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City Worship Culture


American churches are a unique product of Christianity.

We have megachurches with giant production; some just as big as the shows on the Vegas strip. We have backwood chapels with hymns and pews. Some with skinny jeans, some with suits and ties, and some that don’t meet in a building whatsoever.

I have the unique privilege of living and worship pastoring at a church in the heart of San Francisco. Pastoring over a worship culture in big cities such as San Francisco can be a different task all in it’s own. SF is known for a couple things; high rent, liberalism central, amazing weather, and unique city culture. And all these things are play while creating a culture of worship within our big american cities.  Along with that, San Francisco is one of the most unchurched cities in America, reaching only 3% of it’s entire population.

To pursue making Jesus famous in a virtually unreached city, you have to have some serious commitment and vision for what you see Jesus doing through you in that city. For you city pastors: here’s three things you have to have when trying to create a worship culture in your city:

You have to have a passion for the city, and passion for people in the city.

Whenever I talk to people who are wanting to move into a city to do ministry, I try to talk them out of it. My lead pastor tried the same thing when I moved to San Francisco. There are sacrifices while living in a city; high rent, little spaces to live in, loud noises, learning subways, trains and bus routes…and most likely, your neighbor’s will be drug dealers. Here’s the thing: to create a place of worship within your ministry, you MUST have a serious burden not only for the city in which you live, but also for the people that call that city home.

And most likely, these aren’t people that will not be the “run-of-the-mill” families. We’re talking about people who aren’t your typical “church goers.” Who want the exact opposite of status quo. Who want the exact opposite of what the church they see on Daystar. You name it, you probably are going to have it coming through your doors.  And you get the amazing privilege of loving them. No matter who or what they are.

That’s what city culture is about: it’s always a mix up of the craziest people around. And it’s your job to cultivate a culture of Jesus around them.

Understand the pulse of your city.

Hillsong Young & Free won’t work at my church. Big lights and big production won’t work. Words that have any form of vague lyrical stature will fail instantly at my church.

SF is known for uniqueness. And what they want more than anything is authenticity within their worship services. Now, I’m not saying Hillsong Y&F isn’t authentic. What I am saying, is that my church will gravitate towards deepens more than songs that get people up and moving.  That won’t work at Hillsong, though.  And that may not work at your church.

I’m from a big church production background. The flashing lights, click tracks, haze…you name it, it probably happened. However, I had to understand, listen, adapt, and then fall in love with SF church worship culture.  And in San Francisco, what we have seen work more than anything is stripped down, lyrically heavy, anthem-matic songs that people could almost sing over acapella.

What is it that works the best for your city culture? Figure that out, and you’ll make much more out of your worship services.

This isn’t Jesus in Suburbia.

wtb-city-quoteIn city culture, there’s simply no beating around the bush; in such a fast-paced, crazy society, people won’t be walking into your church because “that’s what you do on Sundays.” Trust me…you’re not going to have very many pew warmers. The people that walk through your church doors are going to be people who need Jesus, not people who feel like they have already found them, and are fulfilling their religious duties. Shepherd that. Give them all they want. If your goal is to reach a city, then utilizing the people OF the city is the best plan of attack.

There you have it. Find the city worship culture for your city, and resound these simple truths if you are a city worship pastor. It will do your ministry a big favor.

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