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July 23, 2008 / David Lindner

Routine

Routine is an enemy. It’s a ghost. It will sneak in unnoticed and steal away what was once creative and turn it into a tradition. Routine is something to be avoided at all costs. Routine is not creative. Routine is a pattern, at best done because it worked, at worst because it’s habit.

I’m talking about routine, when it comes to worship services. (However, it should be said that routine in your personal worship will also – most likely – lead you down a road to tradition and habit, not relationship. It should also be said that there are areas of life where routine is good – I’m not talking about those.) I know for us, right now, there are definite routines. We do certain elements in certain places. We do a minimum number of songs and have elements that have to be in a certain place for one reason or another. When I started at the church, I started doing a welcome – just a brief hello to people who were there. It wasn’t routine then. It is now.

Routine is easy. We do it because we don’t want to put any effort or thought into doing something different. We do it because we’re afraid something new won’t work. The irony is that while we’re doing the routine that keeps us from doing the new, different thing that might not work, the thing that used to work stops working. Now, we’re stuck doing something that’s not working, afraid to try something new.

Routine is comfortable. Routine is Selfish. We do routine because it feels like what we know. We do routine because it worked for us. We do routine because we’re so focused on what we want that we lose sight of what’s best for everyone else – the people we’re supposed to be leading.

I have to say, I’m embarrassed about the routine in the worship services I’m responsible for. I do it because it’s easy. I do it because it’s hard work to come up with something new. I do it because I’m lazy. The sad thing is, my laziness is taking away from the possible worship experience of those who attend each and every weekend.

So, what’s the solution. Creativity. More on that later.

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4 Comments

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  1. Lorie King / Jul 28 2008 8:46 am

    Right on. Routine for the sake of laziness is definitely something against which we must guard ourselves!

    I like how you allude to the difference between a regular structure (I would call this “liturgy”) and mere routine. Because, to some degree, I’d say one way we enable people to engage in corporate worship is by giving them a sense of familarity with and expectation of what is coming next—they know that after the first two songs we’ll pray, etc.. While this can breed disengagement (going through the motions, habit, etc.), it can also foster engagement (people can participate freely and readily without wondering, “What’s coming next?” “What am I supposed to do here?”).

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on that—how we cultivate creativity and fresh expression within a regular/familiar liturgical structure.

  2. David Lindner / Jul 31 2008 9:16 pm

    Well, I would like to see the church break out of the familiar structure and into a structure that best works for the message we are trying to teach. For me, it’s hard to imagine being creative within a liturgical structure. I think, the structure needs an overhaul. Especially depending on the kind of liturgy you’re talking about. If it’s a liturgy that’s been repeated for hundreds of years, where’s the life in that?

    I agree that we don’t want to just blast the people with chaos on any given weekend service, and it is nice to know what’s coming, but I just feel that it becomes lifeless. Sing a song or two, welcome & Announcements, sing a song or two, greeting, sermon, sing a song, see ya. Regardless of what songs you put in the slots, that order in and of itself will be come a hindrance.

    I’m still very much working on this and what it looks like, I just know that what we’re doing now isn’t going to work for much longer.

    Thanks for the great comment!

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  1. Random Thoughts #2 « David Lindner’s Weblog
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