I go to a lot of churches and see a lot of different worship services, both contemporary and traditional. I’m constantly amazed at how many of these services seldom consider the presence of non-believers in the audience. Let me give you some examples.
I was in a church the other day that said it was contemporary but it used the registration pad for visitors to sign in – you know, the one you fill out and pass down the aisle. In this case, the pastor said, “After you’ve signed in, pass the pad down the aisle and take note of anyone new on the aisle and welcome them after the service.” I thought to myself that if I were trying out a church for the first time and I thought someone was going to approach me I would never come back. If you’re using the registration pad, get rid of it and use a confidential connection card. Remember, unchurched people today are some of the most skeptical people ever when it comes to organized religion. Let them be anonymous as long as they wish to.
A couple of years ago, I was worshiping in a mainline church on Easter (I was traveling from one point to another and just stopped in). Guess what? They took communion on Easter Sunday. Now of all Sundays, I wouldn’t do communion on Easter. If you want to make an unchurched person or non-believer uncomfortable, just serve communion. First, they don’t know what to do. Second, they shouldn’t take communion in the first place. Third, if they don’t go forward, they stick out like a sore thumb.
I think the one that takes the cake happened several years ago. I was consulting in a church that had grown from 0 to 300 in two years and now was on a plateau. They thought they were on a plateau because they had lost the home-grown, personal feeling. So guess what they began doing when their numbers fell to around 280 in worship. They began asking the visitors to stand up and tell the congregation their name. Can’t you just imagine the unchurched people ducking for cover and running for the door?
Not long ago, I sat through 14 minutes (I always time the sections of a service) of announcements at the beginning of the service before anything else happened. By the time the guy had finished, I had surfed to another channel, was emailing a friend, and couldn’t wait for the right time to exit.
Folks, it’s imperative that when you are planning worship you keep the unchurched and the non-believer in mind. Try to avoid making them uncomfortable with anything but the gospel. I like to put it this way – your job is to provide a safe place to hear a dangerous gospel, not a dangerous place to hear a safe gospel.
Next time you’re planning worship, ask yourself this: “Will this draw the visitor into the service or make them uncomfortable?”
Question: What worship mistakes have you witnessed? Share your stories in the Comments section below.