Worship Foreplay

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of the perfect worship time during a church service. Kinda like my dream-date with God…so-to-speak. I’ve got five items on my wish list.

I’m not exactly the Sabbath-social-butterfly-meet-and-greet type of girl. There are lots of those to be sure, but not me.

Sure I like seeing friends and strangers (who think they know me from this blog), but that’s not why I go to church. I’m going to a Sabbath church-service to have an experience with God. Something about pre-service potpourri-chatter inside the sanctuary doesn’t set the tone for me. In fact, I thought the lobby and coffee-shop were designated for these social interactions.

When I enter the sanctuary (so-to-speak) I need to settle in, get centered. I’m not sure how everyone easily changes their visiting into worship when the band takes the stage—I know I can’t. I’m slightly defective this way.  And I know others can’t…because they just keep talking even after the music starts!

So, since I don’t “light-switch” my worship mental state, the first song (or two, or three) are basically swoony foreplay. Ahh, worship foreplay. Who knew?  So first wishes of my perfect Sabbath dream-date are:

1)      Bulletin hander-outers: don’t block the incoming crowd with striking up small-talk that becomes long-talk. A pleasant “Hi”, “Pretty Blouse”, and “Oh you brought your Bible” are fine (that last one really did happen). But getting into a conversation about the kid’s birthday party is just nuts. Do you not see the traffic jam being created? Move along people, move along.

2)      Play pre-service contemplative music—that is just loud-enough-to-prevent-chit-chat. Dim the lights. Get me in the mood. Maybe a candle would be nice too. My church used to have a rotation of music videos they played pre-service—like “You’ll Come” or “Forever Reign” or “Hosanna”. This is good-getting-in-the-mood music. I miss that… Let’s talk less and spend more time in pre-worship foreplay.

Next, has this ever happened to you? The service has started, you’re getting swooned for God through a song—and your emotions start swirling and your eyes start leaking. I think this is very good stuff. Sometimes you just need to get into this place. And the Sabbath is special, sacred, and set aside for this very type of connection. So there you are, leaky eyes and all. Then suddenly you’re jolted out of the connection and into panic because someone from the pulpit/stage announces that we should greet our neighbors. I’m not even going to start on my germaphobe stuff – even though that is a minor issue.

But the major issue is that “neighbor greeting” is like being interrupted in the “heat of the moment” (oh no! I’m back to that foreplay stuff). I’ll be honest; I’ve never, ever, not once, liked this. And when I’m teary eyed—it’s just plain awkward—for me—for my neighbor. Once, someone, a stranger, handed me a Kleenex. Oy vey. Oy vey. So I’m adding this to the Sabbath dream-date:

3)      Once the music portion of worship service starts, no “greet your neighbor” interruptions. Don’t bust up my mojo with God.

Okay, this next part might be shocking.

Let’s bring back some hymns.

Yes I’m a modern girl. King James is hard to read and I often like The Message translation. One look at me and you’d know I don’t subscribe to my Mennonite upbringing. BUT, I like the old hymns. And I get a little sad when I have to admit that they are dying. Little kids don’t know these songs—who will carry them on? There are sacred words there. I get a whole lot more out of “I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus tis now” as opposed to “Oh happy day, happy day, You wash my sin away.” So:

4)      Give me one hymn per service. We don’t even have to sing all five stanzas… just one, two and five. Oh, and before communion would be extra nice.

The last part of my dream-date is about content. When I think of “worship” I think of something bigger and greater than music. And while I love the corporate structure of my church—I’m craving a little whimsy and mystery. I know it’s not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I’d love to see more variety in the way of worship.

I’ve got a couple of friends who attend a church, where on-occasion, canvases and acrylic paint are set-up on the stage. If you feel led to get on stage and express your worship on canvas—then you do it. This type of stuff makes my heart jump out of my throat! Oh to worship and abstractly paint would be…amazing. My friends say it’s a hit every time. A deeply moving experience.

