A pastor was recently explaining to me his philosophy toward planning a worship experience. One of his guiding principles bothered me a little:
“I want to eliminate anything from the service that a totally un-churched person wouldn’t completely understand. I want to design the whole deal so that they’re 100% comfortable.”
I think he was missing the point.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul sets the church straight about tongues, prophecy, and similar controversial issues. To do so, he frames up a hypothetical scenario in which an unbeliever shows up at church, and can’t figure out what in the world is going on because everyone is speaking in tongues. This extreme is confusing and unhelpful. Our language has to be crystal clear if it’s going to do anyone any good.
But, on the other hand, Paul suggests, if the unbeliever is confronted with the prophetic power of God in a way he can understand:“…he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Cor. 14:25)That’s the point. Not that the unbeliever would be comfortable. But that the presence of God would be palpable and undeniable.
Whether they completely get it or not at first, they should sense it…
Whether they completely agree with it or not, they should be drawn to it…
I don’t think that’s going to happen if we tone it down too much. Don’t get me wrong. At Elevation, we exist so that people far from God will be filled with life in Christ. That’s the whole purpose behind everything we do-especially our worship experience.
It’s just that I believe the best way for us to connect with people far from God-and the most attractive thing we can present to them-is the amped up, full throttle, passionate presentation of the Gospel of Jesus. You know what I’m saying?
Like, when a non-football loving college freshman goes to a Clemson game for the first time, they’re sure to encounter a lot of things that they don’t really identify with yet. The passion may be a little overwhelming. The volume may be unbearably loud. The mullets and shirtless rednecks might be a tad bit off-putting.
But there’s something about the atmosphere that sucks you in. Even if you don’t know what’s going on…you can tell that this is the place to be. Before you know it, you’re screaming your voice raw right along with the hardcore fans. Hopefully, without the need for any alcoholic beverage to assist in the process.
I guess I want the experience at Elevation to be so distinctive, unique, and high energy that even though you might not get it at first, you want some of it.
And if you stick around long enough, we’ll make a fan out of you…
Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, must be a smart guy, because he's on the same page I'm on, the vision I've tried to cast since Day One at Cobblestone regarding our Sunday worship (which has the added advantage of actually being Biblical!):