This has nothing to do with style of music, the translation of the Bible you use or whether or not you employ a fog machine to enhance the light show. People worship in many different styles, and many forms can be successful, whether you have ancient pews or the newest stadium seating. Transcending personal preferences, I believe there are four things every worship service needs to better help people know God, and these four things aren’t as simple or as easy as you might think.
1). Authentic – People crave authenticity in a world of plastic fakeness. Everything is pre packaged and slick today to better help marketing, and churches are not immune. Worship services can become a cauldron of fakeness, where worshippers show only the side they think other people want to see and those on stage show only a photoshopped illusion of what Christianity should be. Authenticity transcends style of music or translation of the Bible. It’s a heart issue, starting with the pastor and working its way down to every volunteer serving as an usher. Has your church discovered its unique DNA? Are you comfortable being yourself, or do you feel the need to copy the megachurch down the road or blindly follow the prescribed rituals of your denomination? If your services feel inauthentic, people won’t engage on a heart level. (And by the way, authentic doesn’t mean lazy. Excellence provides a level of comfort for attenders, but it has to be done with authenticity).
3). Helpful – You can go to a comedy show or watch a movie and have an enjoyable experience. But those experiences don’t help you throughout the week. What should mark a worship service as different is that it helps people throughout the week, not just entertaining them for an hour on Sundays. A lot of this comes down to the sermon itself. I recently had a guest come up to me and share how strange and different (in a good way) our worship service was. He understood us and he felt like I was talking directly to him when I preached. His background? Greek Orthodox. Half of his services were literally in Greek and form and ritual reigned over practical application. Are you giving people truth that is practically helpful in their everyday lives? People flock to helpful services.
4). Powerful – You have to have this or you don’t have a service at all. The hard part is, you can’t force or manipulate this. If you want your services to help people better know God, then God needs to show up. It’s as simple as that. You can’t manipulate it. The Holy Spirit has to do his work. Our part is to pray like crazy, get our hearts right and remove every distraction we can think of that keeps people from encountering God. But when God shows up in power, watch out! Lives start changing and your church will never be the same.