What is a “pew potato,” you may ask? It is a term I use to refer to a person in the church that takes on the characteristics of a “couch potato”–someone who sits on the pew in times of corporate worship and expects to be entertained without having to get involved in any way. Here is the sad truth: our churches, no matter the style of their worship, are producing and encouraging spectators in our corporate worship experiences to a large degree.

The things I will be sharing in the next few weeks are SO important for our churches to get hold of, so I ask you to digest this and the subsequent posts to help in analyzing your church’s times of worship.

As I shared in a previous post, An Audience of One, the congregation should be active participants in worship, not passive observers. Think about your corporate worship services; look at each component and judge whether the congregation is encouraged to be actively involved or passive. There are several things that involve people in worship that we will be looking at in the near future, but congregational song is the most widely used tool of our worship expression that involves people in great participation. As I have attended services in churches across North Carolina, I find that we too often take on the worldly model of producing a show for those that arrive. (Do not equate what I have just said to accepting less than our best preparation for worship).

Today, I want to address the first of several things that churches can do to produce spectators for worship: some churches get so involved in producing “special music” segments that they seem to have little time left for the congregation to sing. Now I agree that a stirring solo, choir special, or instrumental arrangement can be worshipful for all and is a great sacrifice of praise for those presenting the music, and many times, the congregation can worship vicariously through the song. But what I see time after time is a emphasis on non-congregational music while pushing out time and opportunities for the congregation to be involved. And when it comes to congregational singing, we should spend as much time making sure that the arrangements we use to lead our congregation are as special and prepared as anything we do for “special” music. Think of the congregation as your most important musical group. (Now there are many churches that focus great amounts of time on congregational singing, yet they, too, are often producing spectators-more in the coming weeks).

Let me encourage our Directors of Missions and associational leadership to examine their annual meetings as well. Most associations in our state have experienced those times of celebration in the last several weeks. Several years ago, my DoM, Ron Harrison, and I sat down and talked about ways we could honor God through times of worship in our annual meeting. In the past, the meetings seemed to focus only on business, reports, special music, and great preaching, but we didn’t really take much time to involve the congregation in actively praising God for all He has done. We immediately began to plan for times of worship in our meetings that would get the congregation involved in active worship. To find the time for that, we had to make worship a priority and seek ways to more effectively relay the vast amounts of information and also put less emphasis on bringing in lots of special music. What resulted was a total change in atmosphere and excitement of God’s work in our association. Let me encourage our associations and other Baptist entities to always make time for worship with active participation as a way of honoring God and celebrating His greatness.

In the next weeks, I will go through many pitfalls that we create that produce pew potatoes. Many of these may be totally unexpected to you and you may discover that your church is guilty of producing spectators without even realizing it.

This week, take time to examine your church’s worship for participation. Do you focus too much time on components of worship that encourage the arm-folding, sitting back and taking it in spectator? Ask God to help you in your evaluation.

Let’s meet back here next week as we continue to look at the culture of spectators in our churches. As always, I invite your comments. Take a look.

See also, Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship