encouraging a unified worship experience

The Top Issue Facing the Church Today (From a Worship Pastor’s Perspective)

discipleship-edit2-1024x1024This week I was chatting with some new friends. We were discussing a little of everything including "church stuff". During our conversation one of the guys said, “Ok, this is not a trick question but what do you believe to be the top 3 issues in the church today?”  Well, as you all know, I am always up for giving my opinion! However, this question took me by surprise and made me pause and think.

As pondered the question, many thoughts came to my mind. As everyone watched and waited for my answer, I am sure they expected me to say something related to worship or music because that's what I do! But as I thought about this question, my mind raced to even more poignant issues facing our churches. I thought of the decline in evangelical churches over the past few years. I recalled a 2002 survey of over 1,000 U.S. churches, where Thom Rainer"s research team found that only 6% of the churches were growing (he defines growth as not only increasing in attendance, but also increasing at a pace faster than its community"s population growth rate). I thought of the apathy of many of church members towards each other and the unchurched. I thought of differences in doctrine that are splitting some churches and even denominations. As these thoughts hurriedly rushed through my mind, I came to the conclusion that all of these issues boil down to one single area…

wait for it…

Discipleship (you didn't see that coming did you?).

Yes, I believe that discipleship (or the lack of it) is the one major issue in our churches today. You see for years we, as evangelical protestants have highlighted evangelism to the detriment of discipleship. We have had classes on evangelism. We have encouraged people to “walk the aisles” and accept Christ. Sadly, once these people are on our church rolls and our annual church report numbers increase, we forget about them and never encourage them to grow in their new found faith. Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe that the only way to heaven is grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I also fully understand the importance of inviting people know Christ as savior. However, the priority of discipleship must become paramount in our churches. When this happens, evangelism will follow suit.

One thing I have seen change in my almost 22 years of ministry is people. People today want personal contacts. The blanket invitation to do something simply does not work anymore. For instance, if I post an invitation in the weekly church announcements to join the worship ministry I usually get no response. However, if I call or email them personally, I see much more success. This thought process has rolled over into the unchurched. The unchurched people will not typically respond to a mass mail out, newspaper ad or billboard. In fact, if they are in the seeker stage, they have no idea what this “religious stuff” means! However, if someone befriends them, shows they care, builds a relationship and then invites them to church, the chances of them attending increases exponentially.

How does discipleship play a role in this? Well, people are drawn to …people. If those within the church are not discipled to grow in their faith, how can they encourage someone to come to Christ?

If people are discipled and growing in Christ, this passion and love will automatically radiate from them. They will see the need to befriend a neighbor. They will see the need to give to the work of ministry. They will see the need for inviting others. They will see the need to disciple others. They will see how minor the color of the carpet is or the style of music being used. When people are excited about Christ, they are excited about their church. When people are excited about their church, they invite the unchurched to attend church. When unchurched people attend church they hear the Gospel. When people hear the Gospel, they accept Christ. When they accept Christ, the church grows. You see, discipleship must drive everything we do as the church. Jesus said this himself in Matt. 28:18-20 when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

It is obvious that discipleship is a priority for Christ, is it for us? Are we growing daily in our walk? Are we encouraging others to grow in their walk? As musicians and worship leaders, discipleship can often be missed as we focus on our music and the upcoming worship time. However, if we who lead worship are growing as disciples, I firmly believe that our worship will become more heartfelt and Christ honoring.
These are my thoughts, what are yours?