Too Many Choices

 

Too Many Choices

Hanging in my closet are all of my clothes from the past year to two. In reality, I only wear ten shirts that hang on the left side. Sure, from time to time I'll venture in to the right for an occasional change of pace. But, ironically, I scour the whole collection every morning before I create my new-fangled combination of attire for the day.

Every day, I refuse to just re-wear the same outfit from last week. I have to come up with a new and fresh, never-yet-been-put-together combination.

I want fresh. I want new. And I want it every day.

The same way, I find myself preparing for Sunday worship. New and fresh. Never been done before. "What is God saying, right now in this moment" kind of worship flow. But without introducing a new song every week. New and fresh, within the current repertoire. But is that even possible?

I've been thinking a lot about how we do church. How we plan for worship. How we continue to drift towards programmed services and leading songs rather than leading worship. We are so strategic in how we introduce new songs to fit a theme, or we have our songs on a rotation, to ensure each one has their chance on the big stage.

I think we have a case of full closet syndrome.

I just got back today from leading at a youth conference. I love it. It feels so fresh. So organic. It dawned on me as I came home today: at camp we are suitcase travelers. We bring our go-to clothes and work with that. We don't get caught up in too many choices, because we only bring so many options and not the whole closet.

Now, I have been thinking all weekend, why is it that at camp I feel so at home, and worship seems to feel so fresh and organic, raw and catapulting?

It's because in that setting, we are also suitcase worship leaders. We only have the go-to songs. We stay within our ten best options and we don't even bring the other half of our "worship closet" into consideration.

But that's not how we do it at home on Sundays.... We approach our worship sets like I approach my closet; we keep everything as an option instead of picking from a limited selection.

There is something freeing about having fewer options. When we are limited, it keeps us focused, keeps us with clear vision. It also keeps the people we lead, focused.

So here's my big what-if. What if we changed our whole approach in how we planned worship gatherings?

What if we adopted the suitcase mentality over the closet approach?

What if we stopped trying to introduce every new song that came out last Tuesday? What if we eliminated the pressure to replicate the move of God from across the pond, and embraced the uniqueness of what God wants to do here and now, in our local church?

What if we stopped trying to work our whole wardrobe through on rotation, and instead, said, "these are our songs right now." We might beat these songs into the ground, but we are going to get theology into our people. Let's free them up from being screen-readers and song-learners, and enable them to become worshipers and truth-declarers. To become the people who press in to the presence of Almighty God, together as the people of God, and allow ourselves to be encountered and changed, not by a song, but by the worship of God alone.

What if we let go of the pressure to scour the whole globe to find the "perfect" themed song to fit our worship experience each week, and instead took on the pressure to walk in and ask the question, "God, what do you want to say, and where to you want to take us today?" What if we used the songs we had, along with the spontaneous songs that will be birthed in moments of worship, to facilitate that?

What if, in our suitcase mentality, we picked out 20 songs on our playlist - not for a sermon series, but for a season? What if we picked our songs based on asking this simple question: God, who are we as a worshiping community right now? And as a result, what songs do we need to be singing?

Our musicians would be freed-up to flow, knowing the list for this season inside and out. They would be ready for anything - and they will be.

What if it also made planning services much different? Far too often, we are spending our energy strategizing how we're going to work songs in so people can learn them. THIS IS SO BACKWARDS!!! That energy should be diverted to focusing on how we can foster environments of worship. No longer do we scour the entire world for the perfectly themed song, and no longer do we make our priority how to strategically teach new songs so that people can learn them. We simply take the best-matched option from our current suitcase and go with that. Lower the stress. Lead the people. Keep the main thing the main thing. Still stay big and congregational but agile. Teaching a new song is not the main thing - leading people is.

Let's be leaders who use the songs we sing as a vehicle, not as the destination.

I'm pretty sure it would begin to feel like camp all over again, except it's now every Sunday.

Mark Alan Schoolmeesters