Have you ever wondered what seekers feel when they come to your church? One of the most common reasons people give as to why they will not attend a service is because they don’t know what to do or feel like they will not know what is going on.
As preachers and worship leaders, we can help make it easier for people to overcome that hurdle. Sometimes all it takes is an explanation for 30 seconds or less. Doing so opens the door for acquiring the small bit of knowledge to launch a seeker into a participant.
Years ago I learned a very important lesson about preaching: Don’t assume the people listening know what you are talking about.
Whether we consider our time as the post-church era or recognize how many people have little to no history within the Church or knowledge about the Bible, to understand the knowledge divide between the pulpit/platform and the pew is essential.
Preaching for those who need it
Let’s be honest. If we are speaking to or leading worship on Sunday morning and all we have are people who have grown up in the church and are able to recognize every passing reference as it applies to the Bible, we have missed out on the mission of reaching the lost.
There should be people in our churches at different stages in their journey of being Jesus followers. Seekers with little to no knowledge. New converts who are increasing their knowledge base. Hungry believers who are growing beyond the basics into the wider pages of Scripture.
Have you ever used or heard the phrase, “You know what the Bible says,” or, “Say it with me,” or “Everyone knows this one”? Assuming common familiarity with our church’s lingo or the Bible in general quickly draws a line between those who know and those who don’t.
The larger the setting, the more likely there will be people who don’t know the assumed connections to the Bible and church. Chances are, having those people there was the goal of the large gathering. We have to be careful to take the time to inform them rather than alienate them.
The lost, lonely, broken, confused, hurting, sick … these are the people we want to be preaching to. Sometimes the reason they are in those situations and conditions is because they don’t know Jesus or the Bible. Their the ones who need the Gospel the most. We should preach and teach so they can understand, not so they feel left out.
Remove obstacles to worship
One of the popular new worship songs is “Jireh” (recorded by Elevation Worship and Maverick City). As I listened to it for the first time, it dawned on me how we are potentially inviting people to join in a declaration of something they may not understand.
Of course, then my adult daughter asked me the question: “Dad, who is Jireh?” Head flop. Pastor’s daughter does not know “Jireh” is connected to the Bible. (On the bright side, it meant she doesn’t have the old chorus in her programming.)
A quick explanation, and she was all set. All of it made sense after that. But how many people don’t know who Jireh is? What if we inadvertently dropped a hurdle for worshipers that could be just as easily wiped away?
We don’t have to go into the whole story, which can be complicated and open up another can of worms. But we don’t want them to wait until they get home to Google it, do we? We should be able to pop out a quick statement to clear the obstacle.
This new song talks about Jireh, which is one of the names of God in the Old Testament. People gave Him names to recognize how He moved in their lives. Jehovah Jireh means The Lord who Provides, or God my Provider. Let's worship the God who provides for us today.
It is worth the effort
When I first learned this lesson I was pastoring a Pentecostal church with 80 years of history in the community. My first mid-service explanation came after the use of tongues and interpretation in a Sunday service. I took a short moment and said something close to this:
What you've just heard is a spiritual gift listed in the Bible. We believe God can speak to us through other people by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is telling us ____. Let's take a moment and respond in worship and prayer.
How do I know my response in that moment? Because I had prepared it ahead of time, and I used something like every time I needed to. There were several occasions where I was approached after service and thanked by a visitor for that quick explanation.
Some had never experienced it before, and my calm statement and leading helped them relax and know what happened was okay. Others were used to the gifts being ignored and the service just picking up where it was “interrupted.” I also heard folks say they never really knew what to do with such a moment before and appreciated the direction.
Those with the greatest face time have the greatest opportunity. Pastors, worship leaders, service hosts, lay leaders. People are looking to us for direction and information. It’s more than instructions to sit or stand, sharing announcements or how to give an offering during a pandemic.
Leadership is taking the time to inform and educate why we do things, how to do respond, or the meaning of a term we take for granted. Clear obstacles to faith journeys and experiences. We may never hear words of thanks, but those we help with this little bit of guidance will be grateful.