A Play About Worship Service Planning: The One With Great Coffee

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications

A church campus, built in 1915 as an elementary school, rests at the corner of Silver and Ekin. It hasn’t rained for awhile. The dirt is hard but the grass is still green (although just across the mighty Ohio River, in Kentucky, the grass is blue). It’s just another Tuesday in Anytown, USA. Inside, a church creative team prepares for the coming Sunday’s worship service.

They’re planning the first week of a sermon series in Matthew 8-10 called Receive: Finding Freedom Through Healing. Pastor Jonah has returned from a retreat. He is rested, tanned and ready. The gang is ready to dive in (see the various ways this church creates pieces of communication that come out of these weekly meetings here). 

This Week’s Players (in alphabetical order)

  • Bobby Gilles – Associate Pastor
  • Stephen Pierce — Family Pastor
  • Jonah Sage — Lead Pastor
  • Justin Shaffer – Worship Director

Jonah: Bobby, in your Worship Service Planning 101 post for this week, you should mention how we grind and brew Ethiopian Ardi in our staff office. Ardi “natural process,” (not washed).

Justin: And it’s delicious. (everyone sips and “mmms.”)

Bobby: I have a feeling that these comments about the coffee will make it into the blog post next week (the post you’re looking at right now, Dear Reader. Mind. Blown.)

Jonah: All right. Matthew 8-9 are about the nature of God’s grace. 10-12 are about the life of faith in response to his grace. That’s why we’re breaking it down into two short sermon series this fall. So here we begin the Receive series, looking at Matthew 8:1-22.

Bobby: You know we can’t fit all that into the printed bulletin. We can have it on the app, but what passage should we put into the print bulletins?

Jonah: Let’s do 8:1-4. And that’s all we need on the slides for the reading before the sermon, too. Who’s doing the reading this week?

Bobby: Julie Cordray. Before that she’ll do the standard announcements, and a quick advance teaser for our new Affordable Christmas ministry event.

Jonah: Great. So entering the story — Jesus has just given his sermon “on the mount” and now he goes into the valley and he heals a leper. So structurally we have “Jesus the moral philosopher” and now it’s “Jesus the physician.” Salvation or social justice – which is it? Jesus responds “Yes.”

Stephen: (looking at Jonah’s sermon manuscript) I would hesitate to say “we focus on eternal salvation” to the exclusion of life here-and-now. What if you said something like, “we focus on abstract spiritual matters” instead, because salvation does mean concrete things like physical healing.

Jonah: I’ll think about that.

I want to hammer home the “God in the dirt” theme, and I want to help people see that the ideal for the Christian life isn’t abstract spiritual things. And we should be who we are supposed to be – if you feel called to be a doctor, be a doctor. Don’t feel like you would be more Christian if you left the medical field to preach or go to seminary.

Bobby: (Looking at Jonah’s sermon manuscript) If you’re going to say “go to the bulletin for info on men and women’s schools,” then we need to figure out all the details of that class. I don’t know what I’d put in the bulletin now.

Jonah: Yeah.

I want to call people to receive healing for our mission, and then embrace the tension of two-world living.

Bobby: What is your Big Idea?

Jonah: Something poetic about following Jesus into the valleys.

Bobby: You should literally say that on Sunday: “The Big Idea here is something poetic about following Jesus into the valleys.”

How is the liturgy coming along?

Justin: Jeremy and I have a new song called “God In The Dirt,” in honor of this sermon.

I want to work “justice” and “salvation” together, so we’ll do “Let Justice Roll” prior to the Assurance of Pardon, then do a reading from Romans 5 for the Assurance, and follow with “Salvation’s Tide.”

I’m not sure about the final song. I want a song that says “God we follow you because you are good,” and is a high energy closer, and fits with the sermon theme of God in the Dirt, healing, and so on.

Bobby: How about “Our God”?

Jonah: singing – “Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God, our God …”

Bobby: singing “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us, and if our God is with us, then what could stand against …”

Justin: Got it.

Bobby: singing “Into the darkness you shine, out of the ashes we rise, there’s no one like you, none like you …”

The meeting breaks down as our gang begins to sing, like Peanuts children.

How did Jonah massage Stephen’s suggestion for “abstract versus concrete” language? How did the new “God In The Dirt” song go? What changes did they make between this Tuesday morning meeting and the Sunday service? Did they close with “Our God”? For answers to these and other questions, see yesterday’s Christian Liturgy 101: How One Church Worshiped post.



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