Thursday, March 08, 2007

Worship in the Round

Every once in a while, when we feel there is a strategic benefit, we set up the auditorium for Sunday here at Grace Church in a “theater in the round” style. This puts one smaller stage in the middle with sections set up all around it facing the center. I personally love these mornings. Everyone is so much closer and it feels so much more intimate. It allows us to have a “small church feel” even though we are a “big church” numerically.

Usually when we do it this way we have a scaled down music program for our worship consisting of just 2 or 3 people in the middle. A couple of weeks ago, however, we tried something different. We had a “theater in the round” set-up but we still had our full music program with choir and worship band all still on the main stage. Matt McElravy, who leads our worship each Sunday, was then by himself on the middle stage. I thought it was wonderful. Matt wrote a wonderful piece regarding how God used this format in his life. It is definitely worth your time to read it. Here is what Matt wrote:

I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t sure what it would be like leading worship from the middle of the auditorium this past Sunday. I’d never done anything like that prior to coming to Grace, and the last time we had a theater-in-the-round setup here, all the other musicians were in the middle with me. So being by myself in the middle of the auditorium while the band and choir were up on stage was a bit of a stretch! But you know, it’s good for me to be forced outside of my comfort zone when worshiping. It’s all too easy (at least for me) to create a “worship box” of sorts, where I know how each song is going to go, what the instruments will do in each section of each song, how we’ll handle the harmonies, what I’ll say in between songs, and so on. And without knowing it, I can often place God in that worship box along with everything else, expecting that I’ll know exactly how and when He’ll move.

How good and healthy it is to be reminded that God is bigger than any “box” I could possibly imagine, and that He’ll move whenever, however, and whomever He pleases. Being in unfamiliar territory when leading worship reminds me of that very powerfully. I need to rely on God, because He’s the focal point, regardless of where the musicians stand. I know that sounds obvious and simple, and it is, but it’s easy enough to forget sometimes. God can bring glory to Himself however he chooses, with or without me. I’m humbled and blessed every time I have the opportunity to take part in a worship service. I was especially blessed yesterday to be so close to the congregation—literally in the midst of them—as we worshiped together.

It reminds me once again that we’re all in the same “band”, the same “worship team”, whenever we come together to lift up the Name of Jesus—regardless of whether we’re playing instruments and singing or not. When God looks down on us as we worship Him, I’m quite convinced he doesn’t delineate musician from non-musician, as my human perspective would lead me to. He just sees His children, His worshipers, together. And I wouldn’t want it to be any different.

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