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PreachParsly
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 Including Non-Christians in Christian Worship

Including Non-Christians in Christian Worship
We want to nurture an atmosphere where people sense God's presence and respond to him.
by Jack Hayford


In each Sunday morning congregation sit many for whom Jesus is not yet Lord. Whatever their reasons for attending, they have come more to observe than worship. Their presence presents worship leaders with a challenge: How can we involve non-Christians in a service in which the main act is the worship of Christ?

Here are some things we try to do during each service to make the non-Christian feel a part of the service.

Make Them Comfortable
We recognize that many visitors find our worship service unusually open and expressive. Because they are on unfamiliar turf, we consciously try to make them feel comfortable. Here's how we do it.

• Invite them to relax. We do this before the service formally begins. I walk in and from floor level welcome them with an introduction like this: "Good morning, everyone! Isn't it a great day? Nice to see you. We're going to praise the Lord in just a few minutes, and as we do, I want us to let our hearts be filled with wonder and praise. Don't worry about making an impression; here it's okay to be yourself. We can't impress God with how smart or sophisticated we are anyway, can we? So let's come together as his children and let the joy of the Lord Jesus fill this house today. He's alive! He's risen! And we want to praise him! Do you feel that way?"

We've found that many people do feel that way, so they respond. Once they are given permission to relax, they often do.

• Acknowledge the awkwardness. All through the service we seek to be sensitive to those in the congregation who may feel awkward about what is happening. For instance, we raise our hands when we sing songs of praise; not everyone is used to that. If even one person appears mystified, or on the verge of panic, I will wait for an appropriate juncture in the service and say something like, "Incidentally, this may the first time you've been in a place where there's open, expressive praise like this. I want to assure you that nothing weird is going to happen. Although, I can hear someone thinking right now. What do you mean 'going to?' It already has!"

They laugh, of course. But acknowledging that our service is different and some may feel awkward helps people relax.

• Encourage partial participation. Awkwardness about participating in our distinct worship practices can also be alleviated by encouraging partial participation. If the worship leader has invited people to raise their hands in song, yet senses some discomfort, he may say, "Raising hands may be new to you. That's okay. Instead, let's all just hold our hands out in front of us, palms up, like this, the way you would if you were going to say to someone, 'What would you like me to do for you?' In fact, as we do it, why don't we say that to the Lord: 'Lord, what would you have me do for you today?' "

Instead of making visitors do something completely unusual to them, and instead of isolating them in a sea of waving hands, this gets everybody to perform a modified, everyday act together. It also focuses people's attention away from the act and onto Christ.

• Explain the service as it progresses. The above example also shows another technique we use to make our visitors feel part of the service. From time to time we explain what we're doing: "The reason for special music is to help us focus not on the performers but on the Lord" or "This is why we raise our hands," or "This is why we sometimes applaud."

For example, I might say, "I'm reminded this morning of how the writer of the Book of Lamentations said, 'Let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens.' Have you ever felt like your heart has been stepped on? Have you ever felt your heart empty? Why don't we together take our hands and make them like a cup and say, 'Lord, here's my heart. I bring it to you. I need to be filled anew.' "

Naturally, we don't want to lecture about every part of the service every Sunday, but we regularly try to integrate biblical teaching on what we do and why. Once newcomers understand the service better, they're more likely to participate.

Encourage Them to Interact
We encourage people to interact with one another during worship. This not only helps us be "in one accord," it also helps visitors experience warm, Christian fellowship. There are two major ways that happens in our services.

• Greeting and affirming. Interaction begins with the greeting. After the opening songs and invocation, I usually say something light, humorous, or happy. I may relate something that happened that week in the community or in my life. Sometimes it has a spiritual focus, sometimes not. But it's always bright and positive, and it's always tied to our greeting one another.

For example, one Easter Sunday I told the story of a pastor who was concerned about reports that the Christian education program was ineffective. He decided to check it out for himself. He stopped in a fourth-grade classroom and asked one of the students, "Janie, when is Easter and what happens on it?"

Janie said, "Well, Easter's in the fall, and we dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating."

Oh, no! the pastor thought. This really is a problem. Hoping for better results, he tried another student. "Jimmy, can you tell me when Easter is and what happens on that day?"

Jimmy said, "Well, it's in the winter, and we put up the tree and decorate it and exchange gifts."

Now the pastor was queasy, so he went to Mikey, the smartest kid in the class.

"When is Easter," he asked, "and what happens then?"

Mikey answered, "Well, Easter is in the springtime when Jesus came up from the grave."

"Very good!" the pastor said, relieved.

Then Mikey added, "And if he sees his shadow, he goes back, and we have six more weeks of winter."

When the laughter died down, I said, "As we greet each other this morning, turn to two or three people near you and say, "He didn't go back. He's alive and with us today!"

