A number of years ago I ran across this satirical outline for all-too-common worship planning. It is a sad but almost realistic caricature of what takes place in many churches every Sunday. See if you recognize any of these things.
Fellowshippers shall enter the sanctuary garrulously, centering their attention on each other, and gaily exchanging their news of the past week.
If there be an overhead projector, the acolyles shall light it.
The minister shall begin the Morning Fellowship by chanting the Greeting: “Good Morning.” Then shall not more than 50% and not less than 10% fellowshippers respond, chanting in the wise: “Good Morning.”
NOTE: If it be a hot day, the Minister shall at his discretion add: “Ya’ll don’t mind if I take off my jacket.” He shall then drape such vestment over the pastoral chair, or stuff it in some other place he may deem convenient.
The Glad-handing of the Peace
Then the Minister shall say: “Why don’t we all shake hands with the person on our left and on our right and say ‘Good Morning’.”
NOTE: The glad-handing may be omitted, provided it be practiced any Sunday when there is at least one visitor present and, of course, on Mother’s Day and Missionary Sunday.
When the general hubbub has subsided, the Minister shall say: “You may be seated.”
THEN… If there be any visitors present, the Minister shall embarrass them by commanding: “Will all of our visitors please stand up and introduce themselves.”
The Old Hymn & Special Music
During the last stanza of the Old Hymn (which is not to have been composed before 1900 nor after 1950) the accompaniment tape shall be slipped into the sound system, or the organist shall warm up with a few lively runs up and down the keyboard.
THEN shall be sung the “Special” Music appointed for the day.
Then shall be read an arbitrary Scripture passage of the Minister’s choosing, so long as it has no relation to the time of the Church Year/Liturgical Calendar.
Sharesicles, Prayersickles, and Praisicle of the Day
Here may be inserted a time for a bunch of individual fellowshippers to give their testimonies, and share what the Lord has just-really-done in their lives.
THEN, … if the fellowshippers be Charismatically inclined, shall follow:
Here many loud prayers, in English or other Prayer Languages, shall be offered simultaneously.
Prayer for the State of a Bunch of Individual Christians
And after these shall follow a L-O-N-G pastoral prayer, the people devoutly sitting. The Minister shall begin: “O Lord, we just-really-praise-you…” and continue with selected prayer requests, as many as he can recall from memory, for no less than 10 and no more than 20 minutes.
NOTE: Under no circumstances shall the Minister risk offending anyone. He shall avoid praying for actual spiritual growth among the members (- as if they need it. They are Christian’s after all.) And Minister shall avoid such vain repetition as The Lord’s Prayer.
The Offertory Sentences
“Count you blessings, Name them one by one. Count your blessing, See what God has done.”
The Contemporary American Evangelical Creed
I believe in God who once was Almighty, but sovereignly chose not to be sovereign; and Jesus my personaLord-and-Savior, Who loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life; Who came into my life when I asked him to, and is now seated at the right ventricle of my belief in him; Who walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way, and tells me I am His own; Who shall come again with secrecy to Rapture us outta here; Whose Kingdom shall last One Thousand years (not a day more or a day less).
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, Who did some weird stuff at Pentecost, but doesn’t do much anymore, except speak secretly to the hearts of individual believers. And I believe in this local, independent, and powerless church, insofar as it is in line with my personal interpretation of the Bible and does stuff I like; in one Believer’s Baptism for public proof of my decision for Christ; and giving my personal testimony for soul winning. And I look for the identity of the anti-Christ, and know for sure that the Last Days are now upon us. ~Ay-men!
The Sermon Hymn
The songleader shall then stand and say (..just in case any of the fellowshippers are unable to follow the instructions in the bulletin):
“Let’s all stand and sing number four-hunnert-n-thirty-one; Hymn four-hunnert-n-thirty-one: I Come to the Garden Alone. Together. Let’s really sing it out!”
At his discretion he may add: “Women only on the second verse. Men on the fourth. And let’s all join in on the chorus.”
NOTE: The third verse on any hymn may (and usually should) be skipped, at the songleader’s discretion.
The Minister shall expound on any of his pet topics for no less than forty-five and no more than sixty-one minutes – or until a handful of fellowshippers have fallen asleep, whichever comes last.
The Blurtus Interruptus
At unspecified intervals, various fellowshippers shall interrupt the sermon with the words “Ay-men” or “Preach-it Brother”, or any other such phrases deemed by them to be appropriate.
(…to Coffee & Donut Hour)
Except in the event that an Evangelist has given the sermon. In which case, he shall forget the Benediction and proceed directly to…
The Divine Service of the Holy Altar Call
I. The Preface
The Evangelist shall say: “Poor, helpless Jesus had been knocking on the door of your heart for so long, wanting so badly to come in…”
II. The Uncomfortable Words
“…If you’ve been putting off this decision, remember that you could walk out this door after the service and get hit by a truck.”
III. The Prayer of Consternation
“O Lord, Jeee-Zus… if there’s anybody in this room who has never gotten saved by saying the Sinner’s Prayer and inviting you into their heart, vouchsafe to remind them that this could be their ONLY chance.”
IV. The Sursum Handus
“I want every head bowed, and every eye closed – No looking around. Nobody’s going to see if you slip up that hand. If you’ve never asked Jesus to come into your heart, to be your personaLord-and-Savior, you’re on your way to Hell. So slip up that hand… I see that hand… Yes, I see that hand too.”
NOTE: The organist, in the event the Evangelist has not finished the plea by the time she has played sixteen stanzas of Just As I Am, shall continue playing something very slowly while he pleads.
V. Benedictus Qui Venit (Blessed is He Who Cometh Down the Isle)
“If you want Blessed Assurance that you’ll go to heaven when you die – if you want to be there When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder – you just come forward as we sing the seventeenth and final stanza of Just As I Am.
This post has been adapted from an article that first appeared in Modern Reformation magazine. I post it not to offend, but to draw attention to our own worship practices, and prompt us to think Biblically about them. Not everything in this satire is necessarily wrong. I am not poking at any particular tradition, or denomination, or congregation. Some of these things could even be recognized as distorted descriptions of things that occur in the church I serve.
Comments will be appreciated, especially if you will focus on specific points you enjoyed – or points about which you object. But please remember, this is a satire. If we cannot laugh at ourselves… well, we need to lighten up!