The use of the harpsichord in Christian worship occurred from around the 15th to 18th centuries. It came and it went. All ministries have a life cycle.
In our churches today, our programs, worship elements and even the people sharing their gifts have a life cycle, too. We aren’t always good with endings. If it worked once, we keep doing it. When do we stop?
Eventually that favorite hymn gets worn out. We need to spend our time focusing on the great idea for tomorrow, rather than yesterday’s good idea to keep the worship of our Almighty God fresh and alive.
If your organist can no longer play any hymn in time, your lead soprano is flat on every note or your head greeter is going through a tough family situation and is just plain grouchy, it is time to evaluate if these people are using their best gifts to serve God and the community.
These are hard conversations to have. Sometimes they are hard things to recognize. You aren’t alone. We all need to know when to stop and why. Here are some hints that you need to stop doing something in worship:
It is distracting us from the presence of God.
Recently I had this experience. I was singing the words, “the evidence is all around, that the Spirit of the Lord is here,” but really, there was no evidence. The sound system wasn’t well balanced and I couldn’t really hear the singer. It was an awkward moment. I was distracted from worshiping God and being distracted means you aren’t focused on the presence of God.
Musician are distracted by poor music.
Some people are distracted by bad theology in preaching. For others, it may be when the liturgy is disconnected from the scriptures or songs. Misspellings on the screen are distracting for many. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect in our services, but if we are frequently distracted and taken out of a worshipful atmosphere, we need to evaluate and decide what needs to stop.
It is not bearing good fruit.
Jesus was clear about this. “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit… every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 7:17, 19). Only you can discern good fruit in your congregation or worship service. Only you can identify what isn’t connecting or encouraging worship, and what is producing bad fruit.
It is stopping you from the great things.
You, your staff, and your volunteers only have so many hours in a week. If you can’t spend some of this time working toward God’s dreams for your community, you need to decide what to stop doing. Sometimes that means delegating and providing opportunities for others to contribute. Other times we just need to stop doing the good things so that we can do the great things.
What do you need to stop doing? What will open up when you do? Let’s commit to stopping and prepare ourselves for something new.