Archives For Worship

11 Simple Strategies for Helping Guests Feel Welcome

When I think back to some of the factors that have helped Saddleback grow through the years, one of the most important has also been one of the most overlooked.

If you want people to show up, you must be nice to people.

Sounds simple, right? It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even though most churches say they’re friendly, some of them really just mean their members are friendly to people they already know. They’re friendly to people who look like them and act like them.

And that doesn’t guarantee they’re friendly to guests.

You must be intentional in your friendliness. You don’t overcome unfriendliness by accident. You need to build friendliness into your worship service.

That’s why, early on at Saddleback, I instituted the three-minute rule. Guests are usually among the first to leave at the end of a worship service. Longtime members stay the longest. I’d tell my longtime members to find someone who looks like a guest (they are usually easy to spot) and talk with the person right after the service. I’d encourage them to spend some time getting to know these guests and making…

Continue Reading

Man Praying

We’re looking for better methods, machinery, and motivations, which are all okay, but God is looking for people to use. He is looking for leaders.

And for God to use the leaders, they must be men and women of God.

We have a sample of a leader’s prayer in the book of Nehemiah. You can learn a lot about people by the kinds of prayers they pray.

Remember that Nehemiah, when he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, prayed for four months before taking action. This is not just a casual prayer. The prayer we’re going to look at this week is just a sample prayer he prayed. It gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray as a leader, study the book of Nehemiah, and particularly examine the prayer Nehemiah prays in the first chapter.

Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah.

1. Base your requests on God’s character.

Pray like you know God will answer you . . .

I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a…

Continue Reading

Shapes Toy

Several years ago, I had a church search committee member call me to come to work for them. This gentleman was the second caller of two from the same place.  Both were charged with the mission of convincing me to make a career move.  While it was an honor to be sought after, I knew it was best to come to closure quickly on a request like this. I have found that to have a divided mind in this line of work makes an already consuming job become completely suffocating.  Before even considering what kind of carrot is being dangled in front of my face, I need to ask myself a few fundamental questions: Do I feel a sense of closure where I am currently serving? Have I done all that God intends for me to do in the fellowship where I work?  Have I learned from the Lord all that I am supposed to learn while in this place?

Back to the phone calls. We exchanged tidbits about each other’s locations. I conveyed that I felt extremely blessed to do what I do for a living and to be able…

Continue Reading

Prayer

At Grace Hills, having sensed something of the direction God was taking us as a community, we declared 2017 to be “the year of the breakthrough.” And we’ve seen breakthrough!

  • People have come to know Jesus and have been baptized.
  • Marriages have gotten back on track toward unity.
  • People have discovered and committed to biblical community.

And much more. God’s Spirit has been stirring our hearts as we’ve gathered before him. And it’s left us wanting more of what God wants to give us, which really means, it’s left us wanting to give ourselves more to his control and influence.

We held a worship celebration recently and referred to it as an “All In Gathering,” but it was really a meeting filled with prayer, praise, and a little bit of preaching, too. The night culminated in us huddling together as a church family around the stage, praying over our leaders and asking God to show us how to follow him into the future more faithfully.

1. God, Give Us a Breakthrough in Evangelism!

God, remove the blinders from the eyes of unbelievers so that the Gospel we are sharing will connect with their minds, hearts,…

Continue Reading

Time with GodAs pastors, our life-blood, our power, and our strength come from the time we spend with God. But if you’ve been in ministry for more than a few minutes, you may have noticed that as a pastor, spending time with God can feel like yet another task on the to-do list.

There’s a tension here — because something that used to feel like an intimate, refueling time with your Creator has now become a part of your job description.

This can sometimes threaten to steal the peace, rest, and connection it once had.

There’s also this incredible responsibility. We’re not just reading the Bible for ourselves anymore. We’re reading to study for our sermons or so we have an answer ready whenever someone needs a word from the Lord. Our prayer time isn’t just about our relationship with God anymore; it’s about filling up to pour back out.

So what do we do as pastors to have fulfilling quiet time with God, without it becoming another task on our to-do list?

Here are some tips that have worked for me. 

1. Change locations

If you find yourself in a rut, try switching locations for your quiet…

Continue Reading

Prayer on the Beach

“I will . . . station myself . . .” (Habakkuk 2:1 NIV).

If you want to get God’s vision for your life and ministry, you must want to hear it, you must withdraw to hear it, and then you must wait to hear it.

The New International Version says, “I will . . . station myself“( Habakkuk 2:1 NIV). What does it mean to station yourself before God? It means stay put. It means, “I’m not moving.” It means, “I’m going to be still. I’m going to sit here and I am not going to move until I hear from you, God.”

Hurry is the death of prayer. And, as pastors, we feel all kinds of pressure to get in a hurry. Yet God won’t speak to us as we run out the door. He wants us to care enough to linger and listen in our prayer time.

So many times, we’re running so revved up, we can’t slow down enough to tune in to God.

So, how do you slow down? You calm your mind by relaxing your body. You take deep breaths and you relax your muscles and let the…

Continue Reading

If you walk into the Little Lambs preschool choir rehearsal at Saddleback Church on any given week, you’ll hear tiny but powerful voices singing out with all their might.

