Image for Worship Leader Q&A: How Do You Lead the Skeptic?

Worship Leader Q&A: How Do You Lead the Skeptic?

Photo of Corey ScottCorey Scott | Bio

Corey Scott

Corey and his wife, Leah, have been married since 2000. They have four children (Ethan, Kaylee, Kasen and Caleb). In 2002, he graduated from Ozark Christian College with the Bachelor’s in Music and Worship. He has served in a wide range of ministry, and has been blessed to do so at Northside Christian Church (Springfield, MO) since 2003. He is on the leadership team for the Respond Worship Retreat, an annual worship teams retreat at Maranatha Bible Camp (Everton, MO). In addition to worship ministry, he loves to preach, teach and be a champion for Global Outreach. He enjoys playing guitar, songwriting and collecting vinyl records. The joy of his life is to see the Body of Christ in fully committed worship. The theme of his life is: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Photo of Dave StovallDave Stovall | Bio

Dave Stovall

Dave Stovall is the Musical Director for Harpeth Christian Church in Franklin, TN. He’s also a recording artist and music producer, having previously played in the rock bands Audio Adrenaline and Wavorly. He and his wife Summer have three kids, and when he’s not working, he likes to write music, go on walks with his family, and play either tennis or disc golf.
Photo of Luke McCoyLuke McCoy | Bio

Luke McCoy

After graduating from Ozark Christian College and interning at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Luke and his wife Audrey moved to Marion in 2006. They have four children—Corban, Abigail, Moriah and Eden. Luke received his Master of Arts degree in Worship Studies from Lincoln Christian University in 2013. He enjoys playing his guitar, hunting, fishing, camping, playing with his kids, and spending time with Audrey. Luke feels his mission would be complete if he could inspire people to live lives of worship!
Photo of Shawn FrazierShawn Frazier | Bio

Shawn Frazier

Shawn Frazier serves as the Worship Minister for North Boulevard Church of Christ in Murfreesboro, TN. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Music Education from Harding University and Master of Arts from Middle Tennessee State University. Shawn also taught music for eight years at Middle Tennessee Christian School. While at MTCS, he had the privilege of teaching contemporary Christian artist, Colton Dixon, for three years. Shawn and his lovely wife, Katie, praise God for their daughter, Daisy. Their dog, Ginger Snap, enjoys indoor and outdoor sprinting. "It's fitting for believers to praise God with their music, because his word is true." -Psalm 33

*Editor’s Note: Not everyone who comes to church is convinced that the worship songs are true. Songs about God’s goodness and faithfulness strike some people as a mismatch to their experience. Recently I got to host a conversation with four worship leaders about how to lead people in worship who are skeptical about God or the church. The four worship ministers were Corey Scott of Springfield, MO; Dave Stovall of Franklin, TN; Luke McCoy of Marion, IA; and Shawn Frazier of Murfreesboro, TN. For previous conversations with these worship leaders, click here and here

Q: Have you noticed any increased cynicism toward God and/or the church? If so, what do you think is behind that?

Shawn: In our country, so much of the idol revolves around self and what I feel. So, if you have a church explaining that there is truth and that it’s not the same as what you feel, the church is in direct opposition to where the culture is. Obviously, they’re not going to get along.

Corey: I’ve sensed it that if we don’t react to current cultural issues from the platform, people automatically assume that we don’t care or that we’re somehow complicit. We’ve had serious discussions with people who are upset because they expect us to pick a political side from the platform. There is a cynical, bitter part of our current culture that makes a lot of assumptions.

Dave: I have noticed a cynicism toward God and church, but I’ve also seen it toward fellow believers—whether the topic be COVID, racism, or the election.

As for cynicism toward God and the church, for me and a lot of my friends who grew up Southern Baptist, we were taught certain beliefs and traditions as the only truth. Then, when we grew up and realized a lot of what we were taught wasn’t in the Bible (like the sinner’s prayer), these realizations started cracking the foundation of our faith.

As for the cynicism we’re seeing toward each other: Maybe it’s just Southern culture, but people don’t know how to disagree with each other. You disagree? Okay, then I don’t like you as a person anymore. Add in our tendency to hide behind social media, and the result is often a lot of stereotyping and cynicism toward each other.

Q: A lot of our worship songs say messages like, “God is so good. God loves me so much.” My guess is that you’ve got people in your church, who, from the looks of it, aren’t convinced. Maybe they’re cynical about God’s goodness. As a worship leader, what are some things you feel as you look out and see people who seem to be doubting the goodness of God?

Shawn: Sometimes you look out and you know their circumstances. There could be addictions, marriages falling apart. So I often look out and feel compassion. I feel heartbroken. You would figure that followers of Jesus aren’t going to have to go through all that, but they do. You look out and see them and feel glad that they came to church.

Luke: I will look out and see people who seem to be struggling, and I will find myself breathing prayers for them. Help them to connect with You. Draw them closer to You.

Corey: It’s also important to acknowledge that, even as we want to shepherd people, we can’t always tell from the stage where a person is. Someone can be in a posture of full abandonment before God and yet there can be something major hidden in there. On the other hand, you can have somebody who is stoic and stone-faced, and yet on the inside there’s a depth to their worship I had no idea about. I can’t read the room with absolute certainty.

So, what I can do is model worship—even a worship that is costly. I can have transparency and self-disclosure showing people that it’s okay to worship through your own uncertainty and pain.

Q: As a worship leader, what message do you want to communicate to the skeptic in the audience?

Corey: First, that we’re expecting you. That’s what I want them to feel from the moment they enter. In 1 Corinthians 14:24, Paul refers to the person that doesn’t understand but who has come into the church assembly. In fact, the Greek word referring to this type of person is mentioned three times in 1 Corinthians 14. Paul is serious that the worship experience be inclusive of people who don’t understand. This isn’t necessarily a Willow Creek, seeker-driven model, but it is a recognition that friendliness and sensitivity toward the skeptic is a biblical expression of worship. I want the skeptic to feel welcomed and I hope that he or she gains something from the experience.

Shawn: I want the skeptic to know that it’s okay to come in with doubt. And it’s okay to ask questions. A lot of people have terrible feelings about the church because their questions were shut down even without a conversation. The truth is, we’re all in here walking toward Jesus together.

Luke: I want them to know God’s goodness. In the green room before the service, I’m praying, “I know You’re good. Help them to see it.” So, before the service, we’re praying for God to connect with people who don’t see it yet.

Corey: For me, it takes a lot of pressure off to know that drawing people to God is what God does. I can’t force it. I can model the pursuit. I want to communicate that pursuing God can come from a place of brokenness, even from stumbling and falling. As Psalm 37:24 says, “Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” God doesn’t want perfection from us; He wants our pursuit.

In the green room before the service, I’m praying, “I know You’re good. Help them to see it.”