At what point is a church service too slick? That’s a question I’ve been pondering lately. Most of the time, too slick means that the service doesn’t feel authentic … the preaching, or the performers on the team, seem to be overdoing it.
When I see a church service that is “over the top,” I’ve come to these four conclusions:
The message is overshadowed by the method.
The principle message we must convey during our services each week is the Gospel of Jesus, found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures … ” In an earlier passage from 1 Corinthians, chapter five, Paul speaks of our new life in Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (vs. 17)”
When too much attention is put on the performance—to the point where our cool arrangements, staging, band and singers are a higher priority than the message of Christ—we’re heading away from our true purpose. If our congregation walks away each week talking about the method and not the message, our services are too slick.
In the desire to create a quality product, the performance seems “overproduced.”
It’s a good thing to have high standards. We must give our best to God by using production and performance skills to help deliver the Gospel. But through our desire to excel, we may lose touch with our audience. Sometimes we try too hard to deliver a simple but profound message, one that can be complicated by gadgets, glitz, disco balls and fireworks. Sometimes our overuse of technology diminishes the human connection with our congregation. Our technology, regardless of its “coolness,” must serve the message.
The stage setting, lighting and backdrop don’t match the emotion of the performance.
Our audience will disengage if they sense a disconnect between the emotion of a performance and the feel of the stage. If the song we are using in worship is down to earth, with an acoustic feel, conveying an intimate mood, the performance is best supported by a warm, inviting and intimate stage setting.
A proper stage setting is much like music in a movie: The feel of the soundtrack will give emotional clues to the audience. If a Jaws-like cue warns of a circling shark, the audience is given a clue that there’s immanent danger awaiting the actor. If there’s a happy sounding music cue, we have no worries for the actor at all.