Imagine with me for a moment if you will that you are a first time guest at an apostolic church. You’ve heard stories of this hand clapping, foot stomping, all around rambunctious group of Christians, and you’re experiencing this for the first time. A minister welcomes the congregation and then the first note is played. The band picks up and the singers begin to sing. This overwhelming sensation comes over you and it’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before. You can’t describe it, but there is something different about this group of worshipping christians. Half of the worship set has been played and there is an intermission of sorts as another, possibly the same, minister gets up and begins to make announcements about the church. He smoothly segues into the receiving of the offering. While doing this, he makes some remarks that gets a resound “Amen” from the crowd, and you, being the first time guest sit there somewhat confused, but you continue to enjoy the services any way. You politely stand and give in the offering at which time the musicians and singers begin to lead the congregation into worship again. After just a few moments, that same unexplained feeling returns and you are standing there in complete wonderment. In a zealous effort to coerce more worship from the congregation, the worship leader rattles off a string of words that some of the congregation responds to, but you, the first time guest, didn’t quite understand. The indescribable feeling that you had is slowly subsiding because you’re now standing there not in awe and wonderment, but completely confused by the words of the man or woman leading worship. You begin to feel that there is an inside joke or story that you weren’t privy to. Some of the things that are said leave you more confused rather than enlightened. The preacher now stands and delivers an excellently prepared sermon, but throughout makes certain comments that everyone would laugh at or shout at, but you, being a first time guest just didn’t quite understand. The altar call is given, and you politely stand again, but due to your confusion, you aren’t compelled to come to the altar. At the conclusion of the service, you make your way to the double doors that lead to the foyer where various people greet you with a smile. You make your way back to your car, and you drive home feeling that you had just attended the meeting of a social club that wasn’t accepting new members at this time.
Although I would love to tell you that the preceding story was a work of fiction, I can’t. This was a story that was shared with me by someone I work with. Sadly, this person has yet to return to an apostolic church, although I am working to change that.
As I sat and listened intently to the words this person spoke, I tried to commit them to memory because it was giving me some incredible insight. After the conversation ended, I quickly made my way to a computer where I now sit writing to you on this issue that must be addressed.
Being ministers, whether it be a music minister or any other type in the church, we spend a lot of our time catering to the needs of people. We go to hospitals, nursing homes, and make home visits. We council and meet with various people concerning issues that they may be facing. A lot of our time is spent catering to the needs of the people in our churches.
When it comes to our church services, who is our services directed toward? Are we formatting our services so that they are “guest friendly” so to speak? I ask this because we should be building our services with guests in mind. We should be striving to make our services as guest centered as possible and do so without sacrificing a move of the spirit. Seeing that we are Apostolic, a moving of the spirit should be expected in our services. That being said, we don’t have to sacrifice this moving to make guests feel more at home in our services. Don’t misunderstand my position on guest centered services We should strive to let God lead in a service, but we should also keep in mind that not all people share a background in this great faith.
So, with all of that being said, I have came up with a few things that I believe every church can do to make their services more “guest friendly”:
I feel that I should give you a quick definition before elaborating on this. A “churchy” saying is something that is said that only seasoned members of the church would understand. I don’t want to give you an exact saying because I want to avoid being offensive. Simply put, you should consider the things that you’re saying in your services and make sure that anyone from off the street can understand these things. We want to make sure that each person in our services can clearly understand what each person is saying. If we do this, we are sure to create a much more inviting feeling and a feeling of inclusion that some people are searching for.
This is especially important for worship leaders. Some people aren’t comfortable shouting “The enemy has been defeated” at the top of their lungs. Be careful so that you aren’t asking someone to do something that they aren’t comfortable with. When I first started leading worship, I asked people to raise their hands and praise the lord quite often. I stopped this when a guy told me that he was trying his best to raise his hands but that he couldn’t without showing his belly. He honestly wanted to join in with worshipping the lord but was hindered due to his wardrobe. This may seem silly to some, but to him, it was like he couldn’t be included in that worshipful moment. Make sure that we’re exhorting the people to worship in a way that everyone can get involved and in a way that everyone understands.
As a worship leader that also preaches, I try to be very sensitive when it comes to how I worship lead. Make sure that you aren’t turning this time of worship into a time of preaching. A friend of mine affectionately refers to this as a “sneak-a-preach.” A moment where you take the liberty to throw around your feelings on a specific issue is just that, a “sneak-a-preach.” Make sure that everything you say during the worship service aides the congregation in worship. This portion of service is set aside for just that. Let me clarify, there are moments where worship leaders need to follow the spirit, and this sometimes requires them to exhort in a way that may be seen as “preachy”. You have to do what you feel the Lord is telling you to do. Just make sure that you are considerate of the crowd when doing so.
One thing I love about the church where my wife and I serve as the music ministers is that it’s a multicultural church. We see people from all different backgrounds in our services. Our song selection reflects our multiculturalism. A friend of mine discussed multiculturalism with me. He opened my eyes to the true definition of a multicultural church. When you hear that word, your mind immediately thinks of churches with multiple ethnicities represented. While this is a part of it, multiculturalism includes other groups as well. The multiple age groups represented in your services represents multiple cultures. We need to consider these things when selecting the songs for a specific service. Think about what cultures are represented. Consider doing a song from a hymnal, but adding your own flavor to it. This would draw the older age group into worship. We should be doing multiple genres in any given service that we can draw each and every person together to worship. Think of the youth in your church and make sure that some of your songs are geared toward them. You may say that I’m just doing this to appease the people. That isn’t the case. I’m reaching out to them on a personal level and drawing them into worship God by singing a song that they can connect with. We have to remember that the key to retaining guests is by getting them connected!
As you read over this article, I hope that something stirred up in you the way that it did in me. We have to make our services geared toward our guests all while maintaining our stance on biblical issues concerning holiness and salvation. You don’t have to sacrifice the moving of God’s spirit to make your services more guest friendly. The moving of the spirit is what people will be most attracted to. The problem arises when we let ourselves get in the way. Make sure that you are always attempting to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. Make sure that you are communicating in way that can be understood by all. Most of all, keep God’s purpose for HIS church first. That purpose being the propagation of the gospel. If you do this, you are sure to succeed.
We would love to hear from you! If you, or your church, have implemented some things that are geared toward your guests, leave a description in the comments below!