When North Side broke ground on our worship center, I was our College and Missions Pastor. In the middle the building’s completion, my job and responsibilities changed as I became the Worship Pastor. I suddenly began attending meetings with architects, designers, and engineers. Coming into the discussions late into the process, I often had questions or suggestions as I thought through the future of our church.
One building concept was a strange addition to the plan: the church green room.
I had always thought of a green room as a place where the entertainers were protected from the audience in order to provide the best performance possible. So, why would a church need a green room?
- The worship team is not a group of entertainers.
- Those in attendance are not the audience.
- The goal of worship should not be performance.
So, what would the existence of a green room accomplish?
I was told by architectural experts that many churches our size had a green room where the pastor and the band could prepare and hang out while it wasn’t their time on stage. If the church is really large, the pastor has one room and the band has another. So while the band is playing (entertaining, performing, leading worship, whichever description fits best), the pastor is in his green room looking over his message and nibbling on some snacks. While the pastor is speaking (preaching, talking, entertaining, whichever description fits best), the band is hanging out talking about how the last set went while drinking some caffeine-induced beverages to ensure the upcoming last song will be killer.
While I didn’t buy into all the intricacies of the concept, I did understand the need concerning having a set place to gather, discuss, and pray before the service. Since the space was available and had an intended purpose, I didn’t make too much of a deal concerning it.
Once we started using the worship center, I noticed something.
Anytime anyone would speak on stage or off stage regarding a meeting in “the green room,” I would cringe.
It literally would make me feel sick on my stomach. A green room implied that there was some type of separation between the leaders and the congregants. It implied that a select group needed to be protected from such distractions as people with real needs. It made me feel like we were just here to perform a task on a stage devoid of relationships with people.
I started using terms such as the “yellow room” (because it actually is painted yellow instead of green). My most common phrase would be the “Connect room” since we had membership classes in there for years. I just struggle with calling it the green room.
You might be thinking I am making too big a deal of this, but I am fiercely opposed to inheriting the behaviors of the world within the church.
It is always a tragedy when the people of God learn how to worship God from those who do not know God.
The Bible warns about learning worship practices from the world.
- God would not allow Nadab and Abihu to offer “strange fire” upon the altar because it was a practice not encouraged in Scripture (Lev. 10:1).
- God was angry enough to kill Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:7) when he practiced caring for the things of God in the same manner which he learned from the pagan Philistines (1 Sam. 6:8).
- Jesus would quote Isaiah (Is. 29:13) by warning against worshiping according to what we learn from man rather than what is commanded by God (Mark 7:7).
While the concept of a green room is not as severe, it is a symptom of a larger problem: we are too prone to adopt the principles of this world than we are to obey the commands of Scripture.
The Church is often too prone to adopt the principles of this world than we are to obey the commands of Scripture.
We do meet in “the room formerly known as the green room.” I am honestly trying to think of a new name. Maybe we could call it Room 1151 (after Psalm 115:1). Or how about 333 (Ps. 33:3)? Maybe 9411 (Ps. 94:11). Or how about Room 84 (Psalm 8:4)?
Who knows what we will call it, but it is more important what we do in it as a team.
- We do have some coffee and breakfast snacks for those who get there so early to prepare to lead in worship.
- We do meet in there before the first service to walk through the service with all those involved.
- We do pray for one another and for those in the service every week.
- All team members sit out in the service (We do allow with multiple services the ability to sit in there or another place for one service as long as they are present in the auditorium with Bibles open and notes being taken in the other service. That is a rule we enforce – though we have never had to remind anyone).
- And then, unless we have something we need to communicate with someone else concerning preparation, I am encouraging that we get out of that room and into the auditorium where the other worshipers are.
I would prefer a band member to be late on stage because he or she was ministering to someone than the whole team locked away in isolation from the rest of the church. We can churn out everyone’s favorite worship songs like you hear them on the radio and lose our effectiveness because we are not engaged with those who we are leading. Prepared and polished is not the goal of our worship. We want to do things in a spirit of excellence (Ps. 33:3), but we desire to have solid relationships with people even more (Gal. 6:10).
Pastors and leaders are called shepherds in the church. We are to care and nurture the shepherd the flock around us (1 Pet. 5:2).
To be classified as a shepherd, you have to be around sheep.
On Sundays, I make rounds. I walk around the auditorium. I head out to the commons area. I look for visitors to greet. I find people who are hurting and offer hugs and prayers. I try to go and find those struggling and check on situations. And you know what I have found? It doesn’t distract me from worship leading, but it provides me greater focus and intensity.
Ministering to people off the stage allows me to be a more effective minister when I am on the stage.
I don’t want to lead the church based off the world’s wisdom when I have the Word’s truth in front of me.
- I want to share my life with this church because I love them so much (1 Thess. 2:8).
- As a pastor, I am called to be hospitable in my home and in the church house (1 Tim. 3:3).
- I want to be able to teach in public and in house to house (Acts 20:20) showing that there are relationships that should be built.
- I want to embrace this priesthood of believers (1 Pet. 2:9).
- I want to fight against an air of spiritual superiority (1 Cor. 4:7).
- I want to be together with this church and have all things in common (Acts 2:44).
- I want Jesus’ prayer over us to be true – that we would be one (John 17:21)!
Death to the church green room. There is no room for celebrities among us.
I encourage every leader in every church to examine your practices which oftentimes reveal our hearts.
Let us lead with the wisdom of the Word rather than the practices of the world.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.