In his book The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, Tom Asacker makes this point:
We only see what we’re prepared to see, and what we expect to experience influences what we do experience.
This has enormous implications on church, preaching, atmosphere in a service, etc.
Often, when a worship leader or pastor get on a stage, they expect everyone wants to be there. That everyone has prepared themselves to be there or agrees with everything that is about to happen.
Think for a minute about how different a church service is from anything else you experience in life.
Where else do you stand with a bunch of people you don’t know and sing songs (that you often don’t know)? Where else do you sit and listen to someone talk for 30-60 minutes? Don’t even get me started on the churches that have the “turn around and say hi to someone” moment.
You must as a pastor, help people be prepared for what is coming. You cannot assume they are there or ready for what is about to come.
Here are some ways to do this:
- Explain what you are doing. If you sing, tell them why. I’ll often say, “We’re going to sing some songs that we believe to be true.” I’ve just told them what is coming, why we are doing and what they mean. I’ve given them an out. If they don’t believe them to be true, just listen. Also, tell them how long it will be. We always say, “For the next 75 minutes” or “For the next 80 minutes” depending on the week. This lets them know, “I know you are curious as to how long this will last and now you can set your watch.”
- Have great signs. Atmosphere and worship start out in the road as people drive up and walk up to your building. Have great signs. They should explain where to enter, the front door, bathrooms, kids space, worship space and food. Your signs should be so good a guest should be able to navigate your church without ever having to ask for help if they want to.
- Assure them they don’t have to do anything. Give them an out. More than likely, they’ll take it anyway. But, by giving them an out you also communicate you know how they feel and that it is okay. Pastors, remember this: the New Testament is largely written to churches, filled with Christians. Don’t make those who don’t believe feel guilty if they don’t apply a passage. Yes, you want them to and tell them that. Also say, “You don’t have to do this, but if you do, here’s what you can expect _______.” Cast a vision for how amazing applying the truth of Scripture to your life.
- Talk as if they have no idea what you are talking about. This is what The Heath Brothers in their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die call the “curse of knowledge.” Christians and pastors forget what it is like to not understand the Bible. To not know the order of books of the Bible, what the sovereignty of God means, what justification or sanctification mean. Don’t assume everyone knows what you are talking about. If you use a big word (like the ones in the previous line), define them. It takes 10 seconds and if you don’t, you will give everyone who doesn’t know what you are talking about a great excuse to check out.