In his book Making a Good Church Great (Regal), Steve Sjogren warns about letting worship music run too long: "We were, at one time, a 'high worship' church. That is, we would sing worship choruses for up to 45 minutes. However, the long worship time made our church 'seeker hostile.' Our attitude was, 'If those new people can't handle the presence of God in large doses, well, that's their problem!' The long worship worked fine for us, but for those who hadn't developed a taste for worship, it was far too long.
"As more and more newcomers found their way into our midst, I began to feel that we were overdoing our worship time--that perhaps we had created an insiders-only club. So I began to do some research. I stood off to the side of church sanctuaries across America and observed how long the worship endurance of congregations was.
"I found the same result in almost every congregation, regardless of denominational background, tradition or stated values. People are capable of being engaged in worship for a maximum of about 22 minutes. After 22 minutes, most worshipers' attention span drops significantly. Needless to say, we made a shift to a 22-minute worship set, though it caused some consternation for a time among people who love to worship. Now participation in worship is on a significantly higher level than it was before we shortened worship."
There is a multitude of problems with what is said here. No, that is not quite the whole truth. There is a multitude of stupidities here. I will mention only a few. (It reminds me a little of the time Barney Fife ran for sheriff in Mayberry. He claimed to have documented seventy-six cases of malfeasance in the sheriff’s office. But for the sake of time, he mentioned only three.)
First, I must ask a question, and knowing the nature of many “worship choruses” it is a necessary question: how many “worship choruses, as they are usually sung, does it take to fill forty-five minutes? (Is this akin to “how many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb??)
My best guess is: three. I thought about saying “seventy-six” just because of the Barney Fife allusion, but I think it is probably closer to three. After all, they only had forty-five minutes.
But now, back to the problems, that is stupidities, found in the little report above . . .
“Worship” DOES NOT equal “singing at church.” It does not. Were it not for the “thou shall not murder” commandment, I would be in favor of the summary execution of the next person who says, writes, or even thinks that worship is to be equated with singing songs at church.
This means that the phrase “worship set” must be eradicated from the face of the earth, because it is talking about a list of songs. Again, in case you missed this, songs are not to be equated with worship.
Got that all you dimwitted “churchologists” out there? Singing songs at church does not equal “worship.” It simply does not, not now, not then, not ever. Stop saying it. Stop it. Stop it now.
However, I do understand that people can become tired of singing at church. I have become tired of singing at some churches after the first forty-five seconds, let along forty-five minutes. Often, that is because the things we sing at church are both musically and poetically pieces of cow manure. (Jesus talked about dung heaps, so I can talk about cow manure. By the way, cow manure is wonderful, when properly aged, for the garden. But in most metaphors, as here, it is a very bad thing – very bad.)
Also, other than the requirement of being done in a language that is understandable to those present, there is NOTHING in the Bible that even remotely suggests that the church should design her meetings to attract people outside the church. Again, were it not for the commandment mentioned above, I would be in favor of summary execution for anyone who puts the words “seeker” and “friendly” together when talking about the church.
Churches should be odd, strange, and weird societies in the eyes of those from our culture. We ought to think weird things and do weird things, all for weird reasons. Without becoming too theological here, that is the church at her best. It will not be a place those immersed in our culture could ever feel at home.
A small point: stop doing pseudo-empirical “studies” of things within the church. The church is not about what “is” or what people like. It is about what ought to be, what is supposed to be, and what is going to be. It doesn’t matter what someone “standing off to the side” of church gatherings thinks he has discovered using his stopwatch.
Many people do not like to pray, study, help, or many other things. But these little supposed “studies” of such things are simply irrelevant.
Finally, if you see some guy “standing off to the side” of your church meeting with a notebook and a stopwatch (or any other such instrument), you might want to give him the “left foot of disfellowship.” (In case you are wondering, that means “boot him out the door.”)