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Pastor Paul's Blog

A Room Full of Zombies

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roomFullofZombies

 

Last weekend I had some time off and had the opportunity to visit a church. It was a healthy growing church, everyone was friendly, the worship team was dynamic, and the sermon was strong. Yet at the end of the service I walked away disappointed.

The feeling wasn’t a result of something that directly affected me, but instead from something I observed happening to others. Actually, it was something that seemed NOT to be happening in others that had me feeling so uncomfortable.

Energy was exploding off the stage during the worship time… but that’s where it stopped. Hardly anyone in the room was actually singing. It was like I was standing in a room full of motionless zombies. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What is God thinking?” The One who is worthy of all our praise seemed to be getting snubbed. Now, granted, I can’t read the hearts and minds of everyone in a room, so there is no way to know for sure how much worship was actually taking place. But one thing could be measured: the volume of voices singing praise to God. Despite an ideal environment, a well-planned service, and a deserving God-- praise and worship was almost non-existent.

Now here’s the kicker…
I wasn’t visiting a church in a nearby city or out of state; I was attending White Flag. It was one of those rare weekends where I was out of the pulpit but not out of town. I could simply attend church with my family. Having no responsibilities, I sat in the middle of the room, excited to worship with my church. My excitement quickly turned to confusion as I noticed that the majority of the people in the room weren’t participating. Even when worship concluded and the sermon began, I kept thinking about the lack of passion I had just witnessed. If I’m honest, I left church feeling a mixture of emotions, and none of them good.

Now please don’t get me wrong. White Flag is an amazing church filled with incredible people. I have dedicated my blood, sweat and tears to her over the last eight years. I love White Flag and all the people that make up the church. I don’t want to purposefully offend any of you or paint anyone with a broad brush. BUT because I love you and want the best for you, I must suggest that--as a church--we have room for improvement in worship.

There are many possible ways to explain away the lack of involvement I observed on Memorial Day weekend. Trust me, I have played them all out in my head: It was just a one-time fluke. We primarily reach un-churched people who don’t know the words to all the songs we sing. It was a holiday weekend notorious for being one of the lowest attended services of the year, which means less critical mass and less energy.

It could be a lot of different things. But here’s the deal: I’m not interested in trying to solve the complex issues of why an audience sings or doesn’t sing in this blog.  I really just want to challenge our White Flag family to step up their 'worship game.'  God deserves our best and, to be honest, it’s just a lot more exciting to worship with a room full of people who are singing their hearts out for God. Oh yeah, and it’s biblical...

Ever wonder why we’re always introducing new songs?
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Psalm 96:1-2

Did you know that when you choose to sing, you’re telling those around you something about God?
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Did you know that you shouldn’t really ever say, “I don’t really feel like worshiping”?
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:23-25

I’m not a big fan of trying to manipulate or to generate energy. There’s nothing more annoying than listening to someone tell me how excited I should be about something. It’s not my job to manufacture energy or emotions for you. If you have truly encountered the Savior, passion should come naturally. That being said, we have a church full of people who have just begun their new walk with Christ and they’re still figuring out the whole worship/singing thing. So let me suggest a few pointers that will help you connect more with Jesus through worship and at the same time create a more engaging environment for everyone in the room.

5 QUICK TIPS:

#1 Familiarize yourself with the songs we sing. Our favorite worship music comes from bands like: Hillsong United, Elevation Worship, Bethel, Jesus Culture, Vertical Church, Life Worship, Urban Rescue, Phil Wickham and David Crowder. You can download any of these artists from iTunes and start listening to them during the week.

#2 Start worshiping before you attend the service. Worship is a lifestyle. The singing component will never make sense to you if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. My singing turns to worship right out of the gate because it’s not my first encounter of the week with God. I have had an entire week of facing challenges and turning to God for advice and forgiveness. I see God in creation and feel His Spirit at work in my life. By the time I get into a big room with my brothers and sisters in Christ and an awesome band starts playing songs written for praise and worship… Bam! I’m there. My worship is a response to who God is, and all that He has done. It’s never about how I feel.

#3 Get over the fact that you’re not a great singer. You’re not worshiping to impress the person next to you. We get it-- not everyone can sing in key. Some of you don’t even know what a “key” is. Just remember, you’re declaring truth about a mighty God and He’s more interested in your heart than your harmony.

