The 5 Deadly Sins of Worship Services

The 5 Deadly Sins of Worship Services
Doug Lawrence

Have every member of your platform team read this today! Please!

O.K., I’ve got my “mad” on today. Just indulge me, dear friends. Here’s my personal list of the 5 Deadly Sins in Worship. I bet you could write your own list. Do it, and send it to me!

State the obvious

It’s oh so tempting to tell a really attractive person that YOU think they’re attractive as though they hadn’t noticed it themselves. Complimenting, after all, is just a form of showing affection and an expression of affirmation nothing wrong with that. But, it can also be used to manipulate and imply, in some kind of naive way, that you have control over that person that your impression “seals” their identity.

If I tell you how handsome or beautiful you are, I am calibrating (I believe) the standard by which you will be perceived by others. I feel powerful and, maybe, handsome myself by proximity.

In countless church services, I have seen the same principle apply. If a pastor says, “What a beautiful solo,” he/she gets a piece of the action. Their opinion of it elevates them inappropriately, not the musical expression of faith.

I once (horrors) closed out a service by saying, “Wasn’t that an incredible call to action!” The congregation jumped to their feet to affirm the message, its delivery, and the messenger who brought it. Good, right? No, it was not a good idea and it meant a long, soulful talk with our fearless leader. He said that I had completely obliterated the application part of his sermon. By affirming the message, the messenger, and the nobleness of his sermon, I had undone the challenge he was giving. I stated the obvious. Bad idea!

Surprise the players (most particularly the pastor)

Some platform people think it will be o.k. if they insert “a little something” into the service that has not been discussed prior. How has this backfired let me count the ways. No one and I mean no one wants to be surprised by a loose canon in a service of worship!

That doesn’t mean you have to script everything in advance, but pastors should never have to hide a grimace because one of their colleagues decides to have an impromptu slideshow of the pastor’s early years (oh yes, this happens all the time to celebrate the pastor’s tenure). In one case, the pastor had to completely scrap the sermon because of time. He ended up being embarrassed and humiliated by his bear skin rug shot, and much more. I have learned the hard way to never surprise people on the platform.

Go overtime

I conducted thousands of rehearsals with various ensembles over the years. I had one basic rule start on time and end on time. I think this should be a rule for worship services as well. O.K., here’s where you rail against me about the Holy Spirit being in charge of how long worship services should go. I agree, and if you can honestly say the lack of punctuality in closing the service was because the Holy Spirit spoke to you go for it.

Most often, we are late because we were sloppy in execution. Congregants know the difference. Holy Spirit vs. bad planning they know! Those dear folks are holding us responsible to keep other church-scheduled events in sequence. Rightly so. Heaven knows the average church has enough activities on any given Sunday to more than fill a dance card.

Respecting people’s time is a way of defining the orderliness of God’s love and thoughts about us. Respect is, in many ways, at the heart of faith. At least that’s true for me.

Announce in worship

The reason churches often make announcements after the service has begun, is that they want everyone to hear them, and lots of people walk in late (especially people who hate loud drums or organs :-). If you personally and honestly believe that you have appropriate justification for announcing the potluck dinner on Wednesday directly after the prayer of confession again, go for it.


I don’t like long pauses in conversations. They make me uncomfortable, edgy, and restless. I’m getting over it the more I learn to listen. I no longer fill in every gap in every conversation as I was once wont to do.

Church services are often planned in the same nervous manor of the awkward conversational pause. Certainly we should move services with intentionality and good pacing, but trying to fill every space with jolly used car salesman misdirected enthusiasm, can kill the very thing we seek most Holy dialogue with our Creator.

Alright write me!


Doug Lawrence, internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences.

This article The 5 Deadly Sins of Worship Services written by Doug Lawrence, was excerpted from web site. July 2010

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.