The Christian is not the most important person in the Church service. “What? How dare you say that. What do you mean I’m not important?” I’m so glad you asked, thank you. And I didn’t say you weren’t important, I said you’re not the most important person in the room.
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Sure, there are some churches where you will be. Maybe you even came from one. And yes, the list I’m proposing in this blog is unique to Element Church. Other churches, pastors and leaders might have a different list than we do, but here at Element Church, we are very specific about being prepared for who is in the room.
Please understand, in no way am I saying that we have this perfected at Element. I’m not saying that this is the ONLY way to do church, I’m just saying that this is the only way WE are going to do church right now. There is no RIGHT way to do church, but every church should point THE way back to God.
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When we are preparing for a Sunday worship experience at Element, we are very intentional about specific people who will be in the room. For us, not only do we expect certain people, but we plan, prepare and practice for those people to be here. The language we use, effort we put forth, prayers that are prayed, all of it, is with specific people in mind.
So, if the Christian is not the most important person in the room, who is? At Element Church, there are four specific people that we prepare for on a Sunday. I could make an argument for putting them in this order of importance, but let’s just agree that after number one, you can put them in your own order. Here are four people that are more important than the Christian in the room on Sunday:
1. God — “Oh yeah, I forgot about Him.” We sometimes tend to forget that our gathering together is not for us as much as it is for God. Not that God needs us to gather, but we gather to corporately give glory, honor and praise to our God.
God is the most important person in the room! There is something incredibly powerful and attractive about a group of people, collectively worshiping the Lord. If you’ve experienced it, you know what I’m talking about.
We have to constantly ask ourselves these questions: Is what we are doing pleasing to Him? Are we intentionally pointing people to Him? Praising Him? Praying to Him? Does God have the place of primacy in our Church?
And by the way, you cannot answer those questions based on a churches size, sound or style. The answers to those questions are only revealed in the soul.
Yes, we might each have our opinions of how this should be done, but I think we can all agree that it needs to be done. God must take the place of primacy in our gatherings or we may as well shut the doors and close up shop. Each church will look different in HOW they do this but every church should be unified as to WHY we are doing it. God is most important, not you! Four words we all need to get better at in the church, “It’s not about me!”
2. Guests — For us at Element Church, after God, the next most important people are our guests. Yes, some of them may already be Christians, so I know I’m contradicting my premise, but hang with me.
Trying out a new church is intimidating. Unless you are coming with someone who already attends, you are stepping into a complete unknown. You don’t know the people, the pastors, or the practices of this church. Outside of a little investigation online, you have no idea what you are getting into. I think we take this for granted as regulars in our church.
All church research agrees that guests will make up their mind whether they will attend again within the first ten minutes of their visit. TEN MINUTES! That means that before they ever hear the pastor preach, they have already decided whether they will come back or not.
That’s what makes our church property and directional signs, our parking team and ushers, our greeters and kids check in volunteers all so important. We have so many front line volunteers who are connecting with guests long before any staff member does.
And let me press in on the parking team a bit. One of the greatest ways to alleviate the unknown for a guest is to help them know where to go when they arrive. When I show up at an event, whether it be a Christian one or not, one of the things I want to know first is “Where do I go?” That starts in the parking lot, long before I enter the building.
The parking team is not there to force Christians to park where they don’t want to park. The parking team is there to help guests know where to go and what to do next.
Even the language we use is weighted toward guests. Most of our announcement time is not for the regular attending Christian in the room. We typically have one announcement that relates to everyone in the room. The rest is riddled with phrases to help the guest know, “We expected you here and we are excited for your arrival.” From the welcome to the offering to the closing of the service we are always thinking about our guests.
Did you know for a church to grow numerically from one year to the next, they need to have more first time guests in the course of a year than their average total attendance. That means, if we average 1500 people as a church, we need to have more than 1500 guests in a year. For a church that size, that’s roughly 29 guests per week.