The place came alive as people turned to greet others around them. The introduction had helped create a warmer, less threatening atmosphere.

Sometimes we'll use a verse of Scripture or something from a song we've just sung to introduce the greeting. Whatever it is, we get the people to speak an affirmation to one another.

• Sharing and praying. The heart of the interaction in the service comes in what we call our ministry time. In the middle of the service, people form groups of three to five and share their requests, and then one person prays. We only spend about four minutes in the prayer circles, but we spend eight minutes or so leading into them with a song or a brief text—anything to sensitize us on how we need one another.

We emphasize four things during this time. First, one of the worship leaders mentions a specific need that each group will pray for. That way the entire congregation is focused on one concern together.

Second, each person is strongly encouraged to share one prayer request for himself or herself—not for a neighbor or distant relative. Such sharing helps us bear one another's burdens and function as a church.

Third, we underline that we're about to pray. This isn't group therapy or a psychological exercise, but an encounter with the living God.

Fourth, we expect the Holy Spirit to minister to us while we're praying. We encourage people to believe healing is available or that a word of comfort will come.

Since this act of worship may intimidate newcomers, as we move into that part of the service I'll say, "If you're visiting and this is new to you, please accept the invitation into the circle even if only to observe. It may be novel for you, but you're going to love it."

Even though these groups would seem threatening, I'm convinced they are one of the major reasons so many people become Christians in our service. Unbelievers are loved by people who believe Jesus is alive, and it impresses them.

Offer Opportunities for Commitment
Naturally, an unbeliever cannot fully engage in worship until he or she has made a commitment to Christ. Part of our service, then, is designed to encourage commitment. So, nine times out of ten, I will make an evangelistic appeal following the sermon.

"Every time we gather," I'll say, "there are some who have yet to begin their life with Jesus Christ. If you haven't begun trusting the Lord, you're aware of that. And there's nothing we can say or do that can force you to change. But we also know that when people come to our service, they often say, 'I feel the love of God in this place. I hear the ring of truth.'

"If that's you today, if you sense God's love and want to respond, then I invite you to open your heart to him."

This is not a time dripping with heaviness; it's not presented like a test they can fail. Instead, we simply give people an opportunity to respond.
[b]
A less traditional means we use to encourage commitment is the Lord's Supper. We invite all the people to gather around the Lord's Table and partake in small groups. We believe it is the Lord's Table we are invited to, the Lord is doing the inviting, and no one is excluded. To us that means unbelievers are invited, as well.

We explain clearly, of course, what we are doing, and what an unbeliever is doing by partaking: making a commitment to Christ. We stress the gravity of the event to reflect the serious nature of faith in Christ.

At the same time, we want people to know that they are welcome. For example, I might say, "If you are visiting with us today, you are not only welcome to participate, you are urged to. If you were at my house and it came dinnertime, I wouldn't leave you sitting in the other room while I went to the dining room. And if you said, 'Well, I'm not really hungry,' I'd say, 'Come in and sit with us anyway.' Now, as we come to the Lord's Table, join us. And when the bread is served, take a portion."

After everyone is served, I continue, "Everyone here who knows the Lord Jesus might thank him for " and here I'll encourage them to thank God for something that relates to the morning's teaching. "If you've never received Christ," I continue, "you might say, 'God, I know I can't earn salvation by partaking of this. But in receiving this, I'm telling you I'm opening myself to your life.' " If they are not ready to take that important step and partake of Communion, they are encouraged to sit with us at the table while we partake.

So the Lord's Supper is not only a significant time for the church body, we also use it as a way to incorporate non-Christians into the service, and some into the body.

We recognize using Communion as an evangelistic opportunity troubles many people, and for understandable reasons. We're not arguing that every church should do it, or that it is necessary for churches that want to include unbelievers in their services. But it is one of the ways we incorporate unbelievers into our service.[/b]

From Beginning to End: Sincerity
There is no part of our service, then, in which the non-Christian visitor is not invited to participate fully. But our goal is not mere participation. We want to nurture an atmosphere where people sense God's presence and respond to him.

We use all these means, then, not as mere techniques to get people to do what they don't want to do. For us they simply are ways to help the visitor experience the presence of God as we experience it. If we don't lead our service with a sincere yearning to know and love God, our service will become a mere manipulation of people's religious feelings.

By God's grace, we'll continue to maintain sincerity. After attending our service, dozens of people have said within my earshot, "I walked into this place, and from the time the people began singing, I began weeping." These are not emotionally troubled individuals, but strong, successful people who are impressed simply by the presence of God.

In the end, then, it is God, not anything we do, who draws people to himself. Our job as worship leaders is graciously to prepare the way.

