Have you suffered the post-Easter duldrums?
It sounds heretical, but I’m not talking theologically. Many pastors and worship leaders experience a natural let down after the proper focus we place on the Holy Week and especially Resurrection Sunday. It always happens for me after any major production.
But I think for many evangelical churches we suffer a worship planning let down after Easter. We’ve spent weeks, if not months, leading up to Palm Sunday and Easter. Now what do we do?
If you’re like many evangelical churches you will now enter a 7 month period of “normal” worship planning before Advent starts. You might pay attention to national holidays like Mother’s Day, Independence Day (if you’re American) and Thanksgiving. You might also be a church that organizes around sermon series and other natural rhythms in church life like the beginning of a new school year (which naturally lines up with the start of a ministry year).
But what do we really focus on in our worship during this extended season? I’ve always struggled to call worship on these “tweener” Sundays generic. Generic implies ordinary, bland and plain. Post-resurrection worship is anything but generic. Our hope rests in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If that’s true, why do we struggle to plan meaningful worship during the May-November stretch each year?
I would venture to say that if you don’t struggle with this, your church likely either does a good job with long-term worship planning or you follow some form of the historic church calendar. Both of these are good remedies. I would also advise a third remedy.
1. Long-term worship planning
Many pastors have found it helpful to plan sermon series based around an exegetical journey through a book of the bible or some topic relevant to their community. Worship planning becomes much easier when you can predictably look ahead and know the pastor will preach on John 6 on May 15th. Whether an exegitical or thematic series, prayerful worship planning can focus on key biblical themes the church needs to soak in. This can allow great freedom for the creation of new songs, art and other worship offerings that can be agents of change for your congregation.
Check out Northland Church for examples of how to do a culturally relevant and biblical sermon series.
SUGGESTION: If your church does not do longer term service planning, I suggest the pastor and worship planners meet to discuss how this might be implemented –even if for only a 4-6 week experiment. I know many pastors don’t feel a freedom to plan more than 1-2 weeks because of the pressures of ministry (and the all important adrenaline rush that comes from Saturday sermon prep–been there too many times!). But sermon prep comes a lot easier when you know where you’re headed for the next 3 to 6 months.
A POSSIBLE MODEL: Harbor Presbyterian Church takes a unique approach to sermon planning. All the sites agree to a similar preaching schedule (with variance allowed for local circumstances). Typically the churches will preach a 10-12 week series on each of the following: 1 Old Testament book, 1 New Testament book, 1 Gospel and 1 topical series. The other Sundays are up to local discretion and given to the major Church holidays. Some churches will turn each of these biblical series into a topical series that can be promoted in the local community.
Do you have a method for preaching and worshiping through the scriptures?
2. The historical church calendar
There has been a recent resurgence in evangelical interest in the church calendar and other elements of historic worship. Dr. Robert Webber spent a lot of energy teaching on this through the Institute of Worship Studies and the Complete Library of Christian Worship.
I’m not an expert at using the key dates from the church calendar. But there are very meaningful opportunities associated with key Sundays like Ascension Sunday and Pentecost. Bruce Benedict at Cardiphonia has gathered a number of resources for these days. So has the Liturgy Fellowship.
3. Celebrate the Gospel – weekly
I’ve written a couple of posts about rehearsing the Gospel in our worship services, including this one and this example of a worship project that retells the Gospel.
There is no better theme to explore in our weekly services than the Gospel! So don’t say you’re going to plan “generic worship” when you don’t have a specific direction. Instead, plan a gospel-centered worship service.
I have recently been listening to Matt Redman‘s new worship project called 10,000 Reasons. I love the title song as it calls us to explore the unfathomable extent of God’s love. Like Charles Wesley’s great hymn, O For a Thousand Tongues, this song reminds us of all the unexplored themes when it comes to the Gospel.
The Apostle John said that all the books in the world couldn’t contain all that Jesus said and did. How is it that we become bored or feel like we’ve said all that can be said about the Gospel?
Here is Matt Redman’s new song:
How do you plan for worship during the post-Easter pre-Christmas portion of the year?