It’s a common saying in churches today. Programmed services means that there is a carefully allotted schedule for everything that happens when believers gather together. The fast-paced nature of our society and people’s over-packed calendars means that we have to stay on schedule otherwise we risk alienating the visitors. So we transition from one item on the agenda to the next, careful to maintain our prescribed order of events. Even the “artsy” churches do this; they just have a cooler way of keeping everyone on track.
And while I’m used to the routine, the words grate on me every time I hear them.
Not because I’m against an organized sequence of events. You’re talking about a girl who loved to go down the office supplies aisle in Costco long before she had any type of office to speak of. As friends and families can tell you, I love a carefully-crafted plan that gets us to a desired result. So it’s not the strict sense of organization that bothers me.
Nor is it the music that predictably follows this statement. I love music, and I take quite literally the command to make a joyful noise unto the Lord (Psalm 98:4). For me personally, music is a powerful force in ushering my heart into a statement of humility and awe before God.
But it’s not the only way to worship.
Worship doesn’t consist only of notes being played. Nor is worship something that the Christian starts and stops during the course of their day. All of our lives, the music and the mundane, the notes and the moments, should be focused on giving glory and honor to God. To indicate that it is something that happens when a band starts playing and a group of believers start singing makes the word devoid of its intent. Worship is how we live – not a programmed activity at the start of a service.
Similarly worship shouldn’t be relegated to a particular segment of the service. The preaching, the tithing, the greeting and the announcements should all be acts of worship. And please, don’t give someone the title of “Worship Pastor” unless that person is seriously going to be considering how all these things can bring glory and honor to God.
This isn’t to say we don’t worship God with music. I heartily believe we should. But our worship should start long before we hear the first strum and should continue long after the last note.