Portions of this post appeared in The Wired Church 2.0.
I had just finished another creative session with the worship design team I led for a medium sized church plant that met in a high school cafeteria. The meeting had not gone well. I stood by our worship leader Peter’s car while he vented to me about the ridiculous things our pastor, Paul, expected of him. (Instead of their real names, I am using their closest New Testament equivalent.)
Paul and Peter had just gotten into an argument about what we were trying to accomplish with our worship service. Paul had been inspired to title his upcoming sermon series on 1 Corinthians 13 “Get on the Love Train” and thought a live cover of the famous Motown song would be a great lead-in for the sermon. He told Peter that it was relevant; what he meant was that it would connect with a congregation that might hear that song on the oldies station during the week.
People all over the world, join hands.
Start a love train, love train.
– The O’Jays
The Wide Approach Emphasizes the Human Jesus.
I talk about Jesus’ Wide approach here.
Perhaps in part based on my ongoing consultation, Paul had come to view the entire worship service, including songs, sermon, prayers and other elements, as a single act of communication, and thought the song might introduce the service’s theme well and set up the message for later. Paul’s unstated theology was that God is present with us in all of our outrageous humanity. This is the crux of the Incarnation. Paul was Wide. His focus was on the human Jesus.
(For the record, I thought “Get on the Love Train” was cheesy.)
The worship leader, Peter, is a protégé of well-known worship leader Paul Baloche. He was upset at what he perceived as his boss’ insistence that he perform a song by The O’Jays in worship.
The Deep Approach Emphasizes the Divine Jesus.
I talk about Jesus’ Deep approach here.
Peter had a different understanding of worship. He saw worship primarily as a place for believers to come apart and encounter God through as a large block of songs, followed by a message, or time of teaching. In this philosophy, which is common among this style of worship leader, he spoke of worship as not the entire service including the sermon, but the specific block of songs that he led – thus, the title of “worship leader.” The suggestion that he play a song by The O’Jays in the middle of this time was offensive to him.
His unstated theology was that we as outrageous humanity must like the ancient Israelites cleanse ourselves to enter the holiness of God’s presence, who is without sin. This cleansing happens through faith in Jesus and theologically speaking is the doctrine of sanctification, or the process of being made holy and set apart for God. Peter was Deep. His focus was on the divine Jesus.
As Peter vented, he got increasingly agitated. He said to me, “No senior pastor is going to tell me how to run my worship service!” Spittle from his anger sprayed me.
Is it possible to do both Wide and Deep?
Wide and Deep Together Create Whirlpools.
Needless to say, Paul and Peter, while friends, were not on the same page about worship. They both wanted to make disciples of Jesus Christ but had very different opinions about how to get there. Paul wanted Wide worship. Peter wanted Deep worship. Whirlpools occur in narrow, shallow water, where deep and wide currents collide. Two different understandings of Jesus’ communication methods, neither properly understood or applied, were colliding and creating a maelstrom for the congregation.
Because of the tension between Wide and Deep, churches tend to skew toward one or the other. This is pendulum of trendiness swings back and forth. In the 80s and 90s, the trend swung toward Wide teaching in conjunction with “seeker” questions and the Church Growth movement. As noted, some congregational attempts at relevance were lame, if not dangerous. By the middle part of the 00s, many were questioning the church’s effectiveness at making disciples out of the crowds. Partly articulated by a 2008 Willow Creek Community Church study recognizing their congregational need for further discipleship, the pendulum currently swings toward Deep.
Undoubtedly, we need good Deep teaching in the church.
But here’s the kicker. If you pay careful attention to Jesus’ marketing strategy, he didn’t make clear distinctions between Wide teaching to crowds and deep teaching to disciples. The amazing thing?
Jesus often continued to teach in parables, even with the disciples.
In other words, he spoken in always intriguing and often maddening language of parable and story, even to those who were already on board. Why?
This is part 7 of a 12 part series, Jesus Marketer.
Next, Part 8: The First of Two Ways We Foul Up Jesus’ Marketing Strategy.