Saturday, August 18, 2012

Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services

I read this book today. It's about doing the Sunday service well. It's written by Nelson Searcy, who pastors a church in New York. He is into:
  • everything being linked to the message in the bible talk, 
  • 'excellence' in everything, 
  • worship pastor and teaching pastor being on the same page, 
  • planning the preaching calendar a year out, 
  • having Sunday sorted by Thursday night, and 
  • creativity. 

It was annoying and helpful at the same time.

Annoying, because:

1. He keeps telling us about his church. 
His church is called the Journey Church. I find this hard to take.

2. His writing style is irritating. He keeps putting in these dreadful dialogues between 'David' (a young pastor) and 'Tim' (an experienced pastor who runs his life according to the letter of this book and has a booming successful church and no problems at all). He also loves and overuses acronyms (RTLs = Radically Transformed Lives) and alliteration.

3. He is on a different page theologically.
His theology of scripture, the spirit, church, worship... All different to mine. (And therefore wrong!)

4. He thinks he has got it all worked out.
He's the man and he knows it. But I think this kind of goes with the territory. Who else writes this sort of book?

5. I want to not like it because of reasons 1-4 above, but it has a lot to offer.

Helpful because:

1. The idea of having Sunday sorted by Thursday night is inspiring. Imagine how much less stressed we'd be!

2. I love the idea of pastor and music leader being on about the same thing in a church service. Practically, though, it's hard to manage. I like that this book offers a way to do it.

3. It prioritises long term planning of the preaching program and makes everything else fall under that. I'm a fan of this in theory. Good to see what possibilities it opens up.

4. It values creativity in service planning.

Has anyone else read it? What did you think?


  1. having Sunday sorted by Thursday night.

    Like everything? Sermon printed? Songs practiced? Kids talk done?

    1. Yes. Dwell on that idea at 11pm tonight.

  2. Sounds like Dave Allen might have been the ghost writer.

    This is the sort of idealistic garbage that drives busy sole pastors to despair.

  3. Uh oh. It appears I'm the man too. (I've written one page so far).

    Thanks for the tip though - as far as I can tell, a book on this is extraordinarily hard to find.

  4. I wish I could finish the sermon by Friday at the latest. Nothing would make me and my family more happy. I could then enjoy a whole day without thinking about finishing off the sermon.

    But I've always been a deadlines kind of guy. Unless/until the deadline is close, I just can't think creatively.

    It's a curse.

  5. The can't-think-creatively-till-the-last-minute thing is actually a myth. Studies have been done. You are kidding yourself. The ideas you think are brilliant on Saturday night are actually worse than you Thursday ideas.

    His system still works on deadlines - just earlier ones. There is a run through the 'message' plus drama, testimonies etc on Thursday night.

    If Andrew could pull this off... What joy! What marital bliss would follow! I would have a husband on a Saturday night for the first time in a decade!

    1. Studies have been done....

      Oh please.

      Of me?

    2. You aren't so unique as you think!

      "Unless the deadline is close, I just can't think creatively."

      If I had $100 for every time someone had said that to me, I'd have... like... $2000 now.

  6. For me, I'm not relying on the myth. I'm just more likely to finish with the horror of not finishing looming.

    See, even tonight, when I'm remarkably ahead of schedule, I'm still stalling.

  7. In our previous church, whoever was up for choosing songs had to give a list to everyone by about Monday night to enable the less-able-to-improvise/sight-read-and-change-key-even-if-it's-written-for-guitar-and-your-instrument-doesn't-do-chords types such as myself (saxophone) a chance to become familiar with the music before Thursday night practice. We'd also get in early on Sunday morning to practice before the service.

    It's nice if the preaching and the music tie in with each other but its certainly not couldn't possibly be that God might have more to say to His people than what one person has considered week in, week out, could it?

    Whatever happened to 1 Cor 14:26 "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."? Oh, that's right - everyone got passive when Roman oratory customs influenced the church and decided to leave everything (including the cleaning) to The Pastor.

  8. Have just now read it. Fluffy in the usual megachurch way, sadly. I thought most of the 'insights' were hardly revolutionary, though in his context they might be more so.

    In his defence, it looks like the excruciating 'conversations' were the idea of the ghost writer. I hate to think what the book looked like before they let a professional writer at it!!

    Extremely interesting that his first principle is to get a preaching calendar together, and yet the sample he provides contains such detailed descriptions as "Sermon #8". So he's actually not as planned-in-advance as he makes out. Pastor Tim would be cranky. Or he would be if he weren't sitting in a parking lot in his car, lost in thought, waiting for somebody to knock on the window...

    @Laetitia - while it's not clear in Simone's summary, a major point of all this planning is that it is to enable more people to be involved. It's quite possible that this is the greatest strength in what he's doing.