[url=http://www.christianitytoday.com/bcl/areas/worship/articles/031306.html]Source[/url]


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Josh Parsley

 2006/3/27 15:01Profile
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 Re: Including Non-Christians in Christian Worship

Quote:
[b]
A less traditional means we use to encourage commitment is the Lord's Supper. We invite all the people to gather around the Lord's Table and partake in small groups. We believe it is the Lord's Table we are invited to, the Lord is doing the inviting, and no one is excluded. To us that means unbelievers are invited, as well.

We explain clearly, of course, what we are doing, and what an unbeliever is doing by partaking: making a commitment to Christ. We stress the gravity of the event to reflect the serious nature of faith in Christ.

At the same time, we want people to know that they are welcome. For example, I might say, "If you are visiting with us today, you are not only welcome to participate, you are urged to. If you were at my house and it came dinnertime, I wouldn't leave you sitting in the other room while I went to the dining room. And if you said, 'Well, I'm not really hungry,' I'd say, 'Come in and sit with us anyway.' Now, as we come to the Lord's Table, join us. And when the bread is served, take a portion."

After everyone is served, I continue, "Everyone here who knows the Lord Jesus might thank him for " and here I'll encourage them to thank God for something that relates to the morning's teaching. "If you've never received Christ," I continue, "you might say, 'God, I know I can't earn salvation by partaking of this. But in receiving this, I'm telling you I'm opening myself to your life.' " If they are not ready to take that important step and partake of Communion, they are encouraged to sit with us at the table while we partake.

So the Lord's Supper is not only a significant time for the church body, we also use it as a way to incorporate non-Christians into the service, and some into the body.

We recognize using Communion as an evangelistic opportunity troubles many people, and for understandable reasons. We're not arguing that every church should do it, or that it is necessary for churches that want to include unbelievers in their services. But it is one of the ways we incorporate unbelievers into our service.[/b]



1Cr 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. :-o


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Josh Parsley

 2006/3/27 15:02Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
To us that means unbelievers are invited, as well.



Yes, but God does not agree!

They really want non-believers feel good and happy. Suppose if they accept the invitation, would they live an uncompromised life?

I very much doubt that most of these people if they heard the full truth about their state and God would want to bow down and give their lives for God.

How then if the service is always tuned in to please people will they also learn the rest of the Truth which is offending?
Yes, even if they have fruit in numbers how then are they walking on the narrow road? Reading through church history made me a see an change of satan's tactic. In the past there was severe persecution and Bible's where scarce. Knowledge was not easily obtained.

Nowadays he introduces fake christs which gain alot followers and we have more materials then in any other previous age.

Hopefully God can lead some people in such denominations which are more concerned about self then God to Truth. God open their eyes and make them hungry for you, let them read their Bibles with their eyes open, there ears hearing and their hearts accepting your Truth!

Bad trees produce bad fruit... :-( its not till now that I fully understand this verse...


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Jonathan Veldhuis

 2006/4/3 11:25Profile
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 Re: Including Non-Christians in Christian Worship

Quote: We use all these means, then, not as mere techniques to get people to do what they don't want to do. ((For us they simply are ways to help the visitor experience the presence of God as we experience it.)) If we don't lead our service with a sincere yearning to know and love God, our service will become a mere manipulation of people's religious feelings.

Unfortunately, to the detrement of the gospel, this has become the mindset of most congregations today. Way too much concern about the comfort of the sinner in the pew, and profound lack of concern for presenting the Truth.
A sinner should feel convicted in a service, not comfortable!!

For an unbeliever it is impossible to experience "the presence of God as we experience it.". It is the indwelling of Holy Spirit that allows us to experience the presence of God, not the antics of the pastor and congregation..
Blessings Greg


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Greg

 2006/4/3 11:49Profile
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 Re: This is sad

This is "off the rails" It is merely an attempt at social conditioning under a thin veneer of spiritual talk. It just more dead religion, but very in tune to the mindsets of the culture.

Yet, I wouldn't want to deny the possibility that God could do something with this for his glory. ... just not the way we might expect.

Diane


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Diane

 2006/4/3 11:54Profile
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 Re:

Hi roadsign...

I agree. You might even say that this is [u]NOT[/u] [i]worship[/i] -- it is only [i]music[/i]. Where are all of the messages about [i]strange fire[/i]? It seems like the spirit of Nadab and Abihu is alive and well today in many churches.

:-(


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Christopher

 2006/4/3 12:02Profile
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 Re: church or Church

It is the natural the outcome of putting the church ahead of the Church.

Earlier I posted [url=https://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=10150&forum=40]Revival, Avoided and Rejected - by Lars Widerberg[/url] It seems to slip right in here perfectly - as the next chapter.
Diane


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Diane

 2006/4/3 12:17Profile
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 Re: Worship with sinners?

