Whom Do We Please? - Issue #129
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Northside United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia has always been a large church serving an active congregation and offering two Sunday morning traditional worship services at 8:30 and 11:00. Years ago it decided to expand with a contemporary third service offered Sunday evening. The new service did well for a few years and then plateaued at about 100 worshipers.
In 2004 the church moved the service to 9:50 on Sunday morning and moved it from the church sanctuary to the church’s new Faith and Arts Center. Attendance has grown to over 400 in that service, with another 600 to 800 in the two traditional services each week.
The musical style of the service varies. One week might be pop or rock, and the next hip-hop or bluegrass. The church is fortunate to have a number of musicians that can be called on for specific musical style.
But more importantly, the worship team has become clear about the purpose of the service. Rather than trying to please people and measuring the success of worship by the comments of worshipers ("I really liked that song" or "That was a great prayer"), they understand that their job is to serve and please God.
They do this by fostering corporate worship through individual worship. Chuck Bell, Director of Contemporary Worship, says, "Rather than pleasing people, we strive to connect them to God. We still connect with the people since it is corporate worship, but we should help people to worship individually, pleasing God in all that we do. The service has taken on a new life, with prayers, music, singing, visuals, actions all leading to the common goal of connecting people to God and pleasing God rather than ourselves."
Questions for Discussion
How do you measure the success of your worship service?
How would worship leaders in your congregation describe the purpose of the worship service? Is their common agreement about the purpose?
What does it mean for the goal of worship to be to please God rather than to please people?