The two most influential people in a church worship service, other than Jesus Christ, are the pastor and the minister of music. This is no surprise to even the average church-goer, but not too often has there been an event to help both the pastor and music/worship leader in their planning worship and leading congregations to worship.
PROCLAIM! 2015 served such a purpose. The theme was “Hungry for Worship: Challenges and Solutions for Today’s Church,” and pastors and worship leaders from different parts of Oklahoma met at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills on Aug. 10 to listen to Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Lavon Gray, minister of music at Jackson, Miss., First, as the headline speakers.
Page and Gray share years of experience working together in church ministry. They co-authored the book “Hungry for Worship” that was offered to those who attended PROCLAIM! which was sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) Worship and Music Ministries and Pastoral Leadership offices.
“Both Page and Gray did a great job,” said Randy Lind, BGCO worship and music ministries specialist. “One of the things they did is not tell us how to do worship or how to plan services, but what they did is encourage us to start a conversation or restart a conversation that we would plan worship from a biblical and informed point of view. (They also said to) look around our culture and see what was going on in the lives of the people around us which is always important for us to do. We try to reach the people that God has put us in the middle of.”
Lighthearted anecdotes were shared by Page and Gray from their years of serving together. Attendees heard their experiences of worship service blunders and confrontations from members and how together they were able to handle challenges that other pastors and worship leaders could find applicable.
“The fact that we had pastors and ministers of music together being led by a pastor and music minister who have worked together was an effective way to start this dialogue,” said Brett Selby, BGCO pastoral leadership specialist. “This is a great example of team building, which is what it’s going to take moving forward. Beyond that, there was an emphasis which I greatly appreciated on the element of preaching and worship that transforms.”
Selby also mentioned Gray’s discussion of music as it relates to the worship experience. “As we have changed the title from minister of music to minister of worship, we have made this association of music with worship,” Selby said. “Worship is a much bigger category than that. I think that one of the bigger takeaways from this is broaden the category of worship, biblical worship, and how does that play out in a very diverse culture today. And how do we lead worship in a healthy, productive, relevant, biblical way.”
Page made an emphasis for churches to be aware of ethnicity changes and how this needs to be something church staffs should consider when preparing worship services. “We are in a culture where people are sensitive,” Page said, “and we need to honor that sensitivity as much as we can. Not all people see things the way I see things, and I need to be aware of that.”
Selby also addressed what Page discussed in regards to preparing worship services with a mindset of unbelievers attending. “Lost people don’t seem to care about these stylistic things that Christians seem to be willing to go to war over,” he said, “because lost people don’t have the background. We may be making too much of worship styles as it comes to reaching lost people, and maybe we ought to think more on what is going to profoundly impact them that will move them toward receptivity to a relationship with Christ and believing the Gospel.”
Lind also found Gray’s and Page’s dialogue helpful in regards to preparing worship services. “Hopefully what it did is made me step back and rethink what I can do passionately to bring people in the presence of the Lord once again, to inspire them and encourage them, and the fact that we are teaching theology that will last in their lives forever.”