variety of people  Have you ever wished you just had a different group of people in your worship services?  Though most pastors and worship music leaders would never say such a thing (at least not outloud), some certainly indicate that such is the case.  Most all of us understand that it is hard to lead worship when the people gathered do not seem to respond to what the leaders are asking them to do.  So, leaders, when this is the case what shall we do?  Where and how can we get different people?

Here are a few common approaches that I have observed being enacted by church leadership:

  • Leaders change the worship service style of music, hoping to attract different people to populate the pews for worship
  • Leaders offer worship in different time frames hoping to discover new people meeting at different times
  • Leaders initiate different worship venues in addition to the current one, with a hope of attracting different people

In each of these scenarios the engineering that is taking place has to do with the physical, social, or stylistic environment in the worship service.  No doubt, these issues can and should be addressed regularly by leaders in relation to the context and mission of the church involved.  Ultimately, however, they seem fundamentally rooted in an external focus, which is tentative at best, and quite possibly misguided in the long term.

Perhaps the way we have different people in worship has less to do with attracting new people into the church, and more to do with transformation of the people who are with us at present.  Working toward having different people in worship is not only advisable, it is actually what happens when genuine spiritual worship occurs.  We must, however, not get the proverbial cart before the horse.  You see it is likely that before we add different individuals to our faith community’s body of worshipers, we need people who become different.  I know, I know….you are thinking, “oh, you just don’t know our folks. They are not going to change and be different.”

Well, brothers and sisters, perhaps we are looking at “different” all wrong.  Maybe we focus too much on change that is surface, and not enough on the transformation of life that only occurs in worship that is done “in spirit and truth.”   Perhaps we need to focus less on whether these people will learn “a fresh, new song,” and instead help worshipers know the fresh breath of the Spirit, allowing that to be reflected in familiar as well as new expressions of spiritual worship and praise.

I admit growing weary of attempts to change the wrappings of worship, when there is strong biblical evidence that, as Bryan Chapell says, “the gospel shapes its own container.”[1]  Nevertheless, this article is not just another moss-laiden attempt at reviving the old songs, or so-called “traditional worship.”  Uh…it is all traditional, and it is at once all brand-spankin’ new.  And, truth is that churches whose people experience spiritual renewal will also likely find their way through the stylistic and environmental maze of issues related to how we can gather people in a spiritually united fashion to both remain open to continual reformation, while likewise remaining true and respectful to our heritage of faith practice in community worship, all the while reaching and engaging those outside our fellowship with the hospitality of the Gospel itself, in all its attractiveness.

I write from a passionate desire to encourage trust in Gospel-shaped, Christ-centered, Spirit-inspired worship.  I hunger for the conversation of worship planners and leaders to center on how we can lift up Christ in worship in a biblically faithful, theologically sound, yet culturally sensitive manner.

[1] Bryan Chapell Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2009), pg. 111.

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship


  1. John Morris Says:

    Great blog, Paul, as usual!

    Sent from my iPhone John Morris 865.235.7915

  2. Jim Murray Says:

    Paul, sorry I missed you the other night after the Solemn Assembly at Hermitage Hills. Thank you for the sensitive worship in what was a very reflective time for me. I feel the same frustration as you expressed in this blog when our people don’t respond as we would like. If we are in right standing before the Lord with our own worship, I will leave the changing to the Lord. After all, I may be the stumbling block instead of the folks. Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me. This is my prayer each time I set down to prepare a service order.

    • Definitely the right spirit for worship planning and preparation, Jim. It is crucial that we do as you indicate and let the Lord bring about the changes in people’s hearts and lives, even as we must allow Him to bring about change in our own lives.

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