Service in a Worship Service?

In April, I visited friends and family in Abilene. I found out that our friends’ church is planning something called “You are the Sermon.”  Instead of having a regular worship service, they are doing service in the community.  And that got me to thinking…why can’t my church do something like this?  Why isn’t this what we do all the time?

First of all, I need to do a bit of language analysis.  Why do we even call what we do on Sunday mornings a worship service?  Who exactly is being served?  I sometimes feel like we are the consumers, taking in God in little cracker-sized pieces (no disrespect to the Lord’s Supper).  I know that I have frequently acted like someone in an audience, letting “worship” wash over me.  Many times I go to the church building so I can get something out of it, but I really think our idea of what we do at church should be different.

So, why don’t we do actual service to others during our worship service?  There are those who would say a Wednesday night or even a Sunday night is a more appropriate time for that kind of thing.  It is a good thing, to do service, but that’s just not what we do Sunday morning.  Sunday morning is for worship.  But can’t service be worship to God, maybe even the best kind of worship to God: obedience and loving others?  He desires obedience and practical love, not hymns (though I think praising God in song is a great, good thing).

We could start out small – not even venturing out from the building — at first.  Everyone could write a note to a kid at the Village of Hope.  It would take about 10 minutes of our worship service.  Maybe we could do something once a month, helping 12 organizations or 12 current projects of our church — during service, when all of us are gathered.  Just imagine how powerful it would be if we all committed to doing something for others, together, on the day we have set aside for worship.

It would be a big undertaking and I couldn’t do it alone, but I think we would all be blessed by service in our worship service or even instead of our worship service.

My church has recently begun the process of dreaming about what kind of church we want to be and what we want to do.  I’m encouraged that something along the lines of what I am mentioning here is also on the hearts of others in my church.

What do you think? Has anyone else ever done this in their church?

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7 thoughts on “Service in a Worship Service?

  1. I like this idea a lot! I can’t speak as someone who as much direct experience with the intent or purpose of Sunday morning worship service, so I am not qualified to say if it should be changed. But your idea rings very pure to me. Across varying philosophies and across religions, love seems to be the core component. But service and love towards others is rarely part of worship ceremonies. I know at the Hindu temple in Irving, there is little to no element of direct service in religious gatherings. There are community service projects and the like, but shouldn’t love based service be a much more consistent and larger part of communal religion and worship? There are times for introspective exploration, meditation, spiritual discussion etc. But certainly acting on the results of these discussions and realizations is the whole point right? I really like your idea and hope it takes shape at your church.

    • Thanks, Anand! I agree that love is the core component and I just don’t think we (my church) and probably many others show it enough. We have service projects and the like, but I don’t feel like active service is emphasized enough. We just got input from our whole church about what kind of church we want to be and an overwhelming theme is more local outreach, helping others through tutoring (wouldn’t you like that!), feeding, clothing, and just becoming friends with people who have none. I hope we as a church really start being more active soon.

  2. While I was up in Nashville,visiting my brother’s church,they were signing up for a day like what you described. On the specified Sunday you could sign up and work on a service project with ministries/ organizations that their church were already working with or you could sign up to have a big dinner at your home and invite all your neighbors. It sounded like a really neat way to love your neighbors, I would love to a part of something like this!!!

    • So cool! Ted and I are actually thinking of doing a BBQ, a come and go kind of thing for our block. Maybe we can get something like this going then. Glad to know other churches are doing it.

  3. I don’t think that service to others should take the place of worship to God. I agree with you about the importance of service to others, and the need for it to become more important to us as a body- but I don’t think it should be at the expense of worship. I think that when we serve others- we are serving God- but our focus is them- not praising the Lord in those moments. (I am not saying it is impossible- just that the focus is different) I think it is sad that people want to substitute the time they spend worshipping, to serve, as if they can’t do both. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to commit the extra time to serve. Most people only want to regularly “give” their two hours on Sunday…and then more around the holidays. (You are not one of those people!)

    Service is hugely important. I just don’t want it to be at the expense of worship. An hour,as a group, we focus on the Lord not ourselves, and not the world- but Him. He deserves our time- our attention- on Him, and Him alone.

    I agree that the worship as currently constructed may be more about us then Him. My mind keeps going back to my visit at a Messanic synagogue. Those people knew how to worship! They spent more time in song- about an hour if I remember correctly; More time in prayer- real prayer, not just going through the motions, and I think we should have much more of a focus on communion time. It should be the most important part of our worship- not the sermon. We should read the Word more in the assembly…at the synagogue they read it in Hebrew- which was amazing!

    Anyway, this is just my opinion, and I know I am in the minority…just my two cents.

    Lisa S.

    • Lisa,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I do agree that worship is important, but I think service can be worship too, though I definitely see your point in using our time on Sunday mornings to focus on God. However, I feel like focusing on God always leads me to focus on others. The two greatest commands are to love God and love others, and I think those both go hand in hand. I feel like we separate the two too often.

      Thanks again for commenting because I really enjoy and learn from what others think about these things.

  4. Once a year our church has a “Faith in Action” day. We cancel the morning services and do service projects instead. There’s a group that takes sandwiches and socks to the homeless, a group that does a baby shower for pregnant teen moms who might not get a shower, and there’s a free garage sale set up at the church where people can come and get whatever they’d like, among other projects. In the evening we all get together and share stories and pictures from the day and have a pot luck dinner that everyone is invited to.

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