Transitions – Elements of Worship Series (Part 7)
How would you answer this question: What is the most important element of a Worship Service? Many would say, “The sermon is the most important.” Or, maybe Scripture reading is the key component? How about prayer? Maybe music deserves highest marks? Talk to any room full of people and the debate would be endless. I have found it interesting that there is such a diverse range of opinions on the matter, yet when I teach on the topic of worship there is one element that never receives attention in answer to the query.
Notice that my initial question was very specific. I did not ask about the most important element or idea of Worship as a topic, but of a Worship Service. The question is one of a practical nature, as opposed to a philosophical or theological perspective. The analysis of a Worship Service on this level is vital as our congregations come together for the purpose of experiencing God through song, sermon, prayer and other ways of engaging our hearts and minds. Does this clarification to the question change your answer in any way?
Arguments are plentiful for the inclusion and importance of Scripture, the sermon, music, prayer and other elements in our Worship Services. Our weekly gatherings as the Body of Christ are significant opportunities to hear from God in various ways. But what is the connecting thread? What element do we all notice if it doesn’t happen, or work well, but when it’s properly executed we don’t notice it at all?
Well, I suppose it’s time for me to get to the point. What is the most important element of a Worship Service? The transition. Now some of you think I’m crazy. What’s so vital about a transition? Better yet, what’s so spiritual about a transition? I’m glad you asked, so let me explain what I mean.
Transitions are the links of the chain. When moving from one element to another, something happens – you either notice it or you don’t – and that’s a transition. If one of those “links” breaks, it’s obvious. When the “link” holds strong, it’s as though it’s not even there. Are you moving from a song to a prayer? There’s a transition. Moving from the Scripture reading to the sermon? There’s a transition. Moving from songs, to announcements, to more songs? More transitions.
Consider the idea that a successful Worship Service is a service of successful transitions. Good transitions lead to minimal distractions from the established flow of a service. Bad transitions are distractions that often great music or excellent sermons have difficulty overcoming. Distractions can pull someone’s mind and heart away from what the Lord is doing in them, and may interrupt the work of God in their life. That’s what makes transitions – good transitions – so important to our Worship Services.
Now, I certainly don’t want to undervalue the quality of the other elements of worship. A poorly performed song can be a fatal distraction. A sermon that doesn’t communicate with people at their level will lead to wandering minds and disinterest. My point is that our services deserve as much time, energy and thought put into transitions as these other elements.
I’ve worked with churches for many years, both in my own church and as a consultant, and often my first order of business has been to analyze the Worship Services as they had been done prior to my arrival. I’ve done this using videos of various services and timing each element as it passed. What I discovered was the need to concentrate on transitions and the flow of the services. Believe it or not, often no significant changes in the style of worship are made (not even new songs) for a time. But, when work on transitions and flow begins, the results are readily noticeable. Within just a month or two, we are able to draw together the loose ends and begin to create an atmosphere that minimizes distractions and helps people focus on the theme of the day.
Transitions are one key element in our Worship Services. Don’t ignore them or underestimate their value. Someone needs to be aware of them and think them through before they happen. This is the best way to ensure their successful deployment and smooth sailing from week to week.
For more of Mark’s writing, see his book list at http://www.marksooy.com/books_store/
Posted on March 9, 2015, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, music, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.