A whlie ago, our family had recently moved to a new area, after having lived in the same city and church community for 20 years. Moving changed my perspective on how I view church. After 20 years of being a leader in a couple of church plants, pastoring, and serving as a worship leader, I found myself and my family looking from the outside in when it comes to finding and engaging in a local church family. It was a sobering thing. My thoughts on the topic here come from that perspective.
As I thought about the concepts of intimacy and familiarity, I thought about what happened on our first visit to a new church. My family and I were still reeling emotionally from the change of the move from Arizona to Tennessee. As we stepped into this local church for the first time, the music was skillful and worship was exciting and vibrant, but none of us became deeply engaged. My sons, my wife and I couldn't help but stand amongst a new family and feel out of place, lost in someone else's songs and community. Certainly, we understood that this time of devotion is about God. He is worthy, He is good and He is due our honor and praise. Yet, in the pain of our human circumstance, our emotions and hearts lagged far behind our knowledge of God's faithfulness. He was worthy, but we felt lost in the moment of our personal grief.
As the time of worship neared an end we heard the familiar progression of a song we all knew. The soothing lyrics began to lift us. The keyboard player, a lady, began singing the classic "Breathe". My wife, who rarely ever cries in public, melted by the powerful message of the song we all knew so well. As the words rang out "I'm desperate for You" and "I'm lost without you", she cried, I cried- we just wept, knowing that it was so true. For that moment, God seemed to draw close and remind us that he cared about us and knew exactly about our situation of having our lives turned upside-down. Probably without knowing it, this little local church had offered a place of intimacy for our weary family, not because we got to know them relationally, but because they played one song we knew.
The whole ordeal does sound a bit silly now in recounting it. But for our family, that tiny act of encouragement on their part exposed the value of intimacy that was embedded in this local church, simply by including one well known song in their Sunday morning play list.
In my life as a leader, I long to find such simple touch-points for every person I have the opportunity to encourage. Whether it be in familiar songs, scripture quotes or just a kind hand of support at the right time, I have found that the simplicity of my service will change the lives of others if I honestly consider how life must feel from their perspective.
How many familiar songs should a worship leader include in their Sunday morning worship? Each church must listen and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit on how their song selection reflects God's heart for their community. But I would urge you to consider that you are not just a cloistered community waiting for the great rapture, hoping to escape the rough storms that rage in the sea of humanity that surrounds your local church.
Your community is an outpost, a lighthouse, for the weary travelers that come to your light. As those travelers come to your light, the sound of a familiar song silences the storms of their lives, giving them a moment to possibly hear from the heart of God. You serve them, and not yourselves, when you include those anthems of the faith in your times of worship.
I believe it is that kind of selfless service in which Jesus once mentioned-
"I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)
Serving with you,