To start out we need to ask some questions:
What is the church?
What are we supposed to be doing?
How does evangelism and discipleship work together?
What about Church discipline?
So many things to consider.
First: What is the church? Someone has stated: "The Church is not a museum of the saints but a hospital for sinners." It that true?

The Church is the "called out ones". We are listening to a different drummer. Our standard is different than the pagan world. Our message is the abrasive message of the cross. We are a peculiar people. People are changed and then added to the church. The church does not change to accommodate the sinner. There are places and ministries that the church can sponsor that would take the Gospel to the streets--Christian coffee houses, evangelism outreaches, crisis pregnancy centers, jail ministries, etc.-- that would function as a hospital for sinners. The gathering of believers as the church is another thing. It may actually more function like a spiritual fitness center. It is not just an exclusive club for the spiritually superior but it is not to be place to attract sinners. I believe church history and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles indicate that the church met and came away from the world. They also went out into the community and evangelized the unbelievers. When the sinners repented and made a profession of faith, they were added to the disciples. The early church meetings consisted of continuing..."steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and in the breaking of bread (Christian communion) and in prayers." Combating false doctrine was the single most important task of the early church. If that was not true then most of the New Testament was really not necessary. The Epistles were primarily for correction in doctrine. I believe it is the obligation of the church to set the standards within its domain. We do judge within the church. God judges outside the church. When a person enters the church domain, we are obligated to demonstrate and proclaim the doctrines of the apostles. This is not a social club where we are trying to win over new members. Difference brings conviction. Conviction brings repentance. Repentance brings redemption. When a person comes to church, he/she should soon be aware of what type of gathering this is--the Church of the Living God. The local church should let people know that when you enter those doors, this is what you are dealing with. It is a sacred assembly of believers. A homosexual should not be able to continue to come without knowing that homosexual behavior is sinful according to scripture. He/she should not be encouraged to feel comfortable with people of faith without being willing to repent of their sin. Immodest dress should be addressed as soon as possible. Any cause for stumbling should be dealt with asap. Allowing questionable or unrepentant persons to participate in sacred ordinances such as baptism, communion, baby dedications and like should not happen. The first thing we are to address when people want to participate in these things is: "Are you a believer? What evidence is there in your life that would indicate that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ?"


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Dennis Marks

 2006/4/3 12:27Profile
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 Affirmation or Transformation?

Affirmation or Transformation?

Ordination of openingly homosexual persons and same sex marriages are again in the news. Several mainline denominations have had open dialog on these matters and are trying to put this issue to rest by coming up with compromises. It seems this issue will just not go away. I can understand corporations having to deal with issues like this in the workplace but I can't seem to understand why denominations based on the Bible are even considering these things.
I recently heard a very interesting segment on NPR's Morning Edition that seemed to put this issue into a better perspective. They interviewed people on both sides of the issue from a very well-known denomination. But the statement that seemed to be most significant was the statement from one of their theologians. He said that his church was divided over what he called "two competing gospels". One was the "gospel of transformation" that changed people's lives. The other gospel is the "gospel of affirmation"; that instead of changing people, God simply affirms people how He finds them. This seemed to make the issue very clear to me.
If the "gospel of affirmation" is true, then we don't want to change the people in jail, we just want to affirm them just the way they are. "We all know you are a thief but that's okay. You were probably born that way". The concept of "sin" (breaking the law) has been left behind with the new concepts concerning tolerance and acceptance of wrong being preached. All of us come into this world with a tendancy to do wrong but we are capable of doing right. We make choices every day. If we are not capable of doing right, then we are not responsible for the wrong we do. If fact, this puts the concept of "wrong" in question. Can there be wrong if we can only do what we are doing? I do believe that we can resist sin to a point but if we are not changed from within we do not have the power to consistently resist sin. A sinner may try to not sin, but eventually he will. He lacks that power to consistently overcome sinning.
That's why I believe in the Gospel of Transformation. I believe that as bad as we are when we arrive on planet earth (and we get even worse as be continue without remedy), we can change through a relationship with the Almighty God. Through repentance and surrender to the Lordship of God, we are provided with a power to resist the evil we used submit to. We first find forgivness for our past and then we realize the potential for deliverance from the bondage of sin.
If I didn't believe that a person, any person, could really change for the better, I would not be a jail chaplain. I have seen people with my own eyes that been transformed by establishing a relationship with Almighty God. Through repentance and confession, these people have started out in a new direction for their lives. Where once they had no hope, now they walk with a new way of thinking and acting. It is only through the Gospel of Transformation that this change can happen.


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Dennis Marks

 2006/4/3 12:30Profile
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 Re: Affirmation or Transformation?

I thought I would bring this back up. I believe in the "Gospel of Transformation" and the power of Jesus to transform a human life broken by the bondages of sin. That's the power of Jesus! Thank you brother for sharing this...


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Ed Pugh

 2006/5/9 16:38Profile





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