Kauflin: Worship and Excitement

Bob Kauflin is one of those men whose life the Lord is using in unique ways to bless the Church. If you are already familiar with his work, writings, and ministry, then you know his thoughtfulness and his heart. If you’re not familiar with him, he blogs over at worshipmatters.com, which is a good place for great thoughts on music/worship ministry and exalting the Lordship of Christ, and I highly recommend you check it out.

In this post I’d like to highlight a reflection Bob posted earlier this summer, titled, “How Exciting Should Our Sunday Meetings Be?”

Should “excitement” be an important aim as we design and lead congregational worship services? There seems to be a degree of pressure on worship pastors—maybe more so now than ever before—to keep things exciting. What does it mean to be exciting? I’ll spotlight his main point, add my two cents’ worth, and then encourage you to click over and read his concise and thoughtful article. Here’s what Bob says, and I agree with him:

The alternative to making our meetings more “exciting” isn’t trying to bore people. But Sunday mornings aren’t New Year’s Eve celebrations. They aren’t rock concerts. They aren’t pep rallies. …

Should our meetings be exciting? Absolutely. But let’s make sure they’re exciting for the right reasons. We’re remembering and celebrating the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, has clothed himself in our flesh, received God’s wrath in our place, risen from the dead, and is now reigning and interceding for his own until he returns to vanquish evil and spend eternity with his Bride, the Church. And no matter how many times we’re reminded, that is exciting.

Conjuring it up

There is a cheapness—I think a dangerous cheapness—in settling for excitement drummed up by purely physical means. Concert lighting, excellent audio mixing quality, media and graphics, all these are fine when they stay within bounds of their proper role. Their role is to assist in sharpening our vision of God. We can use them if they will heighten our spiritual engagement, but they cannot substitute for it.

There is something to be said for engaging thoughtfully with various physical tools at our disposal, physical things that can be employed to help our souls “get the point,” and receive more deeply, more consciously the astounding spiritual truths about our gracious Lord, about his nature and his work. To be sure, we are physical beings. These bodies the Lord has given us are fearfully and wonderfully made. The body’s ability to respond to all sorts of stimuli, and for excitement to be one of those responses, is good, right, beautiful, and a testimony to our Maker’s magnificent creativity.1 The sound waves we produce using musical instruments add beauty to the truths we sing, and there is power in that beauty to help drive the words and their truths into our hearts.

The way we prize experience

The difficulty, in large part, is that this world we live in is very, very used to experiencing all of these various physical tools for excitement used for certain ends.

What “ends?” Experience. Experience as its own thing. Not an experience that is in-service of anything else. Think about a concert, a movie, a beach trip, a ballgame, a fireworks show, etc. I went to the event to have a good time. Did I enjoy myself? Enjoying the experience was the point. Or maybe I took my kids — did they enjoy themselves? Then it was worth it. If not, the event was a waste. Lesson learned. Save your money next time.

That is not what church is about. It must not be what church is about. The experience is not the point. Yes, a church worship service is an experience, one that will touch us profoundly. But the experience has a task beyond itself; it is in-service of greater realities. Excitement for the sake of experience is in service of pleasure, what we prepare for God’s people gathered in worship is in service of joy. That goes way beyond excitement.

Thrilled to the core

Our souls were divinely designed to thirst for this kind of Joy-full 2 excitement, real excitement. What can be more thrilling? The Lord is advancing his Kingdom. Goodness and light are dispelling evil and darkness. The King of kings is powerfully leading His Church onward in triumph in these last days, all to culminate in that glorious moment when Christ hands over the Kingdom to the Father, when the evil one with his arrogant scheming and demonic workers are finally cast into the Abyss. On that day, the Church in spotless, radiant garments, fully and finally perfected for Christ, comes jubilantly dancing into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And that’s only just the opening credits of an eternity in the perfect love, peace, righteousness, and joy of being “forever with the Lord.”

Exciting? We can’t hardly begin to imagine it! And yet it is the truth—the ultimate, real, unshakeable, certain truth. Entering into these realities in soul and spirit produces an excitement that is lasting, one that resonates within and gives “living water” refreshment to our souls. To embrace the genuine excitement of celebrating Almighty God and all He’s done for us is Kauflin’s essential point. He’s right.

Read his full article here.

[1]: No one is advocating Gnosticism here (physical = bad, spiritual = good).

[2]: The expression "Joy-full" I learned from Marva Dawn in her book, "A Royal Waste of Time." She capitalizes the "J" because of her adamant and triumphant assertion that Christ Himself is the true source and goal of all real joy. As Christians, then, the more and more we participate in the fullness of Christ, the more Christ's own steadfast joy will color our lives and our whole being.