Winning on Your Home Court
When a team plays at home. . . it sits in the chairs it selects, the home team�s band plays and the fight songs are those of the home team. Everything possible is done to make it a winning environment. Some of what I share is more relevant to those beyond Home Missions status, but the principles are applicable to virtually any church setting.
Create a Warm Atmosphere
There is something about the mood in the home of a true hostess. It is more than the decor…. I�ve been where the decor was exceptional. but it was cold. People are like moths, they gravitate to light and warmth. Creating that atmosphere begins with understanding the significance of certain people.
Prioritize the Right People
In training ushers and greeters, John Maxwell identified the ten most important people on Sunday morning in your church. It is important to note the one Maxwell denotes as number one.
1. A visitor. Any visitor is a �VIP.� Their attendance has been motivated by a friend or deep ii He brings his hurts, questions, and apprehensions. A visitor looks for warmth, acceptance, and smiles. If he finds these, he will return.
2. The usher. Ushers are important because they are usually the ones who have the first contact with people. They help people with directions. They are the ones who represent the church to newcomers.
3. Nursery Workers. As soon as space makes it possible, a nursery should be added. Young parents seeking a church will initially select that church more on the nursery care than on the doctrinal statement of the congregation. Nursery workers are frontline warriors in the work of growing a church. Training will give them confidence. Well-trained nursery workers give assurance to the parents that their child will be cared for.
4. Greeters welcome people with a smile and a handshake. They personally escort visitors to the appropriate rooms. Greeters watch for people who appear lost or hunting for the right place. These people also look for the newcomers at next week�s service. In the early stages, your usher and greeter might to be the same person.
5. The one who sits beside a new person. Church people can be distant toward the guest sitting in the chair beside them. Train your people to reach out to new people. It creates a warm atmosphere when they smile and introduce themselves. Simple things like helping them locate a song, handing them a welcome card, sharing a Bible means a lot.
6. The Service-Leader makes or breaks this warm environment. This person must relax and draw people into an atmosphere of praise and worship. Spend a few moments greeting people at the beginning or during the service. A service-leader must be warm, personable, positive, and real. If the pastor leads the service use the time to build a rapport in preparation of preaching to the congregation.
7. The Worship Leader must be friendly and have the ability to put people at ease.
8. The people who sing must smile and look as if they enjoy what is going on.
9. The Pastor must convey warmth and a sincere interest in people. Notice that many impressions are made before the pastor gets a chance to make his. If those already attending are not equipped to welcome a visitor.. . then a warm and sincere pastor will not be effective.
10. A follow-up person must show appreciation for the newcomer�s visit and extend them a gracious invitation to return.
Evaluate each of these ten key people at your church. This Sunday, look at things with a �Visitor�s Eye.� Rate things on a scale of 1-10. Would it feel good to be there? What needs to be worked on?
Consider ordering a training program like Ushers and Greeters by John C. Maxwell, (1NJOY Ministries, 1991)
Things a Pastor or Service Leader Does to Create Warmth
1. Pause during the service to have people greet someone they do not know well. Let music play in the background.
2. Pastor, get off the platform and out from behind the podium. Become real to the people who are there. The ivory-tower preacher, who descends twice a week to
deliver an oracle and then retreats into his sanctuary, may have great scholarship and homiletical excellence; but he will not have warmth and a personal touch. it may well be as mysterious as the �sea of glass� not �mingled with fire.� A while back I was in Madison, Mississippi. It was interesting to see Pastor Jerry Dillon get off the platform to touch visitors. He shook hands and hugged the jail inmates who were there; he kissed babies and got acquainted with those visiting. Al!, while the worship service was going on. Pastor Dillon is an outstanding preacher, but in my estimation his approach to connecting with people is as much a key to his effectiveness as is his energetic preaching.
