As many of you know, our church is prayerfully seeking God about planting a church in our area. (You can hear our Senior Pastor talk about here, if you like.) We’re still early in the process, but I can tell you that the pastors at Bethel are praying and planning and working and trying to figure out we’re gonna’ pull this off!
Naturally, I’m getting a lot of questions like, “Hey, how are you gonna’ provide worship at the new campus?” or “What kind of songs will they be singing?”
The honest answer is: I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out.
However, there are some core values as well as very real challenges to something like this.
- This thing is simple. Personally, one of my least favorite worship questions sounds something like this: “So, what’s your long term vision for worship? I mean…where do you see our team in a year?” That’s a hard question to answer because most of the time, people aren’t asking me about practicalities. They don’t want to know what I think about our rhythm section or what our rehearsal schedule will look like. They’re asking me where the Lord’s gonna’ “take us” or what’s “next level” for our worship. It’s not necessarily a popular answer, but my reply is usually this:
“Well, in a year, we’ll gather together and we’ll sing songs that are true about God and we’ll read scripture together and we’ll pray as God’s people. Just like the church has done for thousands of years.”
Somewhere in church culture, we’ve started believing this idea that the ministry of worship was created so that those that lead it (musicians, pastors, etc.) could work out their own spiritual maturity on stage in front of everybody. But to think this way is to put the act of worship on a pedestal that it doesn’t deserve – to make it an event and not a discipline. With church planting, it’s helpful to realize that while specifics vary, the core of what we do in worship is pretty simple. We’re the ones who’ve muddied the waters with revivalism.
- Every church is unique. When it comes to specifics, however, we can’t paint all churches with the same brush. It would be easier if every church were the same, but it wouldn’t be healthy. As a worship pastor, I’ve got to be committed to “eyes in the field” – either myself or someone in my team who can get to know the people of a new church campus and figure out who they are. At Bethel, we have this phrase – “worship should be indigenous.” I’m not saying that the needs of God’s people change from church to church. What we need in our worship times is pretty simple and clear. However, finding the best way for folks to engage and learn that varies from place to place.
- We do this every week. We tend to think of leading worship like a half-time show at a high school football game – a glittery, attention grabbing, fast-paced show that you have to perform every week. But it’s not that. Leading worship is more like being a really great nurse who’s loving and consistent and caring for a patient as that person grows more healthy. The ministry of worship isn’t event-based. We strive toward excellence, of course, but we realize that the life of a church is a long one. It’s not about picking 5 perfect radio hits that give people goose-bumps. It’s about loving people week in and week out and leading them in obedience and gratitude day after day.
- Bodies. Yep…the hardest part is finding people to make it happen. And for the purpose of this post, I’m speaking specifically about the people need to make the service elements happen…musicians, technicians, engineers, etc. In our situation, we’re merging with another church with a existing church family and consistent meeting time. However, there’s not an existing group of musicians and technicians, so we’re faced with the challenge of sharing our talents (and people) with our brothers and sisters down the road.
- Identity. This “indigenous” thing is great, but it’s hard! A second challenge to church planting is fighting the temptation to operate in cookie-cutter mode. Sure, we’re all kinda’ the same, but as a worship pastor, I can’t assume that I can just guess at what multiple congregations need. My team and I want to know our people – to balance our decisions with the pastoral and the priestly. It’s easy to play my greatest hits, but it’s probably not best.
- Success. I’ve been at Bethel for three years and to a degree, by now, I have some idea of what success looks like in our church. I’m getting to know these people and a big component of our ministry is honestly assessing where we stand. In a new place, that’s harder, especially if I’m not there to observe every service.
I’m excited and challenged by this opportunity. I also have that good terror about it – that hang-on-to-God-because-I-don’t-have-a-clue thing.
Some of you work in multi-site formats. Got any wisdom for me?