The Olympic Games for Worship

(Note:  With the recent fervor in the World Cup tournament, these thoughts fit the spirit of the day.  –ms)

“Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)

The 2014 Olympic Games are now complete.  My family and I enjoy watching the games when we can, since we feel it is important to honor the hard work and commitment that these athletes have shown in preparation for this worldwide competition.  Certainly, we enjoy seeing the USA win medals, but generally we appreciate the diligence of athletes from every country and their success at the games.

Now that I’m reflecting on this, I realize that this kind of competition might be a healthy and welcome enterprise for the church.  Just think, we could send our worship teams to some centralized location for an “Olympic Games for Worship.”  As they compete, we could award prizes in various events like the individual competition for smoothest vocalist, or the fastest guitarist.  Team medals could be awarded for bands for something like marathon playing (i.e., playing a repetitive chorus with the most repeats), or synchronized performance.

Every church would benefit from these Games, since musicians and worship leaders would be preparing and planning for them, as well as practicing every fine detail of their performances to make them the best they could be.  Overall, it would be a “win-win” for everyone involved.

I hope you realize by now that I am being a little facetious.  Nonetheless, I sometimes hear an underlying thread of concern from church leaders about the competitive atmosphere in our culture.  Especially as they seek to be relevant in their communities.  This concern is demonstrated by questions, such as:  “How do we compete with the entertainment of our society?”  Sometimes the question is even more direct:  “How does our church compete with bigger churches and ministries down the street or in our city?”  These questions reveal a great deal of pressure felt by planners and leaders of worship services.  They must compete for the attention of people and present a Sunday morning package that is of high quality, musically excellent (and showy), flawlessly timed and addresses up-to-the-minute perspectives on daily life.

The pressure these leaders feel is not unwarranted.  Many individual church-goers regularly complain about the quality of the music, the uninteresting sermons, or that somehow the church is not “meeting the needs” of themselves or their families.  Having just watched the latest movie the night before (or attended a concert, or enjoyed some other entertainment), they leave church on Sunday to go home and flip on the television to watch football, a weekly animated TV series, and multi-million dollar 30-second commercials.

It’s hard for the church to compete with that, or even keep up.  Faced with a decline in giving as the economy continues to struggle, many church leaders wonder how they will make mortgage payments, pay the utilities and still keep their staff members (and themselves) fully employed.  There is just no way to inject the time, energy and finances needed into the worship and music program to even come close to the competition.

So what should the church do about it?  My answer may surprise you.  I suggest that we don’t bother trying to compete.  We are not, after all, part of the entertainment industry.  We are the church.  I realize that some church services look more like concerts or major productions every week, but let’s not get sidetracked into that discussion.  Maybe we can address that at another time.  For now, let’s admit that we are not part of the entertainment industry and that our goals for Sunday morning are wholly different.

What might some of those goals for worship be?  Putting our heads together, we could probably come up with a pretty good list.  Worshipping and glorifying God would be at the top of the list.  Hearing from the Word through reading and exposition.  Prayer.  Fellowship with one another.  Each of these put the goals of worship in a different perspective than the goals of entertainment.

Let me also point out some purposes for our worship services that are not often at the forefront of our minds.  Like the purposes mentioned above, these are not part of our entertainment saturated culture and make the church unique in its role in society.

For example, our worship services should be reflective of the relationships within our church community.  Those people leading worship, singing special music, reading Scripture, calling attention to important weekly events, serving communion, receiving the offering – all of these people are our friends and our family members.  These are our neighbors and co-workers.  They represent the relational aspect of our gathered community for worship.  It is with these people that Paul calls us to unity.  “Put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:14-15).

Another purpose for our Sunday mornings is that of service.  We are called as individual members of the body of Christ to serve each other.  That is the whole point of the spiritual gifts we have received from God.  The gifts have come from His hand, by His will, and are expressly given for us to serve others (1 Corinthians 12:7&11).  Peter sums it up clearly, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

These are just a few ideas, and I’m sure you could think of others.  The church is a living organism with a special place in society and in our lives.  We can actually leave the competition behind, because we don’t have to compete with the entertainment of the world or other churches.  We are about relationships with God and with people around us.  If we view our worship services as extensions of these relationships, then the pressure to compete falls away.


(Original Post on March 3, 2014 at the Worldview Church:


Posted on June 30, 2014, in Arts, Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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