By Phil Spoelstra
Phil is the Assistant District Superintendent for Revitalization at the British Columbia and Yukon District of the PAOC. He is also a worship leader and song writer. You can connect with Phil here.
This post is a collaborative post from the various worship leaders of the BC & Yukon District of the PAOC. When asked the question, “How do you lead worship when there are non believers in the room?”, these were their answers ….
1. More praise. Less worship. Try a 3:2 ratio maybe.
Look at our worship experience through the lens of a non-Christian. Church is soooo boring and irrelevant. Especially our music. We want people to meet Jesus, but if they check out in the first few minutes of a service because they’re disengaged, you likely will not win them back.
If you don’t believe me, read “Why Men Hate Going to Church” by Dave Murrow.
We need to be upbeat and be celebratory and musically interesting. God doesn’t care about our ratio, but if we want to be culturally relevant, then this is both obvious and easy. Do songs that have copyright dates no later than 15 years old. PS – “Shout to the Lord” is too old.
Remember: we need to shape our worship experience so that we can musically engage the non-Christian if we want to give them Jesus as we know Him.
2. Talk normal.
Stop using a ‘platform voice’. Talk real. Don’t use ‘church language’. That “anti-markets” in a big way. Your non-Christian neighbour would start avoiding you if they saw the gap between the “you” that they know and the “you” that you display on a stage. And apply this to our preaching, announcements, offering, etc.
The Sunday morning experience is already an alienating experience. We need to do this better. And apply this to our lyrics too. Stop singing “Days of Elijah”. It is totally un-understandable to non-Christians, and let’s stop kidding ourselves, Christians don’t know what it means either.
3. Get rid of the weird.
There’s “Holy Spirit weird”, and then there’s “Worship Leader weird”. Do you know the difference?
Good news: we’re not about to tell the Holy Spirit what He should or shouldn’t do. But its amazing how many weird things we do, and we justify it as being “Holy Spirit influenced”.
Lead worship authentically and real. Look at your weird habits and filter them through how it might look through the eyes of your non-Christian friends. If its not biblically necessary, then maybe your habit is weird to guests.
One example: stop the long awkward pauses between songs. Christians love it. Non-Christians are looking at their watches and can’t wait to leave. Its more anti-marketing.
Remember: its not about us. We need to reach lost people with the message of the Gospel DESPERATELY because we are failing MISERABLY at fulfilling the Great Commission.
4. Play music that people are listening to.
God doesn’t have a favourite music style. But our culture does. And 9/10, they’re probably listening to today’s pop/rock/new country. Or they’re listening to classic rock, which is also still way more contemporary than what most of our churches are doing.
So use that as a means toward the end that we’re desperate for: reaching lost people.
God has placed us here and now to reach people here and now. Do seniors need Jesus? Of course – but their generation has had MANY opportunities to hear the gospel. Most of our churches are missing two generations – mine (I’m 48) and my kids (teenagers).
In conclusion: none of what I’ve just said will make any sense to you if you’ve never brought a personal non-Christian friend to church and looked at our services through their eyes.
Do that even once, and then you’ll finally get it. Until then, you’ll probably be arguing with this ‘revitalization thinking’ in your head and thinking that I’m talking about ‘watering down worship’. I’m not. I’m trying to stop us from doing church in a way that impresses and entertains Christians. HUGE difference.
If you can wrap your head around the fact that Sunday morning services were never intended to be “for Christians only”, then you’ll realize why the Church is dying at such a rapid rate and why we need to desperately Revitalize “how” and “why” we are doing things.
Wanna push back? Disagree? I welcome healthy discussion.
Please call, email or message me. I’d love to engage you with this topic dear to my heart.
God bless you all, my friends! – Phil Spoelstra
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