Interpretive Worship

Ed Young Jr. is the pastor of a mega-church named Fellowship Church in the Dallas Texas area. Each year the Church hosts a conference named the Creative Church Conference or C3 for short. I attended one of their conferences about 10 years ago and tried to learn as much as I could learn in a two-day experience. They had some powerful main sessions and some insightful breakout sessions during the conference. But of all the things that I experienced the one that stuck with me was a story Ed Young told from his own life that planted the seed for Fellowship Church.

Ed’s father is a preacher in a large Church and Ed had grown up going to Church each week. He had no desire to be a preacher but rather set his sights on being a basketball player. I believe that dream was sidelined by an injury that changed the direction of his life. While in college he attended a local Church near his university and took a friend from the team with him. He found himself becoming an interpreter for everything going on during the service. He would tell his friend, “Okay that person is giving a call to worship. That is an attempt to try to get people excited about what we are about to do.” Then it was “that guy talking is an elder – that is a leader in the Church – and he is talking about money because we are about to take up and offering.” And then, “That lady is singing a special song. I know she is not very good but she is the chairman of the board’s wife.” And on and on it went.

He said that after that Sunday he asked a question that would help direct his ministry. “Is it possible to have a Church where guests can understand the worship without an interpreter?”

I have thought about that story many times through the years and it has helped to shape my view of ministry as well. But over time I have furthered my thoughts about his experience and the dozens I have heard like it. I have come to the conclusion that my view of what happens on Sunday morning is greatly influenced by the number of non-Christians I bring with me.

If I do not bring anyone with me then I am okay with insider language, strange unexplained rituals, and poorly done activities. If I bring several people with me then I want things to be explained, simple and done well. If I bring people to Church with me who are non-Christians on a regular basis my views will be very different from the person who has never had to interpret what we are doing each week.

I dream of a Church where it is possible for the guests to participate in worship because it is filled with people who are bringing their non-Christian friends.

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