I’m continuing to chip away at this book of mine. It’s amazing to see the ways God is using the very chapters I’m working on to minister to specific and immediate needs in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters at Coral Ridge. I’m working on a couple of diagrams that visual learners might appreciate. (Click on the diagrams for detail.)
The “Gospel-Shaped” Emotional Journey of a Worship Service
This is a kind of “schematic” of the emotional journey a worship service can take when it is shaped according to the gospel narrative of scripture. Some people call this narrative Creation-Fall-Redemption. Others call it Gathering, Confession, Assurance. I tried for a little alliteration: (1) Glory of God; (2) Gravity of Sin; (3) Grandeur of Grace. In any regard, I think the diagram is a helpful one, but I’m trying to hone the descriptors in yellow to fill out the “emotional palette.”
The Worship Pastor’s Varying Roles
This is an idea I’m working on which bring together the chapter headings of Part II of my book. The final chapter in this section is on “The Worship Pastor as Liturgical Architect,” and the hope is to bring home all the preceding chapters to this point. I began to see some corollaries of the way some of the Worship Pastor’s roles are analogous to the three offices of Christ–prophet, priest, and king. So this serves as a kind of visual guide into Part II of my book. I want to stare at it a while to see what I think about it.
I’d be curious if either of these diagrams elicit thoughts, ideas, or comments.
Zac, discovered the blog a few weeks ago, and I absolutely love it! The thoughts you're exploring are super inspiring and challenging. Keep it up man.
I had a question about the top diagram about the emotional arc of a gospel-oriented worship service. On the far left you've got "Emotional Calibration/Centering," but I'm curious what kinds of things you see filling that role. Is that something like an old school spoken "Call to Worship" from the Psalms (foreign to my background)? I can see something filling that role being super effective at helping take everyone in the room on the same journey, regardless of where they were emotionally when they came in, but I don't have much frame of reference for what kinds of things can fill that role.
Great question, Joe. I don't think it's a one size fits all. It's context-specific and tradition-specific. I do think more formally liturgical elements like a Call to Worship, an Invocation, silent "preparation" during the Prelude, etc., can serve in that way. In more modern contexts, I think it can simply be the opening song that slowly "calibrates" our hearts to get on a similar emotional page. Some of it is just what naturally happens as we begin/enter into worship. I just wanted to give a pictorial voice to the fact that people come into worship all over the emotional map and it takes a while to get on the same page.
The emotional arc in the first diagram is not an arc of the whole service. It is the arc only of the beginning of the service. If we think of the whole liturgy as an ascent, then we begin in the foothills (entrance), descend into a deep valley (confession), and then emerge on a plateau/mesa higher than the foothills for the post-absolution praise and the reading and preaching of scripture. Having been nourished by the ministry of the word, we then begin another active stage of energetic climbing toward the summit as we respond to the reading and preaching of God's word with offering and intercessory prayer, which are our active corporate responses of renewed commitment to God and his mission. That can have its own ups and downs as our responses require lament and earnest, confident pleading with God to deliver his world from injustice and to empower us by his Spirit to follow and serve Christ as his royal priesthood in the world. Then we reach the summit of the mountain where we find a banquet table spread before us. It is a wide flat place, a place of rest, an oasis of provision, with the whole panoramic vista of the world lying before us that enables us to see where we've come and where we're going more clearly than anywhere else (which the eucharistic prayer should express verbally and which music for communion should enable us to sing exuberantly).
Thank you, Mike, for the valuable thoughts.
Zac, the second diagram does a great job of reminding us of the need to think through those three roles of a worship pastor. It is easy sometimes when planning worship to focus on only one of those streams, to the detriment of the other two. My own experience would say that we tend to end up working from either the priest (particularly the emotional shepherd or prayer leader) or king (war general) streams and neglect the prophetic role of worship pastoring. Thanks for sharing the process with us – looking forward to seeing it all come together!
I so appreciate what you're doing! I come from a Pietistic Lutheran background which had pretty much abandoned the Liturgy for a Revivalist order of service, essentially throwing out the baby with the bath water. The strength of the liturgy is that the actual order of service teaches us the order of salvation. I use a simple formula of Adoration (who is God), Confession (who am I), Gospel (what has God done), Response (praise, belief, thanksgiving, etc.).
One thing that a seminary professor taught me that has had a profound impact on how I see the order of service was this; "We should never sing O How I Love Jesus until after we have heard/sang Jesus Loves Me." In other words, we should be careful not to put songs of response out of the context of the Gospel. When we sing/say things matters!
Thanks again for your work. I look forward to reading the book!
Zac, I'm a fan of your work and thankful for your voice in the church. Just wanted to chime in with some thoughts on the emotional journey diagram.
We use a similar model in crafting our services, but include a fourth piece in the gospel arc—Renewal. I think a Creation-Fall-Redemption-Renewal model more fully covers the whole journey of redemptive history which we see in all of Scripture, Gen 1 – Rev 22.
Here's why I think this is important.
The biblical story doesn't end with Redemption. It continues on to Renewal, a day when our King will fully establish his righteous reign over a new heavens and new earth. Until that day comes, He calls us to live in a way that is both a response to Redemption accomplished and a foretaste of Renewal promised. We are living between resurrections, and our present lives are to be lived in a way that points to both.
In no way am I suggesting a diminishing of Christ's work in our worship. The gospel has both an "It is Finished!" aspect and a "Go Forth!" aspect—so I think our worship should have both, too. Our worship sets and services should help us embrace not just what God has accomplished FOR us by Jesus' death and resurrection, but what He is continuing to accomplish IN and THROUGH us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Renewal piece is the place where we ask, "How should we live in response to the work of Jesus, and in anticipation of our eschatological hope?" Bracketing "How should we live" within Redemption and Renewal creates a gospel-saturated space for addressing "action" themes without derailing into moralism. We can sing/talk/pray/preach about mission, evangelism, service, giving, obedience, justice/mercy, sanctification, etc. as actions we do, which are outworkings of God's past grace accomplished and God's future grace promised.
Anyway. If you're still reading, I'd toss out the idea that this might shift our thinking about what the "climax" of the service is. Personally, I think of Communion as the climax, because it beautifully encompasses both the Redemption and Renewal pieces: God FOR me (His body broken for me, His blood spilled for me); and God IN and THROUGH me (His own Self entering me to re-create and nourish me so that I might live a new life). In Communion, I get to "take" what Christ has accomplished for me, and "take" what he is still accomplishing in and through me. It's got both the It is Finished and the Go Forth aspects.
I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir on most of this, and maybe just laboring the obvious! But hopefully there's something in there to spark further thoughts and encourage you to keep up the good work! Cheers!
Thanks, Chad. Great thoughts. I appreciate them!
How do you fit in other elements of the service and how do they play into the shape of your liturgy? (Sermon, Offering, Communion, Announcements, Prayer, ext….)