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Joe McKeever: How to Liven Up a Dull Worship Service

liven up

Here are some thoughts from veteran pastor Joe McKeever on how to liven up a dull whorship service.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord….” (Isaiah 6:1)

Have the Lord show up, and your worship will come alive like never before.

Ask Isaiah.  Ask the two Emaus-road disciples (Luke 24).  Ask the disciples who had retreated into the safety of the Upper Room when suddenly the risen Christ appeared (John 20:19ff).

Isaiah left the temple that day with a new calling upon his life.  The two disciples reversed their paths and rushed back to the city to tell everyone that Jesus was alive and had appeared to them.  As for the disciples, soon they removed the locks from the door of the Upper Room and lived in the streets and countryside–not to say the jails–as they told the world of Jesus.

A few moments in His presence will do that to a fellow. No one is ever bored in the Lord’s presence. No one has ever fallen asleep under His voice. No one emerges unchanged.

How to Liven Up a Dull Worship Service

If Jesus is present, something is going to happen. Let’s talk about worship services in Christian churches. This big subject is a major concern for all God’s redeemed.

Being retired and on the road, I’m with a different church almost every weekend. I suppose I’ve seen it all. Some worship services are powerful, well-planned, and excellently executed. Some choirs are amazing and the worship leadership teams as good as you’ll find anywhere. We could wish that all were.

Far too many churches suffer from a deadly sameness and predictability.  In many, the worship leader seems to have given no advance thought to anything other than the choice of the hymns.  And more than once, they’ve not even done that, but invite the congregation to do it for them on the spot.

And we wonder why the glazed look in the eyes of the congregation.

Few things should be as wonderful and uplifting as the time spent in worshiping the God of the universe through the risen, ascended Lord Jesus Christ.

Few things should be as life-changing as an hour in His presence.

You would think.

Now, I am not saying the worship service should compete with Dancing With the Stars or a college football game.  Noise and hype and glitter are not necessary for a worship service and in most cases, get in the way of true worship.

Meaningful worship, however, surely includes involving Gods’ people in the singing, praying, giving, and reading of the Word.

The ways to liven up a dull worship service cannot be counted. Here are a few thoughts on that, some more dynamic than others, but we send them forth with the hope that something here will help someone.

Ten Ways to Liven Up a Dull Worship Service

  1. Have something unexpected happen.
  2. Do the same things you’ve always been doing but do them better. Prayer and preparation will usually accomplish this.
  3. Add strings.  Hymn-singing accompanied by piano and organ and nothing else can be greatly improved by the addition of a couple of guitars and/or violins.  If your people resist such new things–I’m tempted to insert some exclamation here about that!–then, place the musicians off stage and not in view.  The first your people will know of their presence will be by the music they produce, and that should forever win everyone over.
  4. Plan for an interruption of the service that will produce some uplifting, inspiring lesson. In the middle of a July 4 service, perhaps the service is interrupted by the color guard entering and marching down the aisle.  Everyone stands, and the moment becomes electric.  As with anything like this, the key word is preparation.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  (Among other things, that means to talk this through with the leadership team, making sure that the interruption is a) something good, b) desirable, c) appropriate, and d) worthwhile. Never ever have an interruption just to shake things up.)
  5. Plan for a testimony or interview.  A testimony will be better than an interview if–and only if–the speaker is disciplined and prepared.  In most churches, however, you can’t count on that, which means the minister leading the service will want to hold the microphone and ask questions to keep it on track and bring it in on time. (Btw, do not introduce the testimony.  Just do it.  Worship leaders–pastors or otherwise–often talk things to death in over-introducing.  Just do it.)
  6. Throw away the printed order of service. Mostly, all they accomplish is to remove the element of surprise from the program, something you actually want to keep.  If your constituency absolutely insists on a printed order, give them one, but without all the details of the service.
  7. Have something funny happen.  (see below)  But do not manufacture the event. No jokes please.  Never.
  8. Have someone unexpected and well-loved show up to speak, but without advance notice.  Let’s train our people to expect the unexpected.
  9. Open the service with memorized sentences from Scripture.  These should be uplifting, praise-focused, and spoken clearly and loudly.  If the theme lends itself to this, consider repeating the same passage at least twice more in the hour. Find ways to dramatize that Scripture, whether by choral readings or banners or individuals within the congregation.  (For instance, consider the opening three verses of Psalm 40.  That’s about as good as it gets.  Others that come to mind–and your Bible is saturated with great passages–include Isaiah 55:1-2 and 6-9; Matthew 9:36-38; and Hebrews 13:5-6.)
  10. Pray.  Pray, pray, and pray some more. Ask the Lord to make an appearance, to do something wonderful, to make His presence known, to do something “not in the printed order.”  Pray intensely. Get others praying toward this.

Two quick stories.