Worship by Design

February 27th, 2019
This article is featured in the The Future of Worship (Feb/Mar/Apr 2019) issue of Circuit Rider

When I was in seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, great emphasis was placed on worship and the importance of worship. I took an entire semester class on worship, and through the experience I learned more about the order of worship and how to celebrate and plan worship. With my seminary experience and countless other experiences attending worship in the local church and leading worship, I realized a seismic shift was happening in the area of worship design. One of the key elements to being a smart 4D church and smashing barriers is designing worship that is dynamic and relevant. This type of worship inspires, informs and instructs people through the power of the Holy Spirit; it isn’t cookie cutter worship, but worship by design.

Churches have a great opportunity to design worship that takes attendees to a deeper understanding of God, self and the world. The inspiration found in the Book of Joel is relevant for church leaders today who dare to design worship, “After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone; your sons and your daughters will prophesy your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28 CEB). Worship by design is engineered and adjusted to help people connect with the presence of God and flow in the power of the spirit referred to in the Book of Joel.

There is also non-design worship, which takes place in most churches across the country every single week. Here is a simple breakdown of design vs. non-design worship:

Non-Design Worship

  • Lack of connection to the community
  • Template as starting point
  • Rigid and static
  • Non-response oriented


  • Connection to the community
  • Communal and spiritual starting point
  • Fluid and Flexible

When I think about worship by design, I think about vacuum cleaners. Specifically, a Dyson Vacuum cleaner. It is funny that the Dyson Vacuum cleaner brand is so powerful that it isn’t referred to as a product but as a “Dyson.” People may ask, do you have a “Dyson?” and not “Do you have a vacuum cleaner?”… While reviewing a video [from Dyson] online, I came across an amazing company quote that emphasizes their commitment to design: “New ideas are the lifeblood of Dyson. Every year, we invest our profits back into harnessing them at our research and development laboratory in Wiltshire, UK. There are 350 engineers and scientists based on their Thinking, Testing, Breaking, Questioning. ”[1]

This statement and viewpoint is spectacular and even more spectacular when you think about how Dyson’s primary and ground-breaking product is a vacuum. Their commitment to thinking, testing, breaking and questioning has created a design excellence that helped them make a product that is an industry standard and sells at a premium price to customers. Their commitment to excellent design also helped to launch other successful product lines, such as hand and hair dryers, air treatment systems, fans and lights. Dyson is constantly innovating and designing, not haphazardly, but strategically and on purpose. Here is what the founder James Dyson said about designing with excellence and strategy, “Like everyone we get frustrated by products that don’t work properly. As design engineers we do something about it. We’re all about invention and improvement.”[2]

* * *
Order here: http://bit.ly/4DImpact

I wish every company and organization placed this much value on getting better at what they do. If there is a place where we can achieve that goal, it is in the Church. However, based on the current metrics and outcomes, many faith communities have fallen into the trap of mediocrity and playing the “oldies but goodies” as congregants worship at the Temple of Nostalgia. Author and former Director of Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Lovett Weems cautioned around being stuck in the past in an article entitled, “Leading Between Memory and Vision.” Lovett said, “Church leaders stand today between a past that is gone and a future awaiting its consummation. God’s leaders are deeply steeped in the memory of God’s great acts in history, in one’s denomination, and in one’s congregation. At the same time, however, God has placed them in a present context that poses many challenges. In truth, this has always been the stance from which God’s people lead. Biblical accounts of the Babylonian exile offer lessons to today’s church leaders living in the tension between a confident past and the still-unfolding promise of God’s future.”[3]

God has a future for our churches and we have a responsibility as leaders to help our churches celebrate the past but move forward into innovative and grace filled futures. There is more in front of our churches than behind our churches. Since God has given you and your church a vision for the future, why not trust God and lead towards it? 

The early church in the Book of Acts possessed a relentless desire to become better and reach more people through innovative ways. Acts 6:1-3 CEB:

1 About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve called a meeting of all the disciples and said, “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables.Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern.”

This is an example of the early church leaders being committed to excellence and moving the mission of the church forward. They empowered people with abilities to handle certain programs, and they focused on areas where they could add value and further the mission of the Church. Sounds a bit like Dyson...

This article is adapted from 4D Impact by Olu Brown. Copyright © 2019 Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

[1] Dyson.com

[2] Dyson.com

[3] Lovett Weems, “Leading Between Memory and Vision,” Leading Ideas, October 26, 2016.

comments powered by Disqus