Now, just think for a moment how this could be a win-win. An initial win because it’s an amazing way to actively worship (either as the artist or viewing participant). This type of worship works, and has been proven many times here, here, and here. The second win comes from the church selling paintings (eg: two-week silent auction) for a church-supported-cause. Win-win-win!

Or let’s bring back the silent skits or interpretive dance. Okay, I know this makes some people really uncomfortable, and it starts to fray away the edges of corporate worship. I’m not asking for a Brother Franklin free for all dance with tambourines. But I am wanting a little bit more, so it’s going on the list:

5)      Bring in more “arts” and expressive ways to worship that incorporate the music with action. Action for me doesn’t come in the form of clapping or raising hands… there is something more that I need in worship on occasion. Something deeply expressive. Mystery, movement, whimsy.  And maybe it isn’t happening, not because it’s too freaky-deaky, but because it’s too much to organize—too much work. Maybe it takes parts of the church body with those gifts to ask, do, and become accountable. Maybe I’m talking to me. Maybe I’m talking to you too.

Okay, that about covers my church-worship, dream-date, with God. I could get into details and nuances that would only sound like complaining. And really I’m not. As churches go, I’m so happy with mine. We’re not stodgy and stoic, we’re hip and safely cutting edge.  I suppose I’m just ready to step out of safe and sometimes get into the uncomfortable zone. After all, little good or growth happens in constant safety.

Copyright © 2009- 2011 Sherry Meneley . All Rights Reserved . soiledwings.com . sherrymeneley.com . soiled wings

13 thoughts on “Worship Foreplay

  1. Hello Sherry,

    An excellent post! Very interesting… I myself have some pretty peculiar views on the matter of going to church. (I don’t wish to junk up your blog with my views, so I will understand if you choose to not let this post. I am just sharing off the top of my head.) Centuries ago, there was a practical application to Sunday worship that makes sense to me. Today… not so much, perhaps I am just confused.

    If we went back a couple of hundred years, Sunday service was an all day thing – four or five hours in the morning and four or five hours in the afternoon. There was very little sermonizing and whatnot… people mostly sat quietly in their own thoughts and prayers. The practical value of this, at least from my perspective, was to make people of the same community sit quietly in the presence of one another the same way a parent might make two children who were fighting sit in different chairs in the same room until they both got over it. For example, say farmer Bob and farmer Ted had an argument on a Thursday. If they were both men of faith, they would spend Sunday sitting quietly in the same room and, as we know how these things work, eventually be ready to talk about things rationally. If they were not men of faith, they would never develop the opportunity to talk things through and things would probably escalate. If there were no heated emotions to cool, then people simply had the chance to collect there thoughts and have a little “me” time with the Big Guy. It was all good, because a community where the people spent their Sundays in church was more likely to be cohesive and successful than a community that did not.

    Over time, however (and again this is just my perspective), everything has been minimized and politicized in a fast food sort of way [no peace or quiet even in church], to where some people display their faith as a materialistic vanity… I sing louder than you, which means I am more faithful than you… which, in th end has the effect of making people’s faith a tool for suppression and isolation instead of sublimation.

    Yeah, there is some cynicism there… what can I say? 😀


    • Totally get this Craig!
      When I was little, Sunday was “church” day. There was morning and evening service. There was eating with others after monring service. We were are chruch for two services because one was the message and the other was spent at Sunday school (or teaching it, or serving within the church, etc…). It was an all day thing. And while my busy life might not be able to handle a whole day swept away… I’m wondering if that’s where we’ve gotten off track. Correct me if I’m wrong – but God did ask command us to observe the Sabbath. And if I’m really honest – the idea of this kinda freaks me out – because after all – Sunday is my catch up day (groceries, laundry, cooking, etc…).
      Anyhoo – that’s a whole different post. For now I’d just like to worship in a way that represents a spiritual “revival” that probably shouldn’t be ignored…

  2. Sherry, I really enjoyed reading your wishes – & I plan to give your list some more thought. In my current season of not having a “spot” for corporate worship, this will be good food for thought for me.

