I spent my first year of little league in the outfield wasteland of right field. I think every novice player starts there. It’s where you pay your dues, where the coach decides if you have ADHD (I don’t think they had invented it back then), and where you learn to daydream. About twice a game I would get a ball hit my way – usually a grounder. I was dependable, showed up for practice, paid attention, and always struck out when it was my turn at bat.
The next year, I didn’t have to play right field anymore. I became the catcher. One year I couldn’t buy a ball sent my way. The next year, they were coming at me from every direction – pitched, bounced, fouled, popped, bunted. I went from a passive observer of the game, to the center of attention. By the end of each game I was dirty, tired and sore. But, I liked it that way. I slept well those nights.
Many people in our churches play right field. They passively sit by as a few people worship God for them. They daydream, and occasionally do something active. But most of the time, their minds and heart are disengaged. Before we put all the blame on them, let’s look at our own worship leadership. Last week I mentioned three ways to get worshipers to participate. I want to mention three more. These come from Constance Cherry’s book, The Worship Architect.
- Recognize that congregations have been largely oriented toward an audience mentality in our culture. They think of going to church much the same as going to a movie. Worship activity happens on the platform. Someone else, often a professional, is getting dirty, sore and tired. We need to find ways to redistribute that activity. Do we as leaders do things that inhibit this: too performance oriented in our motions and songs, too passive in our leadership, not asking for physical responses from the crowd or using music as the only worship response?
- Recognize that worship is work. That’s why we call it a “worship service”. We perform a sacred job by ministering to God. It should cost us something just as David pointed out in 2 Sam. 24:24. Think about ways to get the congregation involved in the leadership of the service. Prayers, scripture readings, live art, video production, ushering and testimonies are just a few.
- Recognize that encountering God in worship results in powerful responses. Anytime we meet the glory of God, we will be changed. We should expect that to happen each week. Do we ask for a response from people? They may want to respond, but are never asked. Have we prayed about the type of response God desires for a given service? Are there practical ways that we can invite the people to express inward change? Are we prepared for any natural emotional response that may occur.
My baseball career was unremarkable. But I still remember the transformation a simple position change made in my life at age 11.The same can happen to your congregation.