Monday, July 9, 2012

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Megachurch Worship


*This entry originally composed for the congregation ofThe Woodlands UMC, a megachurch located outside of Houston, Texas.


Let’s face it, being a church intern has its perks. I get to see a lot of things most churchgoers don’t even know about. For instance, would you guess that Andy Nixon has a team of highly trained fashion consultants? Or would you believe that Rob Renfroe has a private room for his hairdresser? I’ve heard of stranger things. But what if I were to tell you about a few minutes every week where pastors gather in a secret chamber, donned in all black, and stand waiting for a voice?
Okay, so I don’t work at Hogwarts. Nonetheless, the moments preceding the traditional worship service are quite unique. At T-minus ten minutes before worship, the pastoral staff gathers in what’s called the Kalas Robing Chamber. This is a discreet room located off of the back of the administration suite, but for the sake of intrigue I won’t tell you exactly what’s inside. What you should know is that this is the place where the robes are put on, the stoles straightened, mics are wired, and last minute preparations are made. Some pastors find this a time for joking around and cutting up. Others have a solemn expression. Still others have the proverbial “eye of the tiger” look. I challenge you to guess how each of our pastoral staff acts during this time.
At T-minus five minutes, half of the staff departs the robing chamber to head to another room on the opposite side of the sanctuary. Where or what this room looks like I don’t know, but it’s at this time that the remaining crew (myself included) moves toward the rear door of the chamber. We’re waiting for a phone call. As we wait we hear the loud boom of the orchestra as it begins to play. At about T-minus one minute a phone rings in the back corner. The other team is ready and in position. We hang up the phone and begin a countdown ….five…four…three…two…one. And it begins.
We open the chamber doors and proceed to the side sanctuary entrance where we pause for just a moment. The lone greeter at the door shakes our hand. I always feel weird getting this hand shake, as if it’s some good luck pep talk before entering the lion’s den. On some level I suppose this is the case. The sanctuary has a remarkable grandeur and a tremendous sea of faces populating its two levels, all about to see us. But I can’t look long, our processional line is off. We file into the sanctuary three-deep, turning sharply to the right to walk behind the altar rail. In my mind our entrance is very dramatic, particularly with the pastors in their robes, synchronized on both sides of the room, walking in file, and with the orchestra playing. It’s a very loud, though beautiful, lion’s den.
As we turn past the altar rail and are halfway towards the table, someone gestures discreetly with their hand and all six members of the team, in unison, turn and climb the chancel steps. We walk slowly and deliberately to our chairs. We turn, face the congregation, and again in unison, sit down. I made it to my chair without tripping, a successful start to any worship service.
A final little caveat from this behind-the-scenes moment: the view from the pastor’s chair. From these seats you get to see that sea of faces, but you also notice multiple large screens everywhere you look, the orchestra within arm’s length behind you, and several high-definition cameras staring you down. It’s a humbling feeling to be in this chair. You begin to realize that you have to be an adult. No more picking your nose in church, fidgeting with the bulletin, or slouching. No, you have to be even more than an adult. The view from the pastor’s chair reminds you of why you’re here, to minister to God’s people. What an exciting reminder in the midst of a terrifying and energizing experience. It is truly amazing to be included in this special moment.
Thanks for sharing this little behind-the-scenes moment with me.
Erik Grayson


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