I want to make a case for a role that's missing in the modern church. I want churches to begin to think about, hire, and train worship experience design ministers. Pastor of the worship experience. Not a communications guy, not a music guy, but a worship experience guy (or girl, if your church is into that).
What is worship experience, you ask? Well, it's everything. From the moment that a guest enters your room, they've begun their worship experience. It's every little thing that comes together to create an experiential, sensational, out-of-body feeling of God. 'Feeling' in the spiritual, not emotional, sense.
'Worship experience' is not a new thing: In the seventeenth century, Puritans covenanted together to "maintain the worship of God” in their families, by “educating, instructing, and charging our children and our households to keep the ways of the Lord.”
Education, instruction, and charge—that's worship experience. We educate young believers on the many wonderful attributes of God. We instruct them to worship, we show them how. Then we entrust them with a duty to worship, to create more worshipers, as Jesus said that when he is lifted up, he will draw all men and women to himself (John 12:32).
The worship experience can serve each of those purposes. From the moment someone sees your billboard or Facebook ad, to the moment they step foot in your church, to the walk to their car after the service, every step of the way you're showing them who God is and how to respond to his kindness.
It starts with professionalism, purpose, and a cohesive message on social media. It continues with warmth and smiles as guests are greeted, and it encompasses every little detail of your proceedings: the colors, the lighting, the decor, the sound, the message, the songs, and the flow of your services.
Your church, your services and all that you say and do, all serve to foster a sensation of God's love and kindness (that leads us to repentance, Romans 2:4).
Imagine if your church were like those novelty restaurants that are rude to customers on purpose, ever been to one of those? If that were your place on Sunday morning, how many people would leave liking God more?
The Bible has a lot to say about how the worship experience is to be designed. In fact, there are entire chapters devoted to Levitical duties, how the worship service should be conducted. It's to be artfully and painstakingly crafted (Psalm 33:3; Deuteronomy 12:1–28; Take note in Deuteronomy, how the writer meticulously documents God’s specifications for worship).
Worship is the mind’s attention and heart’s affection set on God (John 4:23; Ephesians 5:19) through the inward and outward acknowledgement of His Word (Colossians 3:16). Therefore, the worship experience—from the lights to the sounds to the seating and the temperature in the room (Exodus 25:8; II Samuel 7:5–13) must focus attention on His truths and direct affections toward His goodness (Psalm 29:2).
It’s not that God desires our physical sacrifices or labor in worship (I Samuel 15:22, Psalm 51:16–17, Proverbs 21:3, Amos 5:21–24, Micah 6:6–8, Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13, Mark 12:33, Hebrews 10:4–10). And we certainly can worship anywhere and any time (John 4:23-24, Acts 16:25, Hebrews 13:15, Psalm 66:4).
But the Bible makes it clear that when we go to church, we're entering the presence of God. It says, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be also" (Matthew 18:20) and that we should sing his praises "in the assembly of the godly" (Psalm 149:1). There are hundreds of verses instructing us to "draw near," "present ourselves," "come into his presence," "dwell in the house of the Lord," and "prepare a place for him."
Therefore, the pastor of worship experience and the worship experience design team (also called the communications team, this includes the greeters and the media team—anyone who plays a part in bringing the worship service to life each Sunday morning for your guests) should steward church resources for the purpose of sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15).
What is a sacrifice of praise? It's an intentional approach and confessional appeal to God as one united congregation. It's the setting aside of time. It's the attention of our mind and the affections of our hearts refocused—if only for a few hours each week—from our own day-in, day-out grind to the goodness of God, his attributes, and to the joy of community through him.
While we may not have a tweet-able soundbite to define 'worship experience,' we can say that it's all that, it's the whole worship service package that you provide to your guests and members. It's providing a dwelling place, giving a sense of who God is in the artfulness and direction of your church service.
It's for each of those reasons that I wholeheartedly believe that there should exist a pastoral role for the worship experience. That is, a pastor of communications, the worship service, social media, graphic and interior design, lighting and sound.