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Salting the Oats

As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” In my last post, I mentioned the one thing that we can’t fix about congregational worship. The one thing would be the congregation’s response. It is possible to lead a congregation to church, but we can’t make them worship.

However, someone has amended the saying to this: “you can’t make him drink, but you can salt the oats”. So, how do we help “salt the oats” so our congregation will be encouraged to worship?

I believe that there are many ways that we can help encourage congregational participation.

1. As worship leaders, we should prompt and encourage participation. In my posting “Worship DJ?”, I mentioned that we should lead and prompt people to worship.
2. We should invite people to worship and clearly give expectations of what we want them to do.
3. We should magnify God. This is a very interesting proposition: how to we make God who is already infinitely huge bigger? By focusing on God: who He is and what He as done. When we focus on him we see him in a “bigger” way than before.

1. Worship is caught as well as taught.
2. Everyone on the stage should actively be participating in worship: worship leader, vocalist, and band.
3. We are the thermostat, not the thermometer. We don’t take our spiritual temperature from people in the room, we set the pace for what is expected in worship.

No matter what we do on stage and how much we “salt the oats”, we can only encourage worship. God himself is the prompter of our worship. Only he can melt the hearts of the “frozen chosen”.
1. We should pray for those who seem unresponsive.
2. We should pray for revival for the entire church.
3. We should pray for God to move every week.
4. We should ask God for extraordinary services.

Untimately, it is God’s responsibility to draw people to Himself. However, we can be greatly used in the process if we will be focused on what He has called us to do.

7 comments to Salting the Oats

  • Jules Schieferstein

    I really appreciate this post. Before I started singing at the age of 13, I was just completely adverse to the whole idea of singing and by effect, worship. Ever since I’ve taken up a position on a worship team at my church I had always wondered how to get the members of my congregation who used to be like me to sing, how to help them worship.
    This post (and reading Worship Matters) has really helped me realize that there is no way I can get those people to worship, and that that line of thinking was the wrong approach. It’s out of my hands; all I can do is let God use me as an example, and then pray for those who just can’t seem to worship, and leave it up to God.

    Thank you for this post Dr. O!

  • Mitchell McIntyre

    This is defiantly a challenge. So many times there is an opportunity for worship and people don’t respond. The magnification of God is crucial to worship. We as humans can easily forget or overlook how God has worked in the past and by bringing this to the attention of the congregation can inspire wonder. The congregation can see how God WAS faithful and that provides the opportunity to see how He IS faithful and how He WILL BE faithful. This can help greatly in cultivating an atmosphere for worship. As stated above it is ultimately God’s responsibility to draw people to Himself. But we have many ways to help this. One huge one is prayer. One of the best ways to help people worship is to simply pray for them. Prayer is a powerful tool and we should exercise it. I strongly agree with asking God for extraordinary services. Our God is great and can do great things. As his children we can, humbly, ask for these for the betterment of the body of Christ. It is also important to cultivate an attitude of worship in yourself as a worship leader on and off the platform. In order to lead Gods people in worship we need to join them in worshiping. This is not limited to Sunday morning but all of life. your attitude of worship should not turn off as soon as the song set ends but rather, it should be continuous weather it be during a game of basketball with a group or having coffee with a friend. We need to cultivate worship everywhere.

  • Alex Holcomb

    I agree that we ought to do our best to eliminate distractions from worship. Not only that, but we should assist and facilitate worship by all believers as far as it depends on us. I agree that God certainly is the prompter of our worship. I am reminded of a story a friend recently told me. While he was working at a summer camp, the director told the workers to make the Gospel fun, attractive, and exciting; she asked that they be “peppy” and the children’s cheerleaders to faith. His response was simple: if the message of the Gospel is not enough to draw them to Christ, then we have no business selling it to them. Ultimately, I believe it is the same with worship. We can encourage and prompt. But if the truth of God’s character, past works, and future promises aren’t enough to inspire their genuine worship, we cannot force others to worship.

  • Kevin Maillefer

    I definitely agree with the “caught not taught” philosophy of worship. I have a hard time worshiping when I look at the stage and the leader, and band, are not worshiping. Likewise, one of my favorite things to do in chapel is to watch others worship. It seems as if there is a greater stress placed on the playing of the right note than the praising of the right God in many of our church’s praise bands. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what is so interesting on that music stand that the musician can just stare at it for an entire set and not even blink. Even if I don’t know the lyrics to the song, I can still be encouraged by watching others praise God. I also believe that there is only so much that we can do as worship pastors. Reality is that all of the planning and set lists in the world can’t move others to worship. The success and failure of a worship service is entirely in the hands of God and the willingness of the congregations heart to receive the spirit. All we can do as the pastor is wait, pray, and keep our sights focused on the cross.

  • Robert Rhodes

    I find this topic very interesting and really like how you divided things we do, say, and pray. One particular thought on the fact that we are the thermostat worries me a little bit. While I know we can’t help but see the humans on stage when we worship, I just worry that too much of our worship is dependent on the stage presence of those in the front. I also see a trend where people’s body language in worship is dependent on a particular portion of the song. Makes me wish we could go back to something in the old liturgical church background when the musicians led from the back of the church (something I would like to maybe try and experiment with still).

  • Stuart Leach

    I completely agree with the fact that we are supposed to lead the congregation in worshiping and set an example for them in word and deed. If we aren’t worshiping how can we expect worship from anyone else? On the thermostat vs. thermometer topic, I half agree with the idea. I think that setting the mood is part of our duty as a worship leader, but we are in a sense more worship servants than worship leaders. There’s a line between setting the “temperature” of the room and leading the congregation in worship. I may worship best with fast, upbeat songs for Sunday morning but if I am always trying to make the room on fire for God every Sunday and the church as a whole doesn’t worship like that, I’m about as useful as a butter knife cutting through steel. Service and ministry should be our primary motives and setting an atmosphere where others can worship best is part of that ministry.

  • Peter Nesbitt

    It is definitely true that as worship leaders we cannot guarantee that anyone worships, which I think is something we subconsciously end up thinking that we are capable of on a regular basis. What is difficult is that even if we do “salt the oats”, we cannot make the person who needs to eat them become hungry, and this drives our prayer as we humbly ask God to do what only he can do. But we do have an opportunity to do what we can to draw in those who might have a smaller or uncertain hunger for the oats. The most important component of this is the presentation of the gospel, which sounds like something that is only necessary for evangelism, but in fact is necessary for every gathering of the church. Of course, this takes many different shapes and forms, but the gospel is the fuel that the Holy Spirit can light to create worship in a person’s heart, so we must make a point to have it clearly present in what we say and the songs that we choose.