Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Baptist Worship: Redeeming Welcome and Announcements from the Pit and Making Them an Integral Part of Worship

Boring Announcements
PrologBaptist worship is not etched in stone as some denominational and other church liturgies are. In some traditions there is almost no flexibility in the order of service or even in selection of scriptures. Baptist views of local church autonomy (arising from core beliefs that emphasize the indwelling of the Spirit in every believer and the priesthood of every believer) allows each church to craft its own order of worship for every worship service. Regrettably, many Baptist church pastors give little or no attention to crafting an order of service with prayer and thoughtfulness, in conjunction with the sermon themes. The results of such lack of consideration are often undesirable.

This blog article reflects deeply on Welcome and Announcements as an important and integral part of Christian worship in the local church.

The Problem
The Welcome and Announcement portion of a worship service is typically viewed as obtrusive and boring. We cannot, however, dispense with it because we otherwise view it as being important for various reasons. Here, I attempt to rescue Welcome and Announcements from its present state of deprecation to make it meaningful, lively, exhortational, and spiritual, and not merely functional.

The Welcome and Announcements should flow very quickly, very naturally, without belaboring every point. They should be at least a little sermonic, a little exhortational, with occasional humor to help with the flow and keep the congregation focused. In my world, five minutes is enough to make the five elements of Welcome and Announcements effective.

What I Try to Accomplish
I include five elements in the Welcome and Announcements segment. I list them here, explaining what each element is meant to accomplish.

1.      First Words. Example: “Praise the name of Jesus who leads us in joyful procession to the throne of grace” or “It is in the name of the resurrected Son of God that I welcome you to worship,” etc.
a.       First Words should tap into a joyful exuberance that is altogether expected for those who worship the living Christ.
b.      Note that First Words is a uniquely Christian greeting. A mundane “good morning” is not adequate for the grand purpose of Christian worship.
c.       We worship Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:11). Thus, First Words should reflect a Christocentric theology—it’s all about Christ.
d.      Finally, First Words should help create a comfortable and expectant atmosphere.
2.      Welcome of Visitors
a.       The worship leader should express a warm welcome specifically toward visitors.
b.      As a pastor, I fervently seek to connect with visitors, and this requires some contact information. Since some visitors are reluctant to provide contact information, the welcoming of visitors should include an appeal to give us their personal information.
c.       The Welcome should contain an affirmation of the visitors’ decision to join us, including a prayer wish that God would especially bless them (e.g., “May God pour out his blessing on you today so that you experience his grace in a profound way.”)
3.      Who We Are
a.       Ostensibly, the Who We Are segment introduces ourselves to visitors, and involves reference to some select core values of the church.
b.      The ultimate purpose of the Who We Are segment is to promote spiritual formation of the congregation by projecting our ideal identity.
c.       The Who We Are segment consists of about four points that reinforce our ideal identity.
                                                               i.      Two of the points recall the previous week’s sermonic emphasis
                                                             ii.      Two of the points anticipate the current worship’s sermonic emphasis
d.      Example: Here, the previous worship service emphasized lament and grief due to sin, while the present worship serviced emphasized lamenting and grieving in silence
We are the people of God
o   Who recognize that we are profoundly affected by sin
o   Who have cried out to God for deliverance
o    Who have put our hope in God who is our refuge and strength
o   Who patiently wait in silence so that we may hear God speak to us in our time of trouble
e.      These four or so points attempt a continuity in our worship life from week to week, although most won’t perceive it
4.      Announcements: Announcements are characteristically promotional. They should be delivered with some enthusiasm and emphasis.
a.       Announcements are meant to promote communications in congregational life.
b.      They draw attention to special events, encouraging congregational participation.
c.       They share special ministerial urgencies with the congregation, with the hope that the congregation will own these urgencies.
d.      They constantly should inculcate a sensitivity to ministerial call.
e.      Ultimately, announcements should encourage ministerial engagement.
5.      Welcoming Prayer
a.       This short prayer (about 30 seconds) reinforces that that announcements are proclamation and exhortation, and not merely an events list
b.      The prayer should emphasize call to ministry for every congregant
c.       Finally, the Welcoming Prayer should impress one or two current ministerial urgencies of the church on the minds of the congregation.


Tom Torbeyns said...

I skimmed the article. Not bad :-)

Sue J. said...

How do you begin your worship service? What happens before the Welcome and Announcements that allows your congregation to focus on this time?