Lyrics like “You are good all the time, all the time you are good” echo through the worship center. It is so precious to hear the praise of Jesus on the lips of our young children.

I have the privilege of mentoring children in what it looks like to live a life of worship. We are teaching children to become lead worshippers in the various kingdoms God has placed them in – school, family, church – and all of the activities in between.

It is both an honor and a responsibility that we are given to invest in these children now and not 10 years from now. They are today’s leaders, but they are too often sidelined in their ministry until they become adults.

At Saddleback, we understand and believe that these early years are the most formative, and we recognize the opportunity that we have to inform the foundational building blocks that will help shape these young worshippers. We take them seriously and always remind them…

Continue Reading

Ebb Flow

There is an ebb and flow to ministry life. We can quickly go from weeks that are jam-packed with meetings and multiple events, to the regular rhythm of planning and preparing for weekend services. And while the pace of ministry can sometimes be unpredictable, the presence of people is not. Our team, our volunteers, our family, our friends – they are with us through thick and thin. How we react and respond to the people around us during the extraordinary seasons of ministry says a lot about our leadership. One thing is sure:

We are in constant need of God’s grace.

There is so much joy that comes with leading others. But sometimes the leadership seat can be challenging and lonely. Remaining mindful of who we are in the light of God’s grace gives so much courage and direction when it comes to leading those around us. Here are five quick reminders of how God gently guides us with his kindness and grace:

When you don’t have the strength, God fills in the gaps.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When you make a mistake, God…

Continue Reading

Socrates

It’s truly a privilege to see others connect with God. As worship leaders, we get a front row seat to life change. There is no greater joy.

While leading worship is certainly life-giving and rewarding, it also demands that we pour ourselves out spiritually, emotionally, and physically. There’s no doubt that a day will come when you just don’t feel like doing it. You might feel tired or worn out; you might feel stressed or overwhelmed; or you might feel discouraged by events in the world that are tough to process.

David didn’t hold back when it came to being honest with God about how he felt. Throughout the Psalms, it is clear there were moments when David just wasn’t feeling it, so to speak. In Psalm 73, he was troubled and confused when he observed people doing wrong and getting away with it. Psalm 42 figuratively describes David in a deep ditch with mud weighing him down. In Psalm 42:3, David openly admits to a deep sadness: “I’m on a diet of tears – tears for breakfast, tears for supper” (Psalm 42:3 The Message). All of this as he recalls joyfully leading a great procession…

Continue Reading

Church Building

This week, walk around your church campus and try to see it through the eyes of a first-time guest.

We become so familiar with our surroundings that we become oblivious to the faded paint, the frayed carpet, the chipped pulpit, the stack of stuff on the piano, or the burned-out light bulbs overhead.

One way to combat this tendency is to do an Environmental Impact Report on your church. Take pictures throughout your facilities and show them to your leaders in order to figure out what needs to be changed.

Here are some environmental factors to pay close attention to:

1. Lighting: Lighting has a profound effect on people’s moods. Inadequate lighting dampens the spirit of a service. Shadows across a speaker’s face reduce the impact of any message.

Most churches are far too dark. I’ve noticed that even churches with plenty of windows often cover them up. Somehow, churches have gotten the idea, maybe from funeral parlors, that dimming the lights creates a more “spiritual” mood. I completely disagree.

I believe that church buildings should be bright and full of light. God’s character is expressed in light. 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light; in him there is…

Continue Reading

One of the reasons people are hesitant to try attending a church for the first time is that they’re not sure what to expect. In fact, they probably expect it to be a little bit awkward and uncomfortable.

Over time, it’s important for your church to become known as a place where people will be able to understand what’s happening. That doesn’t mean changing the message, but it does mean clearly explaining what is going on during the worship service.

If you use words like “prelude” or “convocation” without explanation, you’ll send the message that the service is intended for insiders and those who already understand what’s happening.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make people more comfortable in a church worship service that might be brand new to them.

1. Use easy-to-understand terminology.

Instead of “Invocation,” call it an “Opening Prayer.” Or better yet, don’t call it anything. Just have the prayer. No one really needs to know that a “Prelude” will be happening. Just play the music.

If you have a traditional altar call, or even an invitation for people to go somewhere for prayer, be very clear and specific in how you invite people to respond.

I’ve…

Continue Reading

Culture

“The modern Church is so consumeristic!” It’s a common line uttered by the religiously fed up, and of course, there’s a lot of truth in it. Some churches in America do tend to cater to the consumeristic mentality of our culture. But I think, on the whole, most churches don’t, and that’s actually part of the problem.

The modern Church has a perceived problem of consumerism. And it’s very popular to speak and write on the topic, preaching to the choir and an angry chorus of amens. The insinuation is that churches too often go out of their way to please seekers and make the Gospel palatable to nonbelievers, watering down the message and skirting hard truth in the process.

Does this happen? Sure it does. Some leaders, choosing the approval of people over the fear of God, invite people to an easy version of Christianity that never makes the invitation Jesus made to “come and die” with him. But let’s be honest for a moment. For every “six flags over Jesus” fun house version of church, there are dozens of churches that really couldn’t care less about what the average consumer thinks. And that may be the…

Continue Reading