Do you see why the guests are so important? Do you see why there are so many churches who desire to grow, but never see it? If we don’t make guests a priority, why would they make it one to be in our church?
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3. Guys — Here at Element Church, we are very specific about trying to reach men. Please hear me. This does not mean that we don’t want to reach women, we just understand that when God reaches the man He reaches the entire home, and we are after the home.
You look across the landscape of churches in America and you will see a majority of the volunteer roles and leadership roles filled by women. Again, I’m not against that. Element would not be able to function without some amazing female leaders that God has blessed us with. Many of our highest level volunteer leaders in the church are women, and we love that. The problem is not with how many women are involved in the church, the problem is with how few men are.
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Too many homes have a wife bringing the kids to church, while her husband is either dragged with her, or just refuses to come. Many men view the church as boring, too long, out of touch, feminine and a crutch for weak people. That’s just the truth.
At Element Church, we have the guy in mind with everything we do. From looks, sounds and smells we try to be more masculine than feminine. There are some songs we just refuse to sing, because we have the guy in mind. We’ve changed lyrics to some songs so that they connect more with a male audience. We wear jeans and t-shirts. The music is loud and aggressive. We try and use humor as much as possible. We play football games on tv’s before and after service.
One of the questions many guys think about when they come to church is “How long will this last?” So we try to help answer that questions during the welcome portion of the service. We typically keep the service to 65 minutes and we tell people how long they can expect the service to be and do our best to stick to it.
Sure, there are occasions where we go over time, do something feminine or miss the mark for a specific dude, but we make an intentional effort to connect with a certain type of guy in the room.
4. Unbeliever – I wish there was a “G” word for this one but I failed to find it. In everything we do at Element Church, we are expecting and planning on the unbeliever to be present. It’s hard enough for a Christian guest to try out a new church, can you imagine someone who doesn’t even believe yet? Throw on top of that a non-believing dude who has never been to church? Holy cow! This is a massive responsibility.
We can’t say that God is most important and not then add the unbeliever to this list. Jesus Himself said, “I have come to seek and to save the LOST.” He added that He would, “leave the ninety-nine who were found so He could go and find the ONE who was lost.” We must pay attention to the heart of Jesus when it comes to this matter.
In everything we do and say, we are wanting to connect with the heart of the unbeliever. Ultimately, we want their hearts to be connected to the heart of God, but until then, they will be a priority to us. Here at Element Church, we firmly believe and practice that someone can belong to us before they believe. They can belong before they behave a certain way as well.
Yes, harmful, dangerous or illegal behavior must be dealt with, but if we aren’t welcoming people who don’t believe or behave like we do yet, how can we ever expect to reach them? This is why, no matter who the preacher is at Element, we are intentional somewhere in the message to acknowledge the unbeliever in the room, and let them know how glad we are they are here. We often say, “Even if you never believe what we believe.” Obviously, we hope that they do, but Jesus welcomed me through His death before I ever made a declaration of faith in Him, why would I not do the bare minimum for someone who was brave enough to try out our church?
I’m not talking about sugar coating the Gospel or changing the Bible to meet their lifestyle. Listen, there is going to be enough offensive things to the unbeliever just from reading the Word of God, how about we do our best to make sure they feel welcomed, loved and included so that perhaps they will be open to the offensive message of the cross. The Gospel is going to turn enough people away, we don’t need grumpy Christians making it easier.
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Our goal is not to make unbelievers feel “comfortable,” our goal is to make them feel included. “We know you’re here, we prepared for you to be here, we love it that you are here, and most importantly, our God loves you is what we want you to hear!” People need to hear that, right? How about they feel it while they are here.
So there you have it! The four most important people in the church. You might have a different list, but this is ours.
Christians, I hope you can get behind this! I hope you can stand with this! Yes, we still minister to, serve and love the Christian in the room, but if we are to fully engage in the mission of Jesus I think these must take the priority.
Christian, you aren’t the most important person in the room at Church!