I wrote this book review several years ago for New Wineskins.
The title of Nancy Beach’s debut book, An Hour On Sunday, suggests her belief that dynamic spiritual change can happen in a Sunday morning worship hour. Church ministries, she says, depend upon the teaching and enthusiasm the Sunday morning worship hour can create. “When Sunday mornings inspire, envision, and equip those who attend, a buzz of excitement is generated that feeds all the sub-ministries and events,” Beach says.
Artists who read this book will learn about “the wonder of Sundays, intentionality, leadership, community, evaluation, well-ordered hearts and lives, excellence and creativity.” Christian churches have lost the wonder and awe found in passionate worship. Yawns seem to be the more typical response to worship. Believers and seekers alike are bored with the way many churches “do church.” Part of the problem, according to Beach, is that leaders lack intention. Who are we trying to reach, and are we trying to reach them in authentic, appropriate ways? Do we evaluate our work, or do we just do what we have always done? Are we, as leaders and artists, maintaining well-ordered hearts and lives, so that God can work through us to create excellence?
Excellence, however, can be a touchy subject. I recently commented about worship excellence in a Sunday class and left one person thinking I was saying we ought to have an advance degree in religion to lead. I was not saying that at all—rather, my comment was closer to Beach’s idea in that we must not accept mediocrity. God expects us to plan and prepare. There should not be an “obsessive pursuit of perfectionism,” but we cannot expect to prepare and rehearse a worship service right before we lead others in worship. Worship is a serious time of reflection and meditation, and it should not be taken lightly, but it should not rob its leader-participants of experiencing God either.
Beach stresses the importance of community. The artist temperament can contribute to moral challenges that others may not face. Perfectionism can rob an artist in the church of a big picture perspective that can lead to tunnel vision about their own art, rather than focusing on worship. The fallout can worsen and cascade into family and community ruin. For example, long rehearsal hours, intense performance times, and the passionate nature of acting can bring unsuspecting men and women into adulterous affairs. It is vitally important that artist leaders hold their volunteers accountable in small groups that meet, apart from rehearsing their respective art. Beach says there have been several times during her thirty-year ministry that she wishes she had been more observant and willing to lovingly confront her artists. Families might have been saved from divorce, and people might have been saved from leaving the church.
Beach concludes that artists must seek to be transformed first, then offer transformational teaching. Beach preached a Mother’s Day sermon that opened in her mind’s eye the connection between church artists and teaching pastors. “More than ever before, I long for people who attend church to drive away saying, “That message impacted me.” Transformational teaching is the foundation of any powerful hour on Sunday,” Beach wrote.
That One Hour on Sunday becomes perhaps even more significant than a blockbuster movie, and the value of transformational teaching deeply embedded in the mind of a seeker can indeed change a life eternally.