As a church leader, that’s a question worth asking.
At Watermarke Church, our services are very planned and strategically structured. I can already hear the comments building – How can the Holy Spirit possibly participate in a church service that is so planned and organized? What if the Holy Spirit wants the service to continue past an hour? What if God wants to move in the service and change the flow or plan?
Those are great questions. And I can appreciate them all. Unfortunately, I have seen far too many churches allow “room for the Holy Spirit” to become synonymous with “we’re just lazy,” but that does not necessary need to be the case. As a Lead Pastor, I believe we can be both strategic and planned in our services while allowing “room” for the Holy Spirit.
I know some of you are skeptical. If you attended our church service, it would most likely feed your skepticism. But what most do not consider is the process that sits behind the programming. And it’s in the process where the Holy Spirit can find TONS of room to move (and even plan!).
Here is how we engage with God in the planning process:
1. Series Planning.
Nobody on the outside would ever guess how often our message and series plans change. When you see all the creative and media excellence, it is tempting to believe everything has been planned for months (or years!). But the reality is we change our direction constantly. In fact, the only constant is change.
Right now, I know what our next five weeks looks like. But that could change. The individual content ideas are still evolving. Again, the only constant is room for change.
Why do we change so often? Because our Senior Pastor, Andy Stanley, and our other communicators (like me) spend time with God in prayer and study, seeking direction and counsel. I believe it is God who directs our series planning. We make plenty of room for the Holy Spirit BEFORE we get to Sunday morning.
2. Creative Planning.
Again, at Watermarke, we believe God is infinitely creative. For us, we have learned that creativity happens in the margins of our life. Guess what helps provide margin – planning! We invite the Holy Spirit into our creative planning process, and I believe He shows up on a regular basis.
3. Service Planning.
When Sunday morning arrives, every element of the service seems to be timed perfectly – because it is! Sure, I usually take an extra minute in the Welcome Segment (and I apologize each week to my programming director – Jason, consider this my next apology). And our Worship Leaders might say a few comments here and there, but for the most part, our services are planned for an hour and they last an hour. Each segment is planned to the minute.
I know this sounds completely anti-Holy Spirit, but every week as we plan our service, we pray for God’s leading and direction. And again, we believe he provides exactly that. When we invite God into the planning process, he joins us in the planning process.
4. Evaluation Process.
Every single service is evaluated and improvements are made where possible. At times they are minor. At times they are more significant. That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit gave us bad intel on Tuesday – it just means that we are comfortable changing as we feel it necessary. And, you guessed it, we ask God to help us not just execute the plan, but evaluate and improve the on the plan.
Excellence matters. If you aren’t certain God cares about excellence, just look at nature, or the Levitical Law. Hyper-evaluation makes us better, and the Holy Spirit leads the evaluation.
If you feel the need to be “led by the Spirit” in your church service, by all means do so, but be careful your desire does not create an excuse to avoid the hard work Monday – Saturday. We can never allow a spiritual reason to become spiritual rationalization. The church matters too much for us to be unplanned. Excellence matters too much for us to believe the Holy Spirit can’t engage in the planning process.
Okay, I’m ready. Let me have it. Do you agree or completely disagree with my premise? Can a church service be too planned? Too strategic? Have you ever seen a church excuse their laziness with following the Spirit? Leave a comment (no cursing, please – the Holy Spirit is watching) and share this with your friends so we can all learn together. Maybe we could even plan together!