Church Plant Worship Considerations (Stephen Sharkey)


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Stephen Sharkey, a seasoned worship pastor and new church planter, presents some excellent insights on worship considerations, especially for the early formative days of a church plant.

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Church Plant Worship Considerations (Stephen Sharkey)

  1. 1. Worship and Church Planting Stephen Sharkey1. Shaping Worship Ethos: Planting pastors have the privilege and the responsibility to shape the culture of worship within their church. Don’t delegate worship culture-shaping to your worship leader. Worship isn’t just something church plants do, it is a huge reason why church plant exists. Consider this thought: church planting exists because worship doesn’t.1 In other words, our towns and cities are filled with lost people who could be worshiping God, but they are not. We establish the church so that they might direct glory to him. Establishing your desired culture of worship is especially critical in the early stages of the church during which time people come from different backgrounds and worship experiences. Many people will want to know, “Why are we doing it that way?” There should be a reason, teach them. Culture shaping is a task that becomes more difficult each year that a church grows. By 5 years in you’re worship culture is just about set. By10 years in you’re already getting suspicious of change. By years 20+ it’s an uphill battle to change anything. Suggestions:  Think of yourself as the worship leader of the church (even if you never lead the singing). o Lead Your Worship Leader: Before each Sunday take care to guide, coach, and mentor your worship leader. That includes inserting yourself into the song selection process. o Be a Spiritual Leader: You are the spiritual glass ceiling of your church. Your role on Sunday morning is bigger than just preaching or welcoming people. Your role is to listen to the Spirit, continually asking the question “Spirit what are you doing right now?” Don’t count on your volunteer worship leader to do that. This is a subtlety of spiritual leadership that church planters must cultivate.2 o Worship the Hell out of the Room: No matter how bad your worship leader is, how disengaged the congregation may seem, or how distracting the messed up song slides are, you still need to worship like you’ve never worship before. This1 Adapted from Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper2 Suggested reading on spiritual leadership, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People Onto God’s Agenda by Henry and RichardBlackaby
  2. 2. will encourage your worship leader and it will set an example for your congregation. Satan will try to discourage you. o Don’t bring your own distractions into the sanctuary: If you don’t intend to engage in worship don’t go into the sanctuary. You might have things on your mind, you might need to review your sermon, etc., that’s fine, but when you go into the sanctuary be prepared to throw yourself into worship completely.  Preach about worship at least once a year. o Do it soon after launching services. o Consider a worship sermon series. o Worship messages can also be incorporated into different sermon series.  Every 3-4 weeks take the opportunity to briefly state something new about what you are doing corporately in worship and why you do it? For example… o Worship is more than just singing. But singing is important. (Col. 3:16-17) o Why do we sing songs that are wordy? / Why do we sing songs that are repetitive? o Why do we sing about Jesus dying on the cross?  Put yourself in other people’s shoes. What might they be thinking/feeling? For example… o Why are those people raising their hands? Am I doing something wrong? o Why are those people not raising their hands? Am I doing something wrong? o Why the heck are we singing songs? Is this some kind of cult?2. Contextualization: We cannot go into church planting with a cookie cutter mentality. What worked there will not necessarily work well here (and vice versa)3. We must examine our contexts and adapt as necessary. In no way does this imply a compromise of the gospel or worship. Like Paul we need to examine our surroundings and minister accordingly (Acts 17:16ff, 1 Corinthians 9:19). There are different approaches to contextualization. But a defining question you must ask is this… Will you define your worship by the people in the seats or by the people you want in the seats? For Example: If you want to reach out to Hispanics in the neighborhood do you start singing songs in Spanish now, or do you wait for the Spanish speakers to show up? The stated values of your church will help guide how you approach this. Examples…  If your church has a high value of evangelism on Sunday morning, you may gear worship more towards seekers.  If your church has a high value of ethnic diversity you will strive to make worship a culturally diverse experience.  If your church has a high value of healing ministry, your worship experience may be more charismatic in nature.3 Suggested reading on contextualization - The Cat and the Toaster: Living System Ministry in a Technological Age by Douglas A.Hall
  3. 3. 3. Building Up a Music Team: At the beginning of the church you will likely need to sacrifice a certain level of musical excellence. But the sooner that your team gets established the sooner you will start attracting more musicians. God will send you people, but don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Good musicians don’t gravitate toward a crappy worship team, they run away from crappy worship teams. Schools of thought for… (Consider the pros and cons) …finding a worship leader:  Volunteer (consider finding an intern, or someone willing to raise support)  Hire (hint: not your first OR second hire) … who can be in the band:  Only Christian men and women of Godly character.  Anyone. Even non-believers. …how do you attract/keep musicians:  Word of mouth/organic growth  Budget stipends for musician. (e.g. $50 per service)4. Hiring a Worship Pastor: When you reach a point of financial stability, a worship pastor is an important hire. Below are listed several qualities a search committee should consider when hiring a worship pastor.  Musical ability  Leadership ability  Pastoral Heart  True worshiper (authentic, passionate, etc)  Spiritual authority, ‘Anointing’  Experience  Song writer  Communication ability Not every worship leader has all of the qualities listed below. Those that do possess said qualities work at mega churches and have CD’s sold in Wal-Mart. So how does one prioritize? Suggestions:  Consider your values as a church. For example, unless you highly value artistic community, don’t make singer/songwriter a top priority.  Worship Pastor not Worship Leader: Don’t go with the guy who says meaningless platitudes like “I just worship by example”. That’s code for, “I don’t know how to exhort, teach, or pastor people”. Leading by example is fine for a volunteer, but you may want your worship pastor needs to be more.  Enlist Experience: If you have limited worship leading experience, invite a trusted worship leader into the process.  The Paramount Intangible – Anointing: This particular trait is more difficult to pin down, because it is hard to define. You need to do your homework and follow up on references. Anointing can only be confirmed via agreement among the body. Talk to people who know them, and make arrangements to hear them lead worship; do this with people you trust. For many churches anointing doesn’t need to be a deal breaker, they can’t all be King David. A worship leader who doesn’t have this trait can still be effective and called to the task.