Monday, May 29, 2006

Epic Churches for Epic Times

E(xperiential)-P-I-C – Part 2

I apologize for not posting on Friday. My intent is to post Monday – Friday each week. We are in the middle of moving from one house to another—I am still pastoring Evergreen Presbyterian Church. We were finishing the last of the painting at the “new-to-us” house and did not have time to post. Sorry!

I have a lot to learn concerning “experiential.” I use to think that it was projection units, lighting and sound. They may be an important part but they aren’t “it.” Not all post-moderns pilgrims want that “style” of worship. Some like candles and quiet.

I think the first step in becoming “experiential” is a change of mindset. It never ceases to amaze me that the Apostle Paul could change his method and message to reach different populations but churches that do that very thing are called “consumeristic.” (sp?) We want post-moderns to come to worship we like, at a time that is convenient for us, dress in a way we like, sit and listen to “the educated one” do all the talking and then stay after church and drink horrible tasting “church coffee.” HOW ARROGANT WE ARE!! Jesus went out to the “sinners.” He communicated to them in a way that spoke to their hearts. The “church people” hated it. Our Lord responded that it is the sick that need a doctor. Our churches (THAT IS YOU AND ME) are keeping these same “sinners” from the one who came to save them. WE NEED TO REPENT!


Let’s start thinking serious about being experiential. What are some things we can do besides projection and sound? Projecting pictures is more powerful than text. It is hard to find an appropriate image—but it is worth the effort.

It may be time to start “satellite” worship venues. Let’s face it, those in our churches in their 70s – 90s don’t want their worship service significantly altered. Many post-moderns are skeptical of the organized church. So if they won’t come to our building we should be like Jesus and adapt! Start a worship experience in a local coffee shop late in the evening as the shop would normally be closing. PAY THEM for this time and have them keep selling their coffee (after all, how many of your churches have a rule of “no coffee in the sanctuary”). One local church started their college age ministry this way. They had no plans for these people to migrate to their “church building.” They hired a professional surfer (who is a strong Christian and friend of my son) and his wife to lead the ministry. It grew so rapidly that they had to leave the coffee shop because they grew too big for it! That is thinking outside of the box.

Appropriate podcasts.

Who listens to podcasts? Younger people. I am amazed at how many podcasts are just like our Sunday morning worship experience. That’s fine if the target audience is just like that of Sunday morning! If we are going to reach a different people group then we need to transform our podcasts. I have not moved into the podcast arena yet. I want mine to be good. I want it to target a different audience. So until I am ready to accomplish that goal I wait (this move is sucking a lot of my free time). My plan is to listen to good podcasts that are geared to the 20 – 30 year olds--my do diligence. Then do it right the first time.

Interactive messages.

Theologically, we like to say that everyone in the worship service is an active participant. Ask the person in the pews if this is true. I think we will be surprised by their answers. Scratch that—as a pastor you are not the person to ask them--they will give you the answer that they think you want them to give. Enlist some “under cover” agents to casually ask the worship attendees if our messages and worship services are interactive. We won’t like the answers, is my guess! What about our prayer time when we take prayer requests? Yes, that can be interactive. It is also the most boring and misunderstood part to the worship for many in our target audience. This normally only involves those who are comfortable enough with the church to stand up in public and tell their prayer request. What did our church do? We take written prayer requests on our registration form. These prayer requests are e-mailed (9 are snail mailed) out to a prayer group of over fifty persons—that’s half our congregation. The first week we did it the number of prayer request increased over three fold—and the numbers have not dropped! We can’t assume that people know how to pray. We can’t assume that people know the Lord’s Prayer (we project the words). Here’s what I suggest we can do to make our messages interactive…

  • Get out of the pulpit—you become one of the group.
  • Get rid of the robe—you say it is Presbyterian to wear that robe and its not. The original robe was an “educational” robe that had shorter sleeves, did not zip or button and was a symbol of the school you were a part of. Today they are something to show that we are more educated than others in our church. Jesus preached and taught in his regular clothes.
  • Stop reading your sermon—it bores almost everyone.
  • Ask questions of the congregation and have some of them respond to your questions—be sure to repeat their responses so everyone can hear.
  • Have people DO SOMETHING during the message. Have them turn to the person next to them and talk about something—anything. Have them get up and move. Our Easter service had a huge bridge that represented Jesus being the bridge of life. People were invited to walk across the bridge during our final three (yes, three) worship songs (they were of the more contemporary style). What happened brought people to tears. The majority of the people who walked across the bridge were our oldest and our youngest. It was one of the most powerful things to happened at our church in the almost ten years I have been there. Have people DO SOMETHING.

So much for my ramblings.

What are your ideas of how we can make our worship more experiential? Make our churches more experiential?


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