We have been thinking about worship music as a way to make it easier for those who feel like outsiders—even for those who have gone to Church their whole lives—to feel more at home when they first encounter the community of faith. Here is why:
Many of us can remember the first time we felt like a true outsider. Standing along the edges looking in. Feeling the awkward shame of not knowing or understanding what was going on in front of us. Looking for a way to escape without being noticed and called out.
A prime place for this awkward moment is our first visit to Church. It may not be anyone’s intention, but it still happens so often. At a party or social the great courage builders include friends, music, and alcohol. Our first wish is that you could be on the arm of a friend, but if that is not the case, and if there is not an open bar, music can really help.
Worship music is what followers of Jesus share together when we sing our prayers, intimate and vulnerable, but at its core it is still only music, nothing veiled or mysterious. Music gives us all an opportunity to come alongside, and, in a way, it can help us all feel like insiders for a moment. Music is a universal language for everyone. We realize that the words of worship songs may not be common to every person who visits our meetings, but when the transparency of the music is easy to feel, and the words are accessible on the screen, even if we don’t know the songs we can participate and that is a real act of hospitality. Extending access to all is a very kind thing to do, so thank you worship leaders for helping the outsiders be feel more welcome!
Now, we want to ask you to intentionally put more effort into including this warm, welcoming aspect of music into your worship work. We are asking you to consider making the Christian art of hospitality part of your worship culture.
This is one of the essential ideas that shaped the music of Enter The Worship Circle, lifting up hospitality as a beautiful Christian practice. This is wonderfully explored in the book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl. Hospitality is the artful commitment to welcome strangers. One of the great insights in this book is that the act of welcoming outsiders is a gift that runs in both directions: both the ones who offer welcome, and ones who receive it are deeply encouraged.
Here are some ways to add more hospitality to your culture:
Consider using some songs that include welcoming themes like “it’s good not to be alone” and “we are all in this together!” G.K. Chesterton wrote at the opening of the 20th Century , “We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.” With some effort we can find these songs, or write the new ones we need.
Many have found it helpful to sing songs that are instantly accessible, easy to understand, and offer a quick glance at how God loves everyone great and small. When we were children we sang, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” This song helps us all feel more welcome around Jesus, and with one another. It may not be just for children.
Finally, and one of our favorites to reflect on, is the challenge in Hebrews 13:2, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! (NLT)” Sometimes angels are just strangers wrapped in broken flesh. To offer a hand of welcome to strangers really is a gift that runs in both directions; so we pray for you and your team that you will add hospitality to your worship works and enjoy the great things God has in store for us all.