3. For some who visit our Pentecostal praise is a mystery. It makes them extremely uncomfortable. Take time to explain what is happening. Use the Bible to validate what things that are happening: You can say, �I realize that this might be new to some of you. Let me take a moment and validate all this through the scripture. The Bible speaks of
Kneeling in worship (Philippians 2:9-10) Waving hands in praise (Leviticus 9:21)
Bowing heads (Micah 6:6-8) Dancing with joy before the Lord (Psalm 30:11)
Raising heads (Psalm 3:3-4; Hebrews 4:16) Clapping your hands (Psalm 47:1)
Lifting hands (Lamentations 3:40-41; Psalm 63:3-4) Shouting to the Lord (Psalm 47:1)
You don�t have to praise just like someone beside you. . . but take time to praise the Lord.� A short explanation demystifies all of this for the visitor. In a few minutes, you will see them start trying some of those things.
� Last Sunday, while church was going on.. . did you get off the platform to go get acquainted with people? Would you try it. . . just this one Sunday? You might even take the opportunity to invite the visitor to go to dinner with you.
� Develop a pattern you will use for explaining Pentecostal praise in two minutes or less. Use that pattern often. Eventually you will have it memorized. This is not aimed at your saints, but at visitors.
I�ve spent much time focusing attention on practical things we can do to connect to those who visit our home court. However, t!�ers something else to consider. This moves into the realm of the spiritual. We must also:
Be Conducive to the Spirit
Jerusalem was never a major banking center or a world-class city of commerce. Her claim to fame was her beauty and joy. In those days if you told a travel agency you wanted to do worship, they!d send up to Jerusalem. Theirjoyful praise and worship of Yahweh, their feasts and celebrations captured the attention of the pagan world. An Ethiopian traveled to Jerusalem, �. . . for to worship.� What are you known for?
Psalms informs that�. . . God dwells in the praise of Israel.� Other translations say, �He is enthroned in the praise of His people.� A Japanese translation expresses it, �Where people praise, God brings His big chair and sits down.� Praise celebrates what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. A by-product of praise is to create an atmosphere where the Lord Jesus is warmly welcomed.
In Genesis, God created environment before he created the creature that would exist within the environment. We humans are gifted at creating the environment in which we exist. It is our responsibility to create an atmosphere conducive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Train your people to gather for prayer before church. If you really want them to do it � be there yourself. Visit Alexandria, Louisiana on Sunday evening and at 5:30 Pastor Anthony Mangun is in the prayer room with his men. Visit Calgary on Sunday evening and Pastor Johnny King is in the prayer room with his people. By the way, both prayer rooms are full. . . both churches are vibrantly alive with worship and praise. Prayer before church should be a non-negotiable for you, the musicians and leaders.
Seek to Worship but Begin with Praise
Worship is the deepest expression of relationship with God. it is what every gathering should pursue. In reality, real worship � that attitude of inner prostration at the presence of God is rarely attained. it is hard to go from the business of the welding shop or the accounting office directly into worship. it is a process. 1-low do we get there?
Begin with leading people into praise. Praise simply celebrates what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in their life over the past few days. Praise can be done through song or a testimony. It can be a prayer-time victory report. Praise can flow from the simple reading of scripture. Psalm 136�s repeated,�.. . his mercy endureth forever� in each verse is excellent for responsive praise. Having people to read a verse of scripture that expresses their personal praise is low risk. Ralph Herring in The Cycle of Prayer explains that praise is simply the �making of glory.� One writer said the posture of praise is constant motion. Standing, clapping, dancing, lifting the hands are all postures consistent with the spirit of praise. To sit still, looking dour, is clearly inappropriate for praise. Praise begins with the pastor. You cannot lead a church to be a praising church if all they see you do is stand about looking somewhat miserable.
In using music that brings one to praise it is best to not sing about us. . . but about Him. Our goal is to create an atmosphere that not only welcomes the visitor but also welcomes the Lord Jesus Christ. In Gary Erickson�s book on Worship, he wrote, �Making much ado over Jesus will cause others to consider Him.�
Flowing from praise to worship is not always easy. The scriptural picture would be the healed leper who came back to Jesus. He ran. . . certainly rejoicing, but when he got near to Jesus. . . the former leper bowed before Him. In ecstasy and celebration we draw near to him, but in intimate worship we bow before Him. Kneeling, bowing the head, lying prostrate are postures consistent with the spirit of humility. Allowing a service to flow into a time of bowing before the Lord is a challenge, because in very few services does everyone make the total journey. Moving from the celebration of praise to the stillness of worship is something to be taught.
