It dawned on me tonight that I haven't done much writing on our monthly night of worship, "Verses." This omission hasn't been intentional, I can assure you!
I started leading Verses a couple of years ago at our church. Initially, it was a once-a-year thing, typically held in a different location than our sanctuary and usually with another church praise band.
They were well-attended and folks seemed to enjoy them. It was common to hear, "You should do more of those" every time we wrapped up, but the logistics of guest bands and setup in alternate locations really kept us from being consistent.
There were two main reasons why we did Verses in the beginning. Though the service has changed a great deal, these two motivations are still the same.
WORSHIP & WORD
I've always wrestled with the idea of a "worship night". I understand it, but over the years I had grown frustrated with how these music-centric services had morphed into nothing more than a pursuit-of-goosebumps. Every time I went to one of these, it always seemed like the goal was to attain some sort of feeling or outward response. (Hands in the air, people falling over, etc.)
Six years ago, when I came to Bethel Bible, I was in the midst of a massive philosophical shift when it came to corporate worship - specifically musical worship. I became passionate about protecting the integrity of God's Word in our worship in a culture that was elevating songs - written by flawed, sinful humans - over the divine and perfect word of God in scripture. There had to be a greater reason for gathering than just singing-the-songs-that-make-us-feel good.
Verses was designed from the start to be a balanced service of scripture and song. The premise was simple...once the service started, the only communication between songs would be the reading of God's Word. It would be a concentrated time of worship through corporate singing and public reading.
MORE TIME FOR THE JUNKIES
I'll admit it, okay. I'm a worship junkie. I love worship - the whole thing. And I get real jazzed by worship music. I'm the guy who wants more songs, longer instrumental breaks, more shouting, more clapping, more kneeling. Good or bad, that's who I am.
And I'm not the only one. Verses gave us the opportunity to bless our people who enjoy a longer, more intense musical setting. This is not me saying that sort of worship is better than another style, but I wanted to provide that balance for our people.
For 2015, we committed to doing this service once a month. So far, it's been rewarding in every aspect. Yes, it's more work and required some logistical tap dancing some months, but it's been worth it.
We made other changes, too. First off, we're hosting the service in our sanctuary. This allows us to have almost zero setup and teardown. It also creates a consistent space where folks know they can come for worship.
The other change has been a bit harder to maintain, but we're doing our best to keep the musicians in house, using folks who know the songs instead of musicians who have to learn new material alongside musicians they may not know.
So far, it's going great! In the next post, I'll talk about how we plan and lead that service.