Contagious: something that is transmissible by direct or indirect contact with an infected person
The noun form for this is “contagion.” In this period of COVID-19, we are discovering a new vocabulary. We have heard terms like “asymptomatic,” “super spreader,” and “shelter-in-place” expressed more in the last 30 days than in the previous 30 years. Of course, we want to adhere to the sound advice of medical professionals.
Carriers of the disease are highly contagious and for several days can be asymptomatic. As believers, we are carriers of hope. Unlike carriers of COVID-19, we are not intended to live in isolation. We gather to worship and do our best to spread hope to a lost world. Worship is a key driver in this effort.
The writer of Hebrews states: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Why? “To spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
As carriers of hope, we gather to worship the One that delivered us from eternal death and separation from God. Talk about a reason to celebrate! As God’s people are beginning to regather for corporate worship, it is my prayer that our giving, singing, preaching, and sharing “spurs” us to share like never before. This is what it means to be a contagious worshiper!
The book of Acts gives account of what contagious worship looks like. In Acts 2:41-47, we see that the worship of the early church was noted by prayer, service, generosity, doctrinal integrity, fellowship, and yes, “worship.” Something was going on with the early church gatherings that led people to share Jesus with the world. Worship had become so contagious three thousand people came to Christ in a single day!
Can Worship Be Contagious in a COVID-19 World?
Today, many worship leaders have discovered an exciting challenge: “On-line Worship.” Even though limited with equipment and “know-how,” churches large and small are finding their way through the technological hurdles to provide a “live-stream” service for their churches. This challenge has become a great gift as many discovered that services are being watched by countless more people than normally attend.
Nothing will ever replace “in house” worship but I believe on-line options are here to stay—and with it the opportunity to touch more people than ever before. In many ways, a disease that has brought so much grief and despair has ushered an opportunity for the church to become even more “contagious.” At a time of such need, the church must rise to the challenge to spur one another to love and good works—in other words—to be “contagious!” A few reminders for those who lead worship:
Engaged Worshipers become Contagious! Help your people become engaged with the following:
Contagious Worship Starts with Prayer!
It is easy to get comfortable in our planning. We often revert to that which we are accustomed to. Prayer unlocks vision and creativity.
Contagious Worship Happens When You Plan Alongside Your Pastor
Contagious worship is “caught.” People will quickly know that you are planning with your pastor as they see and encounter thematic worship that has a sensible flow. Ideas will flow. You will also discover a new synergy as your relationships draw closer together as partners in ministry. You will lead with renewed energy and your people will sense the teamwork that exists with their leaders.
Contagious Worship is Strengthened by Knowing Your People
Know your people! Keep in mind that familiarity is a primary key to participation. There is a reason “curling” was voted the most boring sport in the winter Olympics. No one understands it! Know what works with your people. Sing what they know and slowly introduce them to new music keeping in mind they need to sing it at least 5-7 times before it will be internalized and become part of the music DNA of your church.
Contagious Worship is Found “in” the Word
The early church grew in part because of its worship. According to Acts 2, believers gathered for worship, observed the Lord’s Supper, were strong in fellowship, and took the message of Christ to the world. They also held “fast” to the Apostles doctrine. This is so vital! Often, we select the filter of what is the latest, most popular, and most stylish. The filter we will be held accountable to is God’s Word. The Word should define our worship more than anything else!
Planning worship without a Bible close by is like entering a foreign country without a passport. You just won’t get very far. Our worship should be defined more by its alignment to the Word than ANYTHING else. In God’s Word we discover models of worship, theological dimensions in worship, the content of worship, how to know when it is authentic (or a farce!), and the results of true worship. Most importantly, the Word has life! Do you desire “engagement?” Start with the Word.
Ok, we have seen some keys for engagement that leads to developing “contagious worshipers.” What about “some practical helps for the “on-line” engagement?
Practical Helps: A Few “MAKE SURES”
- Make sure that if “live” or “pre-recorded” you are prepared. Knowing that your online service is likely to be played over and over, you will want to make sure you have EVERYTHING in order. Every song should be led from memory. Eye contact is paramount! Those connecting on-line must sense they are in the room with you.
- Make sure that lighting is adequate, (in front — not behind). Light is a “delight.” Experiment with light settings and angles to minimize shadows.
- Make sure you have cameras appropriately positioned.
- Make sure the stage area is clean from clutter (nothing is more distracting online than a “Red Bull” can in the corner!)
- Make sure you are dressed appropriately. I am not advocating a particular style but rather that the outfit is clean and pressed. This shows respect for yourself and Remember, everything is more visible through HD digital cameras.
- Make sure the mix is right. Remember that a good “house mix” does not equate with a good “stream mix.” Our team (see contact below) can assist you with possible equipment needs, training, and creative solutions to improve your online presence. There is also a wealth of material on the web.
- Make sure you express on your face what is in your heart. Keep in mind that you are leading others (even if they are not in the room). It is a privilege to serve the church by facilitating biblical worship. Few things should bring more joy to your heart than to fulfill your calling in this manner.
- Make sure you have planned how the service elements connect. Nothing exposes poor planning quite like a “stop-and-go” service. This is the quickest way to affect a “click” to another link from the observer. Use others from time to time to introduce songs, read a scripture, or offer a prayer. Remember that when you are “online” you need to know what you are going to say before you say it. Be prepared for all commentary.
- Make sure you have communicated EVERYTHING with those involved. I recommend using tools like Planning Center or Worship Planner to help keep your folks informed.
- Make sure you stay on time. In this COVID-19 world, everything is on a tighter schedule. Everything from people entering and exiting the room to the cleaning crew wiping down the pews — everything will take longer. If your direction “goes long,” it will create delays with those who are sacrificing their time in order to re-open for the next group of people. Be considerate of each other’s time.
- Make the jump! Most of us feel a bit overwhelmed with the technological changes that have taken place. We should all rejoice in the advancement of technology for such a time as this. For many, we must be willing to take the jump and even suffer a bump or two along the way. This is the only way we grow. It has been said that the distance between a reality and vision is “tension.” It is through the tension, however, that we carve new paths for new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to get help. Do be afraid, however, to ignore the consequences of staying in the same place.
Much more can be added to the list. As you move through this season of unexpected twists, turns, frustrations, and questions, I believe you will be able to add many more “Make Sures” for others to learn from. In the meantime, let’s do our best to engage our congregations in meaningful worship that will produce highly “contagious” worshipers that will impact the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I highly recommend visiting with your state missionaries Keith Chandler and Nick Duke. Keith provides excellent insights for creative planning (particularly for our smaller attendance church leadership). Nick, is excellent in worship preparations and technology. Remember — their service is free because of CP! Their contact is here: https://gabaptist.org/worshipandmusic/
Don’t forget about SPARK! A wonderful training tool for worship leaders along with every staff member, lay leader, and of course— pastors!
Along with our team, we have joined together with state leaders from around the country to develop a new website: Resourcing Worship. I believe you will find some great helps and encouragement from state missionaries from around the country. Here is a link you may find helpful: https://resourcingworship.com/
If I can be of further help, don’t hesitate contacting me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.