When we plan our services across multiple campuses, it’s important to maintain our “DNA,” the things that make us uniquely “us.” We can help maintain this DNA in our worship service planning by thinking about the kinds of moments and experiences we plan as a part of each service.
There are at least three types of moments we want to happen in every worship experience: awe, aha, and haha.
Awe moments are those moments when we realize (or begin to realize) who God is and who we are in light of who He is, and we are in awe because of that and because of what He has done for us. Moments of awe are those moments when we are aware that we are standing in the presence of a holy and loving God together. Awe moments happen when we’re confronted with grace and truth at the same time.
Biblical Awe Moments
- The Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai while Moses is receiving the law: “…thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled” (Exodus 19)
- Isaiah in the temple: “Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6)
- Ezekiel and the spinning wheels: “The rims of the four wheels were tall and frightening, and they were covered with eyes all around” (Ezekiel 1).
- Peter, when they pull in this huge haul of fish under Jesus’ direction, after not catching anything all night. “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you” (Luke 5:1-11).
- The person who falls to their knees exclaiming, “God is really among you!,” in Paul’s description of what he wants to happen in the worship experiences of the church he planted in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14).
- Those worshiping around the throne in heaven: “I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it” (Rev. 4).
We know aha moments. These are moments when we finally “get it.” When we finally grasp something in a way that we can live it. This happens sometimes when a worship leader takes an opportunity to lead the church and briefly make a real life connection to a song. This happens when one our teaching pastors is laying down the Word in a way people can understand.
Biblical Aha Moments
- Ezra reading the Law to the people and the Levites translating it. The people “get it” and are broken and in tears because of it (Nehemiah 8:1-9).
- Jesus teaching in the synagogue “today, this is fulfilled in your hearing…” (Luke 4:14-30). The people in the passage “get it” and are so challenged and offended by Jesus’ message that they try to push him off a cliff. There are positive and negative aha moments. This is “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” Just because people “get something” doesn’t mean they’re going to like it.
Haha moments give a lot of personality to our services. We like to have fun. We want to be real with people. We want to connect with people. We don’t want to take ourselves “too seriously.” Our teaching team uses funny video clips or stories, but all to illustrate a point. I’m talking about human connection here (in this light, we do more than just laugh, sometimes we have to cry together when appropriate too).
Biblical Haha Moments
- Elijah and the Prophets of Baal – Speaking about Baal not answering his prophets: “maybe he’s going to the bathroom…” (1 Kings 18:26-27)
- Jesus’ teaching techniques – he used techniques like hyperbole (overstating to make a point) and exaggeration (“camel through the eye of a needle…,” or “…if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake?“)
- Peter, in his first sermon (maybe ever). Some in the crowd on the day of Pentecost were accusing Jesus followers of being drunk. But Peter “warms up the crowd” by saying, “These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that.” Zing! (Acts 2:15)
Awe, Aha, and Haha in the Early Church
But maybe you don’t buy it. Maybe I’m just “proof texting.” Consider this: the early church structured their worship together around 4 things: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Would these fit into the framework of awe, aha, and haha? I think so.
The apostles’ teaching seems like it would be full of “aha moments.” That’s an easy one. Maybe it also included some “haha moments.” Peter’s wit in Acts 2:15 (see above) is proof of that!
Where’s the awe moment? I think this is found in the “breaking of bread and prayer.” They shared “agape meals” (love feasts) together, but this “breaking of bread” phrase would’ve also included celebrating the Lord’s Supper. This moment of communion together with Christ, where Christ is the host of the meal and we remember his body broken and his blood shed for us, is most definitely an “awe moment.” Also, they were meeting for prayer together. In one early prayer meeting, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). I would say that’s an “awe moment.”
What about the “haha moment?” The Apostles seemed to communicate their teaching in such a way that people could connect with it in a way that was real and relevant in the same way that Jesus did (Paul, for instance, changes how he preaches based on his audience). But the haha moment is all about human connection and being real with one another. I think “fellowship” fits in this category. Who hasn’t experienced deep “haha moments,” in fellowship with other believers as we laugh together and swap stories with one another?
Awe, aha, and haha. Three moments that provide a simple way of planning and evaluating our services.
So what do you think? What are some of your favorite awe, aha, and haha moments in our worship services? Are there other moments that need to happen that aren’t included under awe, aha, or haha (The psalmists might stick with the rhyme scheme and say moments of “selah,” but that sounds like another article)?