maybe you just never heard this perspective?