Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Setting the Stage

I went to the gym at 4:45 today with expectations of spending 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer followed by a half hour of squats, sit-ups and weight lifting. Though I used to regularly attend the 5:30 Body Jam class, the class has changed enough in recent weeks to influence my work-out preferences. But with a few dozen calories burned on the machine and several squats and sit-ups behind me, I ventured over to the exercise studio to see what was happening.

Everything looked different.

It was not what I expected.

An instructor was preparing the room - someone I had not seen before. One class participant was handing out glow-in-the-dark bracelets while the instructor set up strobe lights that flashed dancing lights on the ceiling. The woman was smiling in delight as she prepared the room for us. She mentioned several times how we were in for a treat - how we should prepare to really move.

Many things were different. It was definitely not what I expected! I could hardly wait for the class to start. My anticipation had sky-rocketed. It didn't matter if I liked the class, I knew we were about to have fun. The stage was set. And one hour later, as I walked back home, I became filled with gratitude for both going to the gym and staying for the class.

Sitting at home now, I cannot help but to wonder how many cues we in the church can take from this instructor - especially if our churches are surrounded by people who think the church is stale and dying.

What kind of expectations do we set when it comes to worship? How do we prepare the space? What ways do we build worshippers' anticipation before we ever say, "Welcome to worship?" When people walk into our sanctuaries, do they know that something is different or does it look like just another church service? Are we raising anyone's expectations?

Our church is both blessed and challenged by a monumental, historic building. Just last night, a couple who has been visiting our church for a couple of weeks told me how surprised they were to find so many young people inside since the building is so old and historic. The historic space is connected to a glass building by a four-story glass atrium, but we still wrestle with how to tell others that we are a church and not a museum, and that we are a vibrant, vital church with a young adult congregation.

Still, once inside the sanctuary, we are surrounded by...well...what one would expect in a monumental, historic building - priceless stained-glass windows, pews that are attached to the floor, thick red carpet, and a chancel separating worship leaders from the congregation by a couple dozen feet.

What can we do to work within this space to get people excited before worship ever starts? How does our worship continue to build from the moment we say "Good morning?" so that people want to stay and not miss a minute?

We are in the process of hiring a new part-time Director of Music, Worship and the Arts. I'm excited about this position and can't wait to see who applies and who is ultimately hired. We have high expectations for this role and my next colleague in ministry. We want to see God, hear God, taste God and touch God. I want to open the bulletin and say, "I'm so excited for worship today." I want to walk into the sanctuary and see an image on the screen or a symbol on the altar or something tucked inside my bulletin that makes me think, "Something is going to happen in the next hour. This is no ordinary worship service." I long to hear music that creates a melody that I cannot get out of my head until a new song is introduced the next Sunday. I want to be transformed. I want to not only hear about Jesus - I want to meet Jesus.

Do you know someone with these kind of gifts who is looking for a place for their gifts to be fully utilized? Do you know anyone who wants to be part of a unique congregation that is seeking to be a prophetic witness in downtown Washington? Are you aware of an individual who can work with toddlers, resonate with young adults, and build bridges across all age groups? Please tell them to go to our website and download the job description.

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