The more that I’ve thought about this the more I am convinced that we are incapable of creating an experience for one simple reason: Experiences are far too subjective for anyone to take credit for manufacturing them.
- You and I could go on a roller coaster together and have completely different experiences.
- We could sit and watch the same movie and have different experiences.
- We could witness the same car accident and yet give differing reports to a police officer.
For good or for bad, we all experience things differently. Why would our time together in a church service not fit that category?
I think we are in great danger of missing something when we can boil our services down to a compiled list of things that we hope will elicit a response from those in attendance, as if we can contrive that response on our own. I believe that these people aren’t looking for just another experience, they are hurting, broken, and looking for an encounter with something bigger than themselves… something tangible that offers them some hope for all that they are dealing with.
If we’re doing nothing more than sawing through a linear pile of songs, sermons and other elements, supposing that we can make people feel or react a certain way, we are missing the real awe and wonder that God offers. We can program the service elements, but not the response. We can, however, intentionally build atmospheres and environments where people can encounter God at their own pace and in their own way, unforced. We cannot assume that everyone showing up is just going to play along with whatever we’ve drawn up.
Our time in church can be a thrill ride. It can be uniquely inspiring and entertaining. It can be gut wrenching. It can be whatever God wants it to be. We should be incredibly prayerful and intentional about what we plan, program, and execute, but we should always leave margin for people to flow in and out of them.
I’m always up for discussion on topics like this; drop your thoughts in the comments and let’s keep the conversation going.