We all understand the hectic nature of contemporary life, but some folks seem determined to carry it to extremes.
A recent article in our local newspaper highlighted two area churches which have begun “express worship” services — one designed to last thirty minutes, the second stretched out to forty-five minutes. I’ve waited longer for a hamburger at McDonald’s — but then, the latter may also have provided more nourishment.
Church leaders avow only the most noble purposes: to reach people who are “turned off” by more traditional services, or who are accustomed to a more spontaneous, less-structured lifestyle. Or, as the Burger King people put it, “Have it your way.”
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for many aspects of contemporary worship experiences. I enjoy both praise choruses and a Bach cantata. I’m convinced effective preaching in the 1990’s is characterized by contemporary application and illustration of biblical principles. I’ve even been known to clap an occasional hand (usually one at a time, however).
But this “express worship” thing strikes me as considerably off the mark. It seems to imply that people today don’t have the attention span or willingness to stay engaged in an hour-long worship experience. And they’re right — if the worship service is more ceremonial than involving, if the preaching is aimed at their grandparents’ needs and interests, if there is no clear word from the Lord. On the other hand, people willingly sit through hour-long television programs, two-hour movies, three-hour football games — when they are engaged.
Letting worship run an hour hasn’t seemed to hurt Willow Creek or other churches using more contemporary models — they simply plan a combination of music, drama and message that involves people and gives them something to think about. And I can take you to scores of more traditional worship services that run sixty to ninety minutes every Sunday, and are packing in the baby boomers.
People come to churches where the worship is compelling. It’s not about how quickly it’s over, it’s about what happens when they arrive. That kind of engaging worship is hard to produce in thirty minutes. (I have sermon introductions that have gone longer than that!)
Feel free to call it “Mini-church” or “Gospel Lite” or something else that accurately describes the superficial nature of the experience. But don’t call it worship.

Share This On:

About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

Related Posts