GPS or Map for Worship?

As much as I travel by car I often use a GPS to help me find my way to a church I have not previously visited, or to locate lodging for a night on the road.  Since my wife is a realtor and often needs the GPS to locate properties, I leave the device in Franklin for her to use.  We share one GPS between us (I guess I am too conservative to buy two).  The GPS is a pretty cool device.  I set mine to use the British female voice.  Brits just sound smart and make me feel like she knows where I should be going.  I have named her Margaret after Margaret Thatcher and enjoy the way she pronounces some of the street names.

When Margaret is with me and giving turn by turn instructions I usually arrive at the correct destination with few glitches.  She even tells me what time I will arrive, so I can know if I am going to be on time or not and pace the trip accordingly.  My wife and I were meeting to try out a new restaurant for dinner the other night and she called to ask me how to get to the place (I had the GPS in my car). 

“Uh… well…uh.I think.”

I had no idea.  I had been following Margaret’s direction, probably talking on the phone, and paying no attention where I was or where I was going except to do what comes next, responding to commands like,  “in point two miles turn left.”   That was fine except I did not have much perspective about where I was or where I had been – how I had gotten there – and thus I stuttered to try and give directions to someone else, in this case my wife. 

On occasion I will download directions somewhere from Mapquest and find that to be a less dependable means of instruction.  On a recent trip when I had several stops to make within a 200 mile radius and I did not have the GPS with me, I decided to stop and invest $7.95 in an old fashioned map (I almost forgot you can get those).  It was $7.95 because it was an “easy fold” map.  I like it.  I found reviewing it thoroughly gave me a renewed sense of where I was throughout the trip, as well as perspective of where I was going directionally to get to each location.  I had to estimate my arrival times and had some choices to make at times about which road to take, which was nice to consider speed and convenience verses scenery or, in one case, opportunity to pass by a historic landmark.  Pretty cool.

As we guide people through experiences of gathered worship we have ways to give them turn by turn instruction on the spot as we move through a service of worship.  Projection screens allow us to accomplish those turns with little spoken verbiage.  I have been in (and even designed some) services where the element of surprise was highly valued.  Utilization of musical transitions, underscore, visual aids, and props can assist the journey through a worship service.  Many churches have done away with printed worship guides, often with this very intention on the mind of the designer/planners.

In designing and planning for gathered worship experiences it is crucial to understand that decisions we make have consequences of exclusion as well as inclusion.  That is to say,for example, when we decide to use this song in this slot it means we cannot use that song in the time frame.  When we decide not to give worship guides or bulletins because we want to surprise people, we take away the ability to let worshipers view the perspective, not unlike the GPS verses map situation for travel.  In such cases we are placing a higher value on “surprise” and our control of moving step by step through worship than on the larger picture perspective.  It is possible that in trying to “freshen” the experience for someone who won’t know what’s coming next, we will dumb down their grasp of the larger framework of worship.  I hesitate to say, but call to your attention in love, that the larger framework of many services of worship are suspect as to their structure.  In many instances I think this comes from a sincere desire by worship planners to be “fresh” and “unpredictable.”  If we are not careful our value and trust may be placed in our ability to engineer an experience of emotional ebb and flow, rather than trusting in the ever-living One to be at work in our midst to present His story of good news applied to each life and to the collective body. 

A huge part of our opportunity and awesome responsibility is to present HIS STORY every week in worship.  Worship repositions us to know that HE IS GOD, and we are not!  It recalls the big picture of salvation’s story and not just the turn coming in point two miles!  God is eternal; here before time began; created all that is; chose a people to call His own; delivered and protected those people that He might send His Son to take away the sins of the world.  Jesus was born of a virgin; knew life in the flesh and was tempted at all points as we are tempted; was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead; was transfigured and ascended to heaven; will return for His body, the Church, and will reign forever.  Worship places us in the big picture!  Perhaps the printed guide can also help to keep before us the revelation and response rhythm of worship; can help us see the Gathering, Word, Table, Sending pattern that extends past our gathered worship and forms a structure for individual and family worship as well.

This is not a campaign for paper bulletins by any means.  There are numerous ways to go about maintaining the framework perspective of worship.  I do want to remind us of the opportunity and, I believe, responsibility we have to help develop the worship life of our congregations by giving perspective, both through our placement of this Sunday’s worship into the whole of God’s story, and through provision of instruction (spoken, sung, and printed) that reveals the framework of our communion/converstion/engagement with God in Christ.

Look forward to seeing you along the road!


Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

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