Worship Service Planning 101 — Into The Groove With Esther, Kanye West, and more

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications

A church campus, built in 1915 as an elementary school, rests at the corner of Silver and Ekin. A bird runs into a window because it is too clean. The bird flies away, dazed and confused in Anytown, USA. A church creative team prepares for the coming Sunday’s worship service.

They’re in the second week of a sermon series on the book of Esther called Steady: Standing Strong In A World Of Chaos. Pastor Jonah Sage will preach Esther 3. They must also plan for Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, which, in 2019, occur on the same day. The meeting will eventually segue into discussions of Kanye West, country music, and more. How? Why? Read on:

This Week’s Players (in alphabetical order)

  • Lindsey Blair – Women’s Director
  • Bobby Gilles – Associate Pastor
  • Jonah Sage – Lead Pastor
  • Justin Shaffer – Worship Director

Jonah: I don’t have a great sermon intro. I’m just pulling a “Keller” and diving right in. I’ll say, “No one by nature wants to trust God.” Most people don’t ask God for help until your back is against the wall. Everyone did something this week that they wished they shouldn’t – this is evidence that they don’t trust God.

This sermon is less on the benefits of following God (which we talk about a lot, most weeks) and more about the consequences of self-reliance.

My big idea is “self-reliance is spiritual defiance but the road to live is paved with strife.” Going back and forth on “and” or “but.”

I want to highlight the compromised nature of Esther and Mordecai – They took Persian names, they stayed behind in the exile when they could have returned to Jerusalem. Not to mention, Mordecai basically is willing to sex trade his cousin, whom he’s raising as a daughter.

Bobby: You should draw that out because I think most people assume it was just a beauty contest. They don’t get that all these virgins had to have sex with the king, and he picked the best one. People assume it was more like a modeling gig, and he picked the prettiest.

Justin: It’s crazy that Mordecai encouraged her to do it, even more so when we see what the king did with the previous queen.

Jonah: I really want people to feel uncomfortable about Mordecai and Esther in the first half of my sermon. I want them to understand the slippery slope of self-reliance. I want them to think about why Mordecai and Esther might have stayed behind and took the Persian names. But that’s tricky because the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us “why.”

Bobby: You can draw the congregation in by asking questions: “Why did they stay? Did they think, “Home is probably a mess, it’s dangerous …”

Lindsey: Yeah, I think it’s easy to imagine that it was safer to stay where they were, as long as they didn’t draw attention to their Jewishness.

Jonah: Small compromises, over time … eventually you get to a place where you make decisions that would have seemed unthinkable to you.

Then in Chapter 3 we get to Haman. Everyone had to bow. It’s confusing that, evidently, there is a connection between Mordecai’s refusal to bow and him being Jewish, but I don’t know why. At some point Mordecai had revealed he was a Jew. Mordecai has flipped his script, and we don’t know when or why.

And how has Haman come to this place where he’s okay with killing a whole race because one guy won’t bow? Your daily life shapes your whole life. No one becomes a hero in a moment or a villain in a moment.

Ultimately, I want to leave people with the question: “What kind of people does God use,” and the answer, “God could even use someone like me.”

“The road to life is paved with strife” comes through when Mordecai refuses to bow. In Mordecai, we see that one man’s obedience can throw an empire into chaos. In Jesus, we see that one man’s obedience can bring life to an entire world.

Lindsey: It’s so deceiving but so easy for us to think that if a course of action is easy, it is the right thing. The hard thing must be wrong.

Bobby: As Tanya Tucker used to sing, “If it don’t come easy, you better let it go.”

Lindsey: Country music is just wrong, in general.

Bobby: You don’t like Tanya Tucker?

Lindsey: I’ll clarify that “old country” is okay. Modern country though …

Bobby: Does everyone know that Lindsey is a big hip hop fan?

Lindsey: My favorite concert ever was Puff Daddy, Mace, Lil Kim, Bust a Rhymes, Usher. I sprained my ankle but it was great.

Jonah: Here is my sermon-writing pump up song (plays Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” on his Macbook Pro. Bobby starts checking his task list on his phone. Lindsey and Justin get into the song. 

Bobby: Hey, remember that it will be Trinity Sunday. I put our Trinity Panel in the app (a Trinity Q&A panel that they hosted in 2015, featuring special guest Dr. Gregg Allison). 

Jonah: I’ll mention that in my intro. But wait, I have to pray for the missions team that is going to France next week, right?

Justin: I’d appreciate that, boss (Justin is going on the missions trip). I’ve shared my rough draft of the liturgy with you. In addition to Trinity Sunday, it’s Father’s Day. I’ll ask the Dads to think of themselves in the context of Psalm 139:7-16. I’ll use The Message for that Assurance reading. It’s powerful.

I’ve got Ryan and Meg in the band. We’ll do “All Creatures Of Our God And King” after the Call To Worship. And I’ll do a strong Trinitarian benediction.

Jonah: What if we did the Apostle’s Creed in the Confession, and lead into Rich Mullin’s “Creed (I Believe)”? Plays “Creed” on his Macbook Pro.

Justin: You’ve sold me. We’ll do it.

Jonah: Takes me back to my Young Life days.

The team discusses “the good ol’ days” as the meeting sort of tapers off.

How did all of this actually go down? Did anything change? Read and/or see the finished results in the post Christian Liturgy 101 – How One Church Worshiped On Father’s Day/Trinity Sunday

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