The character, Barney Stinson (Noel Patrick Harris) on the sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, is credited with igniting the use of the phrase, “wait for it.”  I’m not a fan of the show, but have heard the phrase used by my grown children as well as numerous others as a means of emphasizing the anticipation of what is to come, for example in the phrase from the show, “Ted, my boy, it’s going to be legen…..wait for it…..dary.”

Our culture is not very good at “waiting for it,” and could be called down right impatient.  Those of us with worship planning and guiding responsibilities may find ourselves wrestling with how to contend with impatient people, especially when it comes to public worship.  To make things more difficult we may sense the impatience gnawing at us during the time of congregational song.  Of course, let’s be honest, the impatience may be internal within our own beings as well as external from those we seek to lead.  Best address that first with the Spirit, then move out.

Media ecologists tell us that the contemporary mind that is conditioned by constant media exposure has an attention span of five to seven minutes.  Anyone who watches TV knows the annoying decibel level change that invades our space when the commercial comes on.  Some say the volume increase technique is used to wake up the viewer and capture their attention.  That mindset effects the worshipers who sit in our pews Sunday by Sunday.  Unless we worship facilitators can make participation expectancy clear, today’s church attenders will likely anticipate this same rhythm of a five to seven minute segments of content to be followed by a decibel hike that will wake them up and cause them to listen again.  There is plenty of application here for the teaching pastor, but the same media-driven environment applies to music in worship as well.  Like the dial of their car stereos, CD changers, or iPods, people may want the song that is not their favorite to hurry up and change, and even more if it is not even of a style they appreciate.  And they are suppose to be joining in the singing, making music with full participation of head and heart.  Ugh!  What’s a worship music leader to do?

One of the many drawbacks of the culture of entertainment we have become is that the planners – presenters are assumed to bear the load of responsibility for getting people involved where that is even possible.  If the spectator is not amused within the given attention span, then the presenter is surely to blame, and in time, is dismissed.  Though we all recognize our ministry is in context of present day with all of the harmful patterns that get set in people’s lives, we simply must redirect responsibility in worship wherein the participants remain engaged precisely because they are, in fact, in a corporate spiritual worship gathering.  This is countercultural, but seems to me a heart cry emanating from those lost in this culture, needing deliverance from its jaws of impatience.

As planners and guides for Christian worship we must be certain that we faithfully provide opportunity for engagement in the Gospel.  It is our responsibility to be sensitive to the context of those we lead.  If we call ourselves pastoral leaders, however, then it seems critical for us to work at helping those we seek to lead to see the virtuous character of patience, pointing first and foremost to the Jesus we are to lift up, and the Gospel, which is the essence of our worship.

My friend, author, poet, and preacher, Dr. Calvin Miller, taught a worship conference where he reminded us of the significance of worship “at the altar of need.”  Those who are desperate for a Savior will likely not care so much that the song being sung is not necessarily their favorite.   Let us somehow help our congregations to be concerned with displaying the character of Christ in all of their worship, even “when the road’s marked with suffering, and there’s pain in the offering, Blessed Be Your Name!”

C.S. Lewis reminded us that our problem is not that we desire too much of God, but rather that we desire too little, settling for lesser pleasures:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

–C.S. Lewis “The Weight of Glory”


Let us root our worship firmly in the full sweep of the Gospel, the metanarrative of God’s Story, patiently remembering the past, celebrating the present, and looking to the victorious future!  Mara….wait for it….wait for it…..natha!

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

6 Comments on “WAIT FOR IT”

  1. David Manner Says:

    Great post, Paul and so timely for worship and teaching pastors!

  2. Wonderful work, Paul. A recovery of the monastic rootedness and longevity in the practice of Jesus’ way is necessary. This is what I often tell our parish when we try something new in worship: let’s live with it for a season before we make an assessment. The outcome is usually surprising (for them and for myself).

  3. Eric Benoy Says:

    Wish I had this Sunday when the sermon dealt with why people get bored at AND with church … will probably still borrow this and use it as we talk and work through be “active learners” and “active worshipers”

  4. Tom Wideman Says:

    Thanks, Paul, for your great post. Waiting is not a 21st century American virtue. No one talks of delayed gratification anymore. We can’t even wait long enough to microwave our dinner, so instead we stand in front of the fridge and shovel it in. I can remember our church growth consultants back in the 90s telling us that “Be still and know He is God” will kill our services. So instead we filled the silence and the waiting with meaningless sound and movement to try and keep everyone engaged. But instead of being engaged, we became even more distracted. We became the church of ADHD worship. But I am hopeful that we are seeing movement towards a return to the spiritual disciplines. Blessings!

    • True, Tom. Love your verbiage, “ADHD worship.” There IS hope! I find young adults to be much more reflective and desirous of the valuable fruit of silence, lyrics that have taken longer to come to fruition, and other benefits that only come in due time.

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