Today’s sessions were based on a really interesting concept. The goal was to model for us a tool for increasing the effectiveness of sermons and a method for increasing the effectiveness of worship services and then to have a worship service tonight based on those things.
Pre-Sermon Dialogue Process
The example given for sermon preparation was something they called the pre-sermon dialogue. Michael Quicke was to be our pastor for this worship service and he would be the one presenting the sermon, so he was present. Lori Campbell served as the facilitator for the dialogue process which was a circle of about 10 people including Lori, Michael, and about 8 non-pastors whose purpose was primarily to just talk about their perspectives on issues related to the chosen passage which was for this session Matthew 5:14-16 which is the passage where Jesus says (I’m paraphrasing):
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. No, instead they put it on a lampstand where it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before people so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
They just sat around and talked about issues of light, darkness, this passage, and personal reflections while Michael just listened.
The dialogue concept is an interesting one and it is something I want to try; however, it was really hard for me today to keep paying attention because I was just watching other people have a conversation, and I wasn’t part of it at all. Also, I have seen Ed Young’s method of group sermon preparation, and I like it a little better because it accomplishes more (creatively speaking) in a shorter period of time.
The worship planning session was really cool because I have wondered for a long time how other people effectively plan worship services as a group. It was also interesting because instead of bringing in someone to “teach” us a method, they brought in a worship team from a local church to “show” us how they do it. Here’s the gist:
- They meet twice a month over lunch for about 90 minutes each meeting.
- At the beginning of each meeting, they review the purpose and goals of the meeting and do a simple activity to do some group building and also to get the creative juices flowing.
- They have a “storyboard” for each service that is being planned (working about a month ahead).
- At the bottom of each storyboard, they post brown cards that detail
- The theme of the service (however much information they have from the teacher for the morning).
- The targeted service style—A|T, A->T, or ATATA… (A = arts, T = teaching)
- The “Permission Meter” for that service to set a limit on how creative the team can be when thinking through elements of that service. There is less permission granted when the deadline gets closer.
- They brainstorm for about 45 minutes:
- Ideas are written on cards that are color-coded and imprinted with an icon according to type of service element that idea falls under:
- Verbal: message ideas, teaching points, announcements, “spiritual direction”
- Music: performance songs, worship songs, prelude/postlude, pre-recorded songs.
- Drama: drama, dance, demonstrations, etc.
- Media/video: trailers for the message series, movie/TV clips, other video presentations.
- Art/images: worship center decor, slide backgrounds, displayed artwork, visual themes.
- Parsley: anything else that would add color to the series or service.
- People are limited to 60 seconds to explain their idea.
- Idea cards are posted on the storyboard in an appropriate column.
- They vote by using little sticky labels and a point system. Each person gets 20 points to spend on the ideas they like. They write point values on sticky labels and stick them to the cards they vote for.
They did the brainstorm process right then and involved us in it too. That was a lot of fun. I like creative brainstorming!
I played golf all afternoon at an incredibly nice course here owned by the conference center. They gave us one round for FREE! Right on!
I got my money’s worth, though. 114! Wow! It’s a pretty tough course, and I’m a pretty tough player.
Tonight, there was a worship service where Michael preached a message that he had written today based on the dialogue session this morning. It was a pretty good message, but for two things that really bothered me.
- He never read the text, opened a Bible, or even mentioned the reference to the text. His whole message was based on Matthew 5:14-16, but he never actually read it!
- He never gave any kind of practical application of what it would look like for ME to be the light of the world. He told me the same stories I heard that morning from the dialogue group (so he had listened and had taken good notes) but he didn’t make any kind of application to me or give me anything emotionally motivating.
However, he did something that was really profound and very meaningful. He took a break in the middle of his sermon (I thought he was finished with his message, but he surprised me with more) and drew our attention to a table of unlit candles. He suggested that if we wanted to make a statement that we were willing to be light in this world, we could come forward and light a candle. Music played, and I did so.
He began to speak again, and drew our attention to the fact that the passage also uses the metaphor of a city on the hill that can’t be hidden. He said that when all the lights get together, it is as obvious a thing as a city right on the top of a hill.
Then, he walked over to the table and he picked up a candle snuffer (I don’t know what it’s really called, but it’s one of those little gold things that looks like a little bell on the end of a stick), and he said, “I’ve seen churches where there was division.” With that, he snuffed out one candle. “I’ve seen churches where people wouldn’t forgive each other.” He snuffed out another candle. “I’ve seen churches that would not care for the needy in their midst.” He snuffed out another one.
He repeated this over and over again and snuffed out over half the candles on the table.
It was such a vivid reminder to me that the church that doesn’t behave like a church is failing to shine the light it should, and the image of Christ in this world is harmed.
He concluded, and the worship team returned to lead us in two more songs.
At that point, I really broke down into tears because I was so aware of a desire to shine out God’s light to a dark world but also to more deeply know God as the source of my light.
Lord, I wasn’t playing games tonight. I really want you to move in me and move through me. Show me your light in powerful ways. Reveal yourself and your light to me. I can’t light myself. I can’t get the light any other way. I need you to ignite me. Set me spiritually on fire, and let me burn so brightly that it’s contagious to those in the darkness and contagious also to those who have been satisfied with weak flames.
On my way back to the house tonight, I prayed that God would help me to find a creative, godly worship team like what Ripon Community Church has. There was such a light shone out by what they did tonight, and that kind of light needs to shine in Chicago and in Lafayette.
God, I’ll ask you again. Send me those who can lead your people in worship like that, and help me to develop those you have already sent me and those you will send me.
My Action Steps
- By December, I will try one pre-sermon dialogue.
- By November 1, I will have mapped out my December messages and will do a worship planning session with my worship team.