    About the interruptions & instructions from up front… YES!!! How crass to invite people, lead people into the throne room & then… BOOM! yank us back outta’ there to obey some arbitrary command – that could feel contrived even at a more appropriate moment. Ugh.

    I don’t know how you do it – so often expressing something for me that I didn’t yet realize needed to be expressed. Thanks!

    • Thanks Kaye. I know what that’s like to be caught in the middle of nowhere to worship. Hope you find something “just right” when just the right time comes. But in those inbetween times of solitude, much heart work happens that couldn’t happen otherwise. Mercy travels Kaye. ♥

  3. OK, I promise not to talk to you before worship starts on Sunday. Think we can do it – sit there and not talk? 🙂 Great post – definitely some things to think about!

    • OK – you CAN’T make that promise. Because seriously, everyone chattering and me sitting there silent? Not cool. Not cool at all. It’s an overall understanding that either a church encompases or not. That an entire group of people subscribe to —– or not. Ya know? 😉

  4. I’m smiling… 🙂
    I think your dream date is at my church. 🙂
    My pastor has often said not to come to church for worship to warm you up for the message–but rather come in RUNNING (no not literally, although that has occurred! LOL) Running as in coming expectant and ready to experience the environment of heaven. I’m so grateful my church “gets it’ as in the means to express worship in paint, dance, flags, etc. I think we stand apart not only in those things, but in the fact we are one of the churches that does NOT dim the lights. That was the first thing that struck when we came 9 years ago. Although I love that kind of atmosphere (candles glowing and all) I came to know the dim lights as hiding. I loved that my church was FREE to worship in the LIGHT. It was and is so good for me. The hymns are rich indeed. I didn’t grow up in the church, but find myself deeply moved to these words…Being in the sanctuary with God in a corporate setting is so powerful. There are often times I am unable to raise my voice or sing a lyric. I am completely immersed in His presence. He is a good and generous God that as we come to worship Him, He pours Himself out on us. The best thing I realize is knowing I don’t have to wait till Sunday–I can set my environment here at home. It has been known to happen that He still shows up.

  5. I agree with you, Sherry on all these points. This post has me thinking about how we influence the body of believers. I think it starts with prayer. Praying for the Holy Spirit to move among us. Praying for our pastors, worship leaders, and everyone involved in Sunday morning services to be fully Spirit-led. I think we also need to share with the leaders what really inspires a worshipful experience in us. I mean, if hymns speak to your soul (and they do mine, too!) why should our churches follow the pattern of weeding them out? If breaking the flow of worship for a meet-and-greet is more disruptive than body-building, our leaders should know.

    I appreciate your contemplation on this topic and that you inspired me to contemplate it too.

  6. Enjoyed your article – I think we may have many things in common – not to mention music and tv shows 🙂 And the people you’d like to meet – awesome people everyone of them! It will be great to follow your articles and get to know you better.

  7. I am 100% with all of you on this! I was blessed to attend a small leadership conference at a church in Manteca back in January. It was the first time this particular conference taught two conferences simultaneously to both English and Spanish speakers. The beauty of this was we got to worship together in both languages. I don’t know a drop of Spanish, but I was more moved at that event and sunday service than I ever have been in church. Why? Because the Spanish worship team sang old hymns and were completely uninhibited in their sheer joyful worship of our Lord! They were singing, moaning, crying, praying and laughing in complete abandonment! You could literally feel the spirit moving through them! They were not there to “be the worship band.” They were there to let it all hang out in the Spirit! They had not one care about what they looked like, or how people viewed them. They were lost in the rapture of their love of our Savior, and as a result, so were we!

    The Spanish worshipers also eat lunch together after every church service. That is so awesome! Every Sunday they each bring something to contribute and they eat lunch together potluck-style. Imagine, still enjoying the “after-glow” of a powerful service, while eating lunch with both your family and church family. I was so excited to be invited to this lunch and just to bond and spend time together. The broken English and poor attempts at Spanish on my part were not a hindrance at all, as we shared our meal and enjoyed each other’s company.

    BTW I love your canvas and acrylic paint idea! I just might have to implement that idea at one of our services! 🙂

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