� Evaluate � what is going on at your church 20 minutes before church starts? If a significant percentage of attendees are not gathering for prayer you may be missing something significant.
� Develop a series of lessons on Praise and Worship to teach your people. If you are a younger pastor, this may also be a time of learning. If you need a pattern for the study a series 1 taught is available from Home Missions Sales.
Plan an Evangelistic Service
Evangelistic praise may be a new way of looking at this. Praise not only exalts the Lord, but it should be such an extolling His benefits in such a way that someone else � the visitor, would desire those benefits too.
I learned that opening up a �whosoever will� time of testimony quite often opened a �can of worms.� Having a precious saint insult a visitor is not the best way to grow a church. A wise service leader uses testimonies to focus and strengthen praise. Even while preaching; using a testimony of salvation or healing will bring home the point.
How does one plan an evangelistic service?
� Begin with the end in mind� Had you rather the people dance for an hour or baptize a new man? Would you rather Sis. XYZ get to sing her solo, or that the hungry sinner interrupts the service by coming on to the altar. Granted you can have both. . . but if you could only have one of them, which would you and those you lead rather have. Surely the response of the saints during the service is secondary to what happens in regard to repentance, baptism and Spirit infilling.
� Have a Service Plan � Plan the service. . . with the understanding that everything is subject to change. Put your plan in writing. It was my practice to meet with the praise team five minutes before service starte meeting we went over my plan, the expectations I had of the service and of them. Last minute adjustments were not to be made on the platform.
� Involve other people � Last week in Toronto, I watched Pastor Granville McKenzie have two young ladies come up and greet those who were visiting the service. They were not professional about it. . . not anywhere as professional as he would have been, but they did create a special sense of welcome. What a great idea for involving people.
� Don�t waste time. Some services are like Israel wandering in the wilderness. They spend thirty-eight years getting back to where they started. Announcing Ms. Smith�s wedding shower needs to be communicated another way. Further, don�t fill time � a good hour at church is better than a mediocre ninety minutes. Singers and musicians should be in place when they are to sing. My approach � if they weren�t where they were supposed to be, we really didn�t need them to sing anyway.
� Praise leaders are not entertainers but facilitators. What these people do on the platform affects those in the pew. Pastor, keep these people focused on evangelism. Talent abounds but without clear purpose. If musical talent is just picking a recent hit song. . . but one that does not advance the cause of the service, do a bit of coaching with those involved.
� Relax and enjoy the journey. The unusual and unexpected utterances of new converts should be enjoyed. Laugh at things that go wrong. Don�t take yourself quite so seriously. Don�t get so uptight over the visitor who hears the Biblical instruction to dance before the Lord and practices it.. . doing the �Texas Two-Step.� Relax you�ll win more people. If someone is making a scene of themselves. . . move over beside them.. . do a bit of �Texas Two-Step� with them and whisper in their ear, �You are out of order.. . sit down.� Few people in the congregation will be any the wiser.
Action Items to Get It Done
� Schedule a time to teach all of the musicians about the objective of every service. Annually and on occasion semi-annually I�d meet with these important people to remind them of what we were trying to accomplish.
� Develop a simple form to write down a plan for each service. At the bottom of the form in bold italics put, �This schedule is subject to change by divine interruption or at the Pastor�s direction.�
� Think of the most effective evangelistic services you have had. What were the things that you did to keep the service from getting in the way of what God was wanting to do?
Evangelistic result does not just happen. Results come from intentional actions. It would benefit to hear some other practical ideas you have put to use to create an evangelistic environment.
“Winning on Your Home Court.” Author Unknown.
�This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, �Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.