Reducing the Element of Surprise in Worship

Most of us don’t like surprises. They can be difficult to handle precisely because we are not prepared for them.

This morning on my way to work the car battery went flat. And the car didn’t come with roadside assistance. I was flustered. I made a few phone calls to the missus. Then I decided I would abandon the car on the roadside and get it sorted out later. It was only after sitting down and regathering my thoughts that I decided to call the RAC. It wasn’t such a big problem after all!

Surprises can disorientate us.

And yet, when it comes to leading worship, I used to play my cards close to my chest. When people asked me what songs I was doing for the coming Sunday, I always answered “it’s a surprise”. I thought the element of surprise would enhance people’s experience of worship. Like when you go to a concert and the performer finally does their massive hit and the crowd goes crazy.

I don’t think I like this approach anymore. I’ve been telling my team these days that we need to remember and look out for the most important and biggest member of our band – the congregation! The more prepared the congregation is, the better the worship we will corporately offer to God!

One way we can better prepare the congregation is by helping them learn the songs beforehand.

In my church, we have a diverse congregational demographic, not only in terms of age, but also in terms of church tradition. One of the things we will need to work towards is a common church repertoire of songs that are reflective of the entire congregational spectrum. That task will take time and education. In the meantime however there’s no reason why we can’t send out the songlist to the whole congregation in advance so that each individual can get the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the songs before Sunday.

Fifteen years ago, that would have been an impossible task for a large congregation. But in this digital era of YouTube and Facebook, I say: why not? We are in a better position now to do this than ever before.

So, in my previous post, I already disclosed my songlist for this Sunday and also gave people a link to a new song I’m introducing. I’ve asked my FB friends to get the word out. Hopefully they do! And hopefully by Sunday the new song will have become a familiar one. No surprises. Except the surprises of the Holy Spirit.

Okay, so the mechanic is here to fix my car now. Hopefully I’ll be off soon!

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