The Opening Song

Most weeks at Verve we start our service with an “opening song.” We’ve found a loud song will help bring people in from the lobby, stop conversations and get people focused. We have a few things we’re looking for in an opening song, and I thought it might be helpful to some of you pastors out there to know our thinking. So here are our priorities:

First, we want it to be a song people know. At Verve we mostly get unchurched non-Christians. They are nervous coming to church, and have all kinds of negative stereotypes of Christians. We want to put them at ease and bust their stereotypes, so they’ll be open to what God wants to do in them through the service. We do that by building a bridge. Instead of focusing on what differentiates us, we start out by focusing on what we have in common. This helps people who are on edge realize we can probably relate to each other, and starts to lower their defenses.

This is why the song has to be something off the radio, not a Christian song, and why we would never start a service with worship songs. If we started the service with a Christian song, or worse with everyone standing to sing together, it would just accentuate our differentness and create increased anxiety for people who are nervously wanting to find God. I think of Acts 15:19 where the early Christians said we shouldn’t make it difficult for people to turn to God.

Second, we want the song to be upbeat. We will occasionally break this rule for a great reason – we’re starting a series called “Losing My Religion” and this band called R.E.M. happens to have a song called that, but it’s a little on the melancholy side – but we want the song to be rocking. Why? The same reason you’ll hear heart-thumping music before a sporting event. The same reason you’ll see a comedian come out and tell jokes before the filming of a TV show. The same reason you’ll hear lively music at Disney World when they’re about to open the park in the morning. Because it loosens up and livens up the crowd. Because it gets people amped for what will follow. Because it announces that something is about to happen. And something is about to happen. The people in that room are about to have a chance to worship the one true God, who is life’s greatest treasure. The people in that room are about to learn about Jesus and the amazing thing He did for us to give us an amazing relationship with God. The people in that room are about to have the opportunity to be inspired, equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a bigger life. And all of that is worth getting excited about. An upbeat song leading into it seems appropriate.

I’ll share with you the other two priorities we have with our opening song tomorrow. Tune in then.