Rehearsal Devotions: Moving Beyond Scripture Snippets and Perfunctory Prayer

2/12 Afternoon Ruminations . . .

LOFT has felt so flat these past weeks, and I’m not sure what that’s about. But God is good: today Nord and I talked about his work helping students to have healthy devotional lives, and how that’s a prerequisite for healthy weekly worship. Then I found this quote while digging around some old sermon files: “We can do all sorts of things to try to generate vigor in our worship, but if we do not have fire for the Lord on Wednesday afternoon, how can we on Sunday morning?”

So maybe part of what’s going on Sunday is that our devotions before Wednesday rehearsal are so lame. All we do is a short prayer before we begin—a relatively contentless prayer of the “thank-youthankyou” and/or the “helpushelpus” variety.

If rehearsal is about preparing to lead worship well, how can we prepare without worshiping well ourselves?

It’s clearly going to take a commitment to plan something genuinely worshipful for Wednesdays. And it’s important enough to invest the time in, but I can’t do it all, especially weeks when I’m preaching. Maybe this is a Numbers 11 occasion.

­ To do: Give away responsibility for rehearsal devotionals to LOFT leadership.

3/7 More Ruminating . . .

We’re going to have to revisit the whole rehearsal devotions issue. The responsibility for planning and leading those fifteen minutes is clearly being passed around the LOFT circle. In principle that’s a good thing, but in practice it’s been pretty hit-or-miss. The first few weeks were alright—not great, but pretty good. Then this week the planners fell back on the standard Scripture snippet and a paragraph-length devotional twinkie from one of those mass-produced booklets. Completely disconnected from our lives and what we were there to do.

Why should this surprise me? If this whole LOFT enterprise is predicated on the assumption that leading worship isn’t something one can just “do”—that it takes some apprenticeship to learn it—why should rehearsal devotions be different?

7/18 Summertime Ruminations . . .

Rehearsal devotions went much better this spring than in past years, and it showed on Sundays. We need to remain intentional about and committed to this.

 

Excerpt

Tips for Leading Rehearsal Devotions

Remember that these are times of genuine worship. Try to move beyond the Scripture snippet and perfunctory prayer. Here are some options:

1. Good

Consider who we are and what we’re doing. What is on our collective heart as a team? Are we concerned about choosing new members? Incorporating new ones? Are we dealing with conflict? Elation? Burnout? Let the lesson or message be focused by our identity as worship leaders, not merely our status as human beings.

2. Better

Connect this week’s devotion to the theme of Sunday’s worship. Let whatever we sing, pray, or hear from Scripture flow from what we hope will be happening on Sunday. If you don’t know the theme, ask.

3. Better Still

Connect rehearsal devotionals to Sunday worship not only in theme but in action. Make the link not merely intellectually, but tangibly. Can we reproduce key elements of Sunday’s worship on a smaller scale? If we’re talking about building each other up, let’s do that: have each person put her name on a sheet of construction paper, pass it around, and have folks write sincere compliments on them. If the service is about servanthood, have everyone switch jobs to serve each other; how cool to see the singers try to set up the drums! If the service is about death, hand out small pieces of granite, sit in silence and contemplate what we’d like our own headstones or obituaries to say. The group is small, accepting, and charitable. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

4. Best

Teach a lesson about worship itself and connect it to what we’re doing Sunday. So if the theme is hospitality or the Body of Christ, teach us the new Ghanian song we’ll be singing on Sunday. Or if Sunday’s Scripture is about laying down one’s life, and we’re struggling with inclusive language, read the passage from John with gender-reverse pronouns (see RW 68, p. 44).

Whatever you do, plan for and lead on Wednesdays with the same responsibility and enthusiasm that you employ on Sunday. And then trust in the grace of the One we worship and who makes our worship possible.

Ron Rienstra is associate professor of preaching and worship arts at Western Theological Seminary and co-author of Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry (Baker Academic, 2009).