Adding Creativity Without Losing the Congregation
In responding to God, we should be open to using every expression of beauty and genius, which are reflections of his own nature.
When I came to First Evangelical Free Church, the congregation began every service by singing the first verse of "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." Shortly after I joined the staff, I asked and received permission from Pastor Swindoll to change our opening hymn.
It wasn't long, however, before I began getting notes written on bulletins asking me why we didn't sing "Coronation" (often misspelled "Coronashun" or "Cornations"). Although I can see humor in the situation now, at the time I felt threatened. I didn't know how widespread the objections were.
The experience pointed up the uneasiness, even fear, people often feel about change in their patterns of worship. We all love progress, but we're reluctant when change is imposed upon us!
"You would think that of all places, all communities, it would be in the church where we would most welcome the creativity and freshness and adventure of new things," says Eugene Peterson in Running with the Horses. "But instead that's the very place we are most threatened."
Why Change Isn't Always Welcome
Why do people resist change, especially in church? Habit and heritage are two big reasons. We all like to settle back in the old chair, even though there might be a broken spring or two; it's where we feel most at ease. And we all have notions about what worship should be. Often the ideas remain from childhood. Frankly, most of us are as defensive in our Christianity as in any other area of our lives. When someone suggests changes in the worship service, the common response is akin to the apocryphal seven last words of the church: "We've never done it that way before."
People who invoke the seven last words sometimes have a point. Worship leaders should be like baseball umpires: the more unnoticed they are, the better the job they are doing. C. S. Lewis wrote, "The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of: our attention would have been on God." We dare not let the means of worship intrude on the experience of the sacred.
People also especially treasure the music of their formative years, whether the popular music of their youth or the worship patterns of their most formative years spiritually. It's these experiences of the sacred that indelibly stamp themselves on people's minds and create worship memories that we tamper with at our peril. People often voice their strongest feelings over worship music; it touches their roots, their emotions.
I've talked to many church leaders about adding creativity to worship, and they say, "But the people in my congregation come from an old German Baptist background …" or "Ours is a little farming community, and if we were to do anything like what's been suggested, they'd hang me from the nearest limb!"
As worship leaders, we have to recognize that creativity poses a threat. Daring to try new things always carries a ...