#4 Connect with the songs. Don’t just stand there admiring the guy playing the drums. Close your eyes and listen to the words. If the words of the song are about lifting your hands up, then physically lift your hands up. If the song is about our King Jesus who reigns with power, maybe bow your head and hold your hands out as a posture of humility.

#5 Look alive! Remind yourself that you were once dead in sin but now you’re alive because a good God saved you from hell! The last thing our worship service should look like is a room full of “alive” people who appear to be dead.

YOU CAN DO THIS!

I know moving out of your worship comfort zone will be uncomfortable for many of you, but just remember… There was nothing comfortable about dying on the cross for Jesus.

LEADING THE CHARGE:

Phl&Mel

This weekend we will be officially introducing you to Phil & Melissa Porter. Phil has just stepped into a new role at White Flag as the Worship Architect. His job is to create the most dynamic, authentic and Christ-centered environments possible so that when people walk into our services they will encounter Jesus. Phil is an energetic leader with an incredible passion for leading worship. Trust me-- you will pick up on his energy as soon as you see him lead from the stage. The leadership of White Flag has been praying and searching for over three years for a leader like Phil. We can’t wait to see how God will use him to grow and deepen the worship experience throughout our church.

At the end of the day Phil can only do so much to create an environment for worship. YOU have to participate! So step out of your comfort zone and step into the worship experience.

I can’t wait to worship with you this weekend,
Pastor Paul

SIDE NOTE:
By the way, if any of my non-churchgoing friends (or self-proclaimed “non-emotional” Christian friends for that matter) happen to be reading this blog and think all this talk about raising hands and worship all sounds a little crazy… be sure to sit stoically with no enthusiasm or passion at your next Cardinals or Blues game. ☺ 

cards blues

 

7 Comments

I love the Music!!! I sing + dance. Cry happy tears!

Amen! The worship team is amazing, the worship lyrics are all heart and soulful, and the (incredible) music makes it all come alive. I also will pray that people lift their voices. I'm actually glad you addressed this because I've noticed it for the few years we've been attending White Flag and personally it is a little annoying to be one of the few in a surrounding area who sings and feels the beat of the music.

Paul,
Great blog. Although our family doesn't go to White Flag anymore, I still follow your sermons and love reading about the updates This also speaks to me, because there are some Sundays I'm just not "there", but thank you for reminding me that it's all about Him. Thanks for all you do!

The church I grew up in was full of singing and clapping and standing (without being asked) during worship.  I'm not saying we should all dance in the aisles but more interaction and enjoyment of worship would be OK by me!

Thank you for pointing out #3 above. For many years I mouthed the words to songs because I "don't even know what a key is". Inside of me my heart was filled with worship & love for my Savior. A good friend told me exactly what you said above "Sing it -- to the Lord" and so I do. I remember Psalm 98:4 "Make a JOYFUL noise"... God says nothing about an eloquent voice :)

Hi Paul.....we've been attending for several weeks now and love it. Last weekend we sat in the back because we had a very tiny visitor with us...a friends new, 4 weeks old, grand baby.  I too, was a bit surprised at the lack of engagement. Our friends even commented as well. We chalked it up to the holiday weekend. I would like to suggest one thing though... Can we possibly play something a bit more upbeat?  I really enjoy the services and the music. Sometimes it's hard to hear the singers though because the background music drowns them out.  Thanks for leading us!

Paul – as you were writing this, I hope you thought – there are a couple women at the 10:45 service who will know I'm not talking to them! I absolutely agree with your blog. There might be those who say that that lively worship is directed to the younger people in our church. Well, I'm 64 years old and I can rock with the best of them! And I agree that if you can shout out your love and enthusiasm for your favorite sports teams, you can shout out your love for the Lord. Sometimes I even feel that we do disservice to the group of musicians on the stage by calling them the band. They are a worship team and as worship leaders, they and their music are supposed to be leading me to open my mind to the words of the sermon to come from you or Doug. And they do. I understand that our church is comprised of people who have left organized religions to join our church and they may not be used to the open expressions of worship but all the Scriptures you quoted point to the fact that God Wants our adoration and worship. Maybe it's our mid western culture. Maybe people feel that openness and raising your hands in worship is just a showy thing to do. I would have to say when I raise my hand, it is an act that says I am surrendering and waving my white flag for God and I don't care who sees me as long as God does. I would like to challenge anyone reading this to step up their worship game next weekend and show God we are more enthusiastic for Him than any sporting event.

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