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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Form or Inform

For some time, I have been thinking about the difference between form and inform, or to put it in its noun form, the difference between formation and information. My reflections on this subject have to do with how we experience worship in church.

I have talked with many people about worship and it is clear that not everyone is blessed by the same approach. For some people, ideas are very important. They feel worship has been good or helpful if they are challenged with a new and stimulating thought or idea; in other words, with new information. For such people, a sermon that offers a fresh perspective about God is often a blessing as it offers them “something to think about.”

For others, ideas are not as important as experience. For these folks, it is important to have a sense of drawing near to God in worship. For them, music and testimony are often more important than sermons because these elements help them come into the Presence or “feel the Spirit.” For these folks, information or ideas appear not to be as important as spiritual formation.

The difference can be surprisingly polarizing. If you attend church regularly or have in the past, you may have instantly identified or aligned yourself with one of these two positions. Whether people find a worship service to be a blessing or a waste of time may be determined by where they are on this continuum. What is more, two people attending worship in the same chapel may have the exact opposite reactions to the service!

My intent here is not to determine that one approach is right or wrong, or that one is more important than the other. What is important is what is helpful to the person, and we cannot decide that for anybody else. Is it possible that we can provide both formation and information in worship? Ahh, now there’s a challenge!

For many worship planners and leaders, it is easier to provide information than formative experience; in fact, they may not have even thought about the difference. Even prayers are often more intellectual than formational, more head than heart. For others, sensing the Holy in worship is everything.

Have you thought about this puzzle? What do you find helpful in a service of worship? Are ideas that give you something to think about more important than experience? Is the experience more important than ideas or teaching? Perhaps you have a different take on the question altogether.

The question may be important. Can we have a conversation on this subject? Will you share your thoughts or experience?

Posted by Carman

1 comment:

  1. Several of us who read this post will immediately think of one of those classic books I referenced the other day:
    Corinne Ware's "Discover Your Spiritual Type" in which the author talks about the four (not just the two in this post!) types of worshippers typically present at our services.
    Well maybe not all present, as the "mystics" are quietly meditating somewhere else and the "kingdom" types are out marching for a cause.
    But Carman raises an important issue that worship planners need to pay attention to. How to meet those diverse needs with a single event? It's a challenge.


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