What Makes Worship “Good”?

By Clayton Faulkner

You’re in the weekly receiving line after Sunday’s service. Handshake. “Hello.” Handshake. “Nice to see you.” Handshake. “Good worship today, Pastor.” Have you ever wondered what makes someone think that worship was good? Their subjective compliment could be based on any number of things: the number of people in attendance, the length of the sermon, the pronunciation of the lector, or the number of flubbed notes by the musician.

Worship is always being evaluated. Although it may be informal, everyone that is sent forth from an assembled worshiping body has evaluated that service in one way or another. What we base our evaluations on is an important question to consider.

The Worship Excellence Team has a goal of developing some core values for worship. These core values are designed to move beyond surface-level evaluations into the deeper substance of worship. These core values help us consider things that are essential for all Christian worship, things that are faithful to a Lutheran heritage and things that are biblically rooted. Even though every congregation is different, these core values can be applied to all types of worship regardless of time, contextual location, leadership, demographics, or style.

Let these core values spark some conversation about worship in your congregation. Share them with your musicians, with your worship and music boards, and others that lead worship in your congregation.

A. Worship is rooted in God.

1. Worship is an encounter with God acting — by claiming, gathering, speaking, feeding, and sending — for the life of the world.

2. The Trinity is named and all three Persons are included in worship.

3. God’s story of salvation is proclaimed through generous use of Scripture in worship.

4. The Holy Spirit fills our people in worship (evidenced through speech filled with love).

5. The leaders of our worship reflect the diversity of God’s people.

6. Words used in worship address God directly.

7. People experience their relationship with God in worship.

8. The word of God read, preached, and sung is central to worship.

B. Worship feeds God’s people.

1. The ministry of word and sacrament is central to the principal gathering of the congregation.

2. The environment for worship is alive with symbolism.

3. The content of our prayers is true to Christ’s character and the breadth of his Lordship.

4. All people are actively engaged and participating in worship.

5. Words used in worship address those gathered directly.

6. All the senses are engaged in worship.

7. Opportunities for reflection, confession, and lament are available in worship.

8. The Eucharistic meal is regularly celebrated in the principal gathering of the congregation.

C. Worship compels us into God’s mission.

1. Worship emphasizes the ministry of Jesus Christ as risen and active today.

2. Worship is marked by hospitality for the stranger and guest.

3. Worship is contextually relevant to the people and community.

4. Life, vitality, and joy mark the worship service.

5. Worship calls people into the baptismal life.

6. Worship sends us out as disciples of Jesus, following his mission of serving, blessing, and loving the world.

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