A View from the Pew: Which Part of the Service Do You Skip?

You don’t need me to tell you these are weird times, especially for church. A recent message from my pastor highlighted the weirdness for me.

We have been engaged in digital worship services since March, receiving the week’s order of worship as a PDF in an email each Friday. The document has links to video recordings of each component of the service from the opening hymn to the choral response. In all, there are usually seven different YouTube clips that make up a single service.

Many churches have been offering recordings via Facebook Live or saved video feeds on Vimeo or YouTube. Because our service has been in segments, our pastor was intrigued to look at the analytics and see which portions of the weekly worship plan were most often viewed and which ones were skipped. He neglected to mention in his email which of the segments had lower stats, but he encouraged us to view them all in their entirety.

I am a rule follower, so of course, I would not dare think of skipping any section of our weekly family worship time. The pastor’s email did make me wonder which, if any, part of worship someone viewed as non-essential. When we worship in person, we do not get to choose our worship experience a la carte, but if we did, would we have the discipline and good sense to choose all the components?

Here is my case for including each section:

The singing. To be transparent, my family members aren’t the best singers, so we tend to view the words and listen to the accompaniment on the congregational hymns rather than sing along. I miss this activity, but there was too much of an opportunity for our family worship to go off the rails when we tried to sing. Still, I refuse to skip it because the music and the words add meaning to the service, complementing the message and reaching our emotions in ways that words alone cannot. I can also appreciate the rehearsal time and proficiency displayed in the soloists’ performances. It’s not that I stand in awe of their abilities. I find inspiration in the offering of their talents as worship to God.

The Scripture. I’ve always been just a little bit skeptical of people of faith who claimed to “follow the Bible” but neglect the reading of it in worship. There is a way of hearing it that speaks to me when I am in an attitude of worship and particularly when I am gathered with other believers. But even when I’m on my couch with my family watching our youth minister on my TV, the nuance of the cadence, pacing, and emphasis add meaning and help me draw new insights.

The Prayers. Yes, I can pray on my own, and while listening to others pray my mind has a tendency to wander. But when you are mentioned in a prayer or a specific request prompts you to think of others whose circumstances merit consideration over your own, prayer can both challenge and uplift you. It’s not that I listen to the prayers just in case my name is mentioned. I find it helpful to hear all who are mentioned so that I can focus on them and not myself.

The Sermon. I grew up in a tradition where the sermon was the centerpiece of each service. If we didn’t hear a sermon we felt cheated. And if the sermon was less than 45 minutes we may have felt relieved, but we also felt like we didn’t get the full measure of the service. Regardless of your background, most people view the proclamation of the Word to be the point of going to church and would never think to skip that part of the service. These days, I tend to view the worship service as a whole with the sermon as a key component, but the sermon is inseparable from the other components. I don’t imagine many folks skip the sermon, though they may check the length before clicking “play.”

Whether you have resumed worshipping in person or are still on the sofa with digital services, give thought to all parts of the service. It will enrich your experience and help you make the most of the time you invest in feeding your soul and worshiping God.

Lance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA. He earns a living in higher education communications and writes a blog at newsouthessays.com.

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