No one likes the time change. Well, I should say no one likes the Spring time change when we have to “spring forward”—and lose an hour of sleep. I think everyone likes the Fall time change when we “fall back” and gain an hour. Either way, we all know the struggle that comes from having our sleep patterns interrupted, even if we quickly adjust.
Time change is coming on November 7. We need to fall back an hour. This is made much easier these days with our connected devices that automatically adjust the time. The only difficult part is adjusting to getting up what feels like an hour later, and going to bed what feels like an hour earlier.
There’s another change coming on November 7. On Monday our Council of Elders met all day for prayer and discussion as we were seeking God and his direction for the church. In our role as overseers we desire to lead the church well and care for those God has brought to this church, while keeping an eye out for all those God will bring to the church. Last Friday we met with all of our deacons and their spouses and we heard of the difficulty both the length and the time of our worship service is for so many who have young children. In conversations with others in the church it is clear that rather than facilitating our corporate worship, our start time and length—which really means our end time—is a hindrance.
To this end, beginning November 7, we will move our worship service start time to 10:00. Further, we are seeking ways to shorten our services by about 20 minutes. In 2021 our services have averaged 1:53 in length, which is quite remarkable given that we’ve been planning our services to be 1:53! We have some work to do to shave some time here and there to shorten our services a bit but beginning November 7 we will move our start time to 10:00 with the aim of ending the service around 11:30.
This allows us to continue to sing praises to God together, time for corporate prayer and Scripture reading, hearing a word from the Lord from the Scriptures, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. As we’ve seen over these last 10+ years, the gathered assembly is central to what a local church is. We must be vigilant to remove any obstacles or hindrances to worship, insofar as we are able to do so. Our God is great and greatly to be praised; we believe these changes will better facilitate our corporate worship together—and get those kiddos home for nap time sooner.
We’re also working on a childrens’ lesson time again. Pre-COVID we had kiddos leave the service for the sermon and then return after the sermon. We don’t have the details worked out yet, but this would enable them to get up and move around and also learn at their level, while still experiencing the gathered assembly as we worship together corporately. To do this well requires people. We need help for this. We need people committed to serve in this capacity. The more people we have, the less frequently they will leave the service during the sermon. While communion remains the high point of the service, the sermon is rather important, too. There is sacrifice involved in serving so we’re asking the Lord to raise up workers for this important ministry.
The simple truth is that our start and end times are not sacred. Neither is our liturgy—at least in the sense that it is not unchangeable. Music styles and styles of dress are not sacred. These things can and do change. For over ten years we’ve had the benefit of avoiding the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” syndrome—or worse, the “we’ve-never-done-it-this-way-before” syndrome—that can plague any organization. I’ve thought from the beginning, though, that this is due entirely to the fact that every new thing we’ve done has been for the first time. As a church we must hold firmly to the one thing that never changes and hold loosely to everything else. The Lord and his glory is eternal. How we go about worshiping him corporately is not.
There are church traditions that utilize a high liturgy complete with vestments and candles and incense and there are church traditions that utilize a low liturgy with no required dress and a more free-flowing worship service. New City is neither high church nor low church; we’re more of a mid-church. We want there to be organization to our worship service yet we also want to allow the Lord to move among us as he sees fit. The easiest way to shorten our worship services is to remove our prayer time—the one in which we have opportunity to pray for one another. Rather than remove it, we can shorten the time a good bit by remembering that it is a time to share requests and not stories. Our City Groups are where we have opportunities to share our lives together so let’s try to keep our prayer requests to the request and share the stories in our City Groups or over cups of coffee or on the Signal app that many of our ladies are on.
At the end of the day, the worship service belongs to the Lord Jesus. It is his worship service. We spend time in prayer seeking which songs he wants us to sing on a given Sunday, and what he is saying to the church through that week’s sermon text, and what he wants to communicate to us through communion. It is a time for us to be strengthened by the Lord to live for him throughout the week. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
Our aim in our worship service is to see the glory of the Lord. By seeing his glory together we are transformed to be more like him. We become like what we worship. Jesus is unchanging. How we worship him is not. Whatever comes in the future, whatever changes the Lord leads us to implement, one thing will not change: our worship services will be for the Lord and his glory. We preach Christ and him crucified, and this will not change. We sing of the glory of God in the face of Christ. This will not change. How we sing and which songs we sing will change throughout the years. Our gathered assembly will always be focused on the worship of our Triune God.
Throughout the rest of October, join us at 10:30, but come November I’ll see you at 10:00!