Second of Three Parts

How do you extricate the Sunday-morning service from the proverbial rut where blessing and koinonia get bogged down in boredom?

Here are some of the things that helped us come alive:

Variety. We tried not to structure any two services alike for as long an interval as possible. This meant, among other things, reshuffling program elements every week. One week the sermon came first in the program, the announcements and offering last. Another week the invitation was injected near the beginning—right after a few songs and stirring testimonies—and the doxology served as benediction.

The shifting around was not an end in itself. Ideally, every service had specific purposes, and placement of program items was decided upon accordingly. I often spent hours preparing an order of service so that it would “feel” right (smooth transitions, proper blend of informality with order and dignity, meaningful participation, the most apt songs and Scripture for services built around such themes as love, joy, and peace).

The service one week might be designed to draw us into deep heart-expressed worship of God. Next week’s might be a lighter, joyous service with lots of music and plenty of what-God-has-done-this-week sharing. Two or three times a year I preempted all but ten minutes for special sermons (an annual Book of Romans survey; a study of how Bible prophecy lines are converging in our time). Other services were more smorgasbord in content.

Despite all the planning we tried to hang loose, too. On occasion we sensed that the Holy Spirit was leading us in an outpouring of prayer and sharing, thus canceling the bulletin’s agenda and postponing until another Sunday a sermon hammered out in sweat and tears.

Participation. We abolished ...

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