Monday, March 23, 2015

Post Event Letdown

I assume this happens to people in other vocations and not just to pastors. You go to a conference, hear all sorts of exciting and wonderful ideas, and dream of all the ways you will use them upon your return home. But then you get back, the excitement recedes, and gradually things go back to "normal." In my case, last week's Next Church conference also included inspiring worship (I assume this would not be typical for other vocations.), and we pastors often don't get to do much actual worshiping. But as things get back to "normal," this, too, can seem a long way off and and a long time ago.

The Next Church conference planners took this into account and are planning local followup sessions. I'll be interested to see how this may help us to put into practice some things we learned at the conference. I hope it works. If so it may help with a similar problem that seems to have become pattern in many local congregations.

Very often, Sunday worship can work a bit like the conferences I attend. It can be inspiring and stimulating, but the energy doesn't really carry over into life outside the church. Interestingly enough, I heard David Lose speak at a regional Next Church gathering about how church as "concert hall" didn't seem to be working very well. Even when the worship is top notch, inspiring, creative, and more, it often doesn't impact daily life much. In that sense it becomes like going to a play, or a concert, or a movie. It may be wonderful and enriching, but it doesn't necessarily do anything to shape people to live as God's people in the world.

I worry a little about trying to make worship into something utilitarian, but still, if worship moves us yet doesn't inspire us to take any actions, to live differently in the world, is it what it should be?

Worship, of course, is something we offer to God, and in that sense it is not primarily about us getting something from it. That said, any genuine encounter with God is surely transformational. Meeting and hearing God as we worship should direct us in some way. It should call us to more faithful lives. It should  help form us as disciples of Jesus. But does it?

I worry that as the church has struggled in recent decades, we've tried harder and harder to do great worship. Often we've succeeded, but church attendance continues to plummet. Have we turned church into an event that is moving, entertaining, inspiring, thought provoking, and any number of perfectly good things, but somehow stopped helping people live out their faith beyond the church? If so, what sort of followup sessions do we need? Or do we need to think about worship differently altogether?

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