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Posted on Jan 13, 2014 in Worship Ministry | 3 comments

Using Worship to Reach People without Selling Your Soul, Part 1

On which side of the aisle do you find yourself? Side A informs us that church gatherings are for seekers and church-outsiders; so, our content must be accessible to help them understand. Side B insists that church gatherings are for church people; thus, our content must be rich to help them grow.  Side A folks are looking across the aisle and thinking, “Those people don’t care at all about reaching people with the gospel.” While Side B-er’s are dead certain the A-er’s are selling their souls to an entertainment culture so they can build big (but surely shallow) churches.

Lost in all the commotion is…God, who–as it turns out–seems to care deeply about both the souls of people enslaved by sin and the songs of those set free by His Son. So how, indeed, do we go about leveraging our worship gatherings to reach people without selling our souls?

I realize one blog post (or, in this case 2…be sure to visit Part 2 of this discussion) could never put the period on such a discussion. But I think we could gain a lot more clarity by redefining a couple of key words that have become muddled in recent years.


Word #1: Quality
Somehow we’ve come to believe content determines the quality of our worship. What songs do we choose, how much scripture or prayer do we incorporate, how well is the music performed, how eloquent are those speaking? Actually, the quality of our worship depends on the people who are supposed to be doing the worshipping. Content only matters insofar as it serves to engage or disengage the people. Our confusion over this word has probably stemmed from the fact that we can control content much easier than people.  To say that the quality of our worship depends on the people renders our jobs much more difficult!

The quality of our gatherings is directly hindered by believers who: never pray on their own…view church as a source of entertainment…spend Sundays critiquing rather than participating…love tradition (or innovation, for that matter) more than the truth…are too busy to unclutter their minds for worship…are holding onto bitterness, resentments, un-forgiveness, or un-confessed sin. And what can we do about that?

  1. We can make certain we’re not personally in this group!
  2. We can strive to more effectively direct their attention in the Right Direction.
  3. We can use familiar songs to get them participating.
  4. We can teach, challenge, and personally influence.
  5. We can pray for our church…that God would draw each member to a purer and more truthful heart for worship.

I definitely owe John Dickson for challenging my old concept of worship quality. His chapter on worship in The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission is certainly worth reading, as is the whole book!

Do you agree with this definition of Quality? How do you strive to achieve it?

Visit Part 2 to read about the second word that needs redefining…

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Photo credit: KB35 / / CC BY


  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Neil. They are always well articulated and I enjoy reading them!
    One thing I would mention is that “worship” is not really meant for us. Our songs and our hearts and our adoration during our services are really meant for God alone. Or they should be. Our music themes can definitely vary depending on our churches or service style, but IMHO our music should be FOR the King. They may be songs that help us focus on Him and invite Him to work in our hearts. Or they may be songs that speak of what He is doing in our lives, or songs that are purely focused on Him – no mention of us – only God alone and Who He is. If we gather in His name, we don’t need to be singing songs about anyOne but Him. As non-believers come, it should be our prayer that they see Him in us, and see our love and joy for Christ and what He is doing and who He is.
    I know there are differing opinions, but as we study the Word and see what our gatherings are meant to be, it is hard to see anywhere that it says we should water down our worship so we don’t scare off non-believers.
    Keep on writing, brother, you are so gifted… !

    • Thanks so much, Jill!

      You are so right that it’s all about God. So often He (and what’s actually important to Him) gets lost in the worship discussion. I believe that when we worship God passionately and publicly together in front of unbelievers, we are a powerful witness. I often think of the temple in Jerusalem with its Court of the Gentiles as a great example of how this should work: As God’s people gathered to worship, the nations had a place to come observe. When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he prayed specifically for those who did not know God. Psalms like 96 talk about singing His praises in the hearing of outsiders. Jesus defended the proper use of the Court of the Gentiles when he cleared it of money changers.

      Like you, I don’t see what watering things down can accomplish. But I can see what making things more understandable and…….well, I better stop before I give away part 2! Ha :)

      Thanks again!

      • Love the examples, Neil. You are so good! :-) I am looking forward to Part 2.


  1. Using Worship to Reach People without Selling Your Soul, Part 2 | Blue Collar Worship: Lead Strong - […] words that have been muddling up the dialogue between different sides of this great debate. In the first part…

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