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It begins with worship

March 10, 2008

I have long contended that the worship service itself is the first thing a church should work on when beginning an evangelism project.  The worship service is the biggest relational event of the week, the one time that the pastor gets to connect with the whole congregation and the congregants get to connect with one another, and all get to connect with God together.

I’m aware that a strong case can be made for other pieces of church life; and I agree that small groups like Sunday School classes, United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, UMYF, Covenant Discipleship groups, Bible studies and even potlucks are extremely important.

But let me state my case.  If an evangelism project brings people to church for the first time, it is the Sunday morning experience that brings them back.  Part of that is the welcome, part of it is the Sunday School class (if they attend it on the first Sunday).  But the centerpiece is the worship service.  As a pastor that is the piece over which I have the most responsibility and the most control, and as such it is the place where I expend most of my energy.

In short, a spirit-filled worship service will most likely inspire a visitor to think, “Wow, something special is happening here and I want to be a part of it.”

And we’re beginning to see that focus pay off in the churches I serve.  One congregation which averages between 30 and 35 people per week  just had two families visit on the same Sunday.  They’ve been back every Sunday since.  They have begun participating in other aspects of church life as well.  One family’s son has served as an acolyte while mom has sung in the choir and joined in coordinating potlucks.  The other family also attends Sunday School, utilizes the nursery for their son, and has attended and contributed to “other than Sunday” events as well.

And I would like to think that it has something to do with the overall spirit in our worship services.   My preaching has a strong theme of “we’re all broken but God loves us anyway.”  I try to get each sermon to have a singular focus of good news that motivates and drives us to discipleship.  I want each sermon to have a point that sticks with you.  I imagine a friend asking a parishioner, “what did your preacher talk about today?” and the parishioner being able to respond in one simple sentence.

Our musicians are not professional quality players, but we love our music.  There is no question that our sanctuary is filled with the sound of us doin’ the best we can with what we’ve got – which is all you can really ask.  Seriously.  And the congregation has the attitude that “they’re not pros, but by the grace of God they’re OURS and we love ’em.”

“Passing the peace” and “joys and concerns” may run a bit long for some pastors’ tastes.  Rather than cut anyone short I simply try and frame it all in theological Christian language.  I don’t see it as an opportunity for a pastor to exert control over the service – it’s an opportunity to model a theological worldview.

Certainly there have been greeting cards, phone calls, follow-ups with visitors and other intentional welcoming efforts. But I think the worship service leaves us all with the feeling that God loves us, we love God, and we love one another.  I don’t think you can ask for better than that.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 10, 2008 12:08 pm

    Cool, thanks for sharing. I love hearing real live stories of God’s grace at work!

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