Playing For The Prodigal

I’m not sure how helpful this post will be. It’s not even something that I do intentionally anymore. But maybe, somewhere out there, this will help someone out.

Every church has prodigals; people who once professed Christ and dwelled with us in community but who are now wandering, rebellious, and living wild in the world. Several years ago I was leading worship at a church where I did not have a long history, but almost weekly I would hear someone mention a prodigal son or daughter of the church who had “popped in” out of nowhere. Some of them stayed, some of them did not. After a while I realized two things. First, for whatever reason, in that season of the church’s life there was a returning generation of those who had wandered. I didn’t know why or how long it had been happening or it would last, only that it was going on. The second thing I realized is that not every prodigal was being recognized. If this many were being noticed (and hopefully embraced and ministered to) how many more were slipping in and out (it was a fairly large church).

My response to these two realization was simple: play to the prodigals. Every week, whether it was a Sunday morning, or Wednesday night, if I was leading worship, I made sure to put at least one song from 5-10 years earlier in the churches life in the set list. This would be a counter intuitive move in many churches. Why would you go “backwards”? The reason was simple, if these folks were coming in, and honestly seeking, let’s minister to them in song where they are at? So I made some assumptions. My first assumption was that there was a prodigal in the worship service. The church was around 30 years old, but my next assumption was that most of this wave of prodigals had been gone from the church for 5-10 years. Those who’d been gone less time would already know many of the newer songs, and for those who had been gone for over a decade, the church would be so different that it was like they hadn’t been here before.

So assuming there was at least one prodigal son or daughter of the church there every service, and assuming a certain time frame they came from I began to put at least one song from that time frame in my worship set lists. Every time.

I have no idea what the results were. No body came up to me with a testimony about how they had been wandering and the song I lead had spoken to them. But yet it was something I felt strongly that I should do.

What I think this speaks to is things that all of us worship leaders should work to achieve and maintain:

-Be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart

-Be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to your brain

-Be sensitive to what’s going on in your church as a whole

-Be sensitive to who is in the crowd you lead in worship

-Be sensitive to the season your church is in

Like I said, I don’t intentionally pick my set lists this way now. I’m not sure who this will help, but I wanted to share something that God lead me to do once because it was kind of a unique thing. What unique thing is the Spirit leading you to do to point people to Jesus?

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