Interview with Dr. Clay Hallmark about WorshipLife
Dr. Clay Hallmark, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lexington, Tennessee, just finished taking his church of 700 through our new church-wide resource, WorshipLife: Honoring God in the Everyday.
We sat down with him last week to get his thoughts on the campaign and see what advice he has for other pastors considering WorshipLife in their churches. What he shares is nothing short of amazing and thrilling. Below is his interview in its entirety.
What compelled you to want to carry your church through WorshipLife?
Well, two things. First, there is something very compelling in the church when everybody gets together and focuses on the same topic, the same thought process, from devotions, to sermons, to small group lessons. And the WorshipLife material, the reason we chose it was because of the topic. It chooses for us to focus on the Lord, and the different ways that we are to worship Him, the way we are to serve Him, and the way we are to serve others. And all of that material together seemed, if you’re gonna focus your entire church on the topic, focus them on the Lord was the goal we wanted to have. Because we knew that it would result in evangelism and discipleship. It would give us the opportunity to reach new people. And that’s why we chose to use that.
What’s some of the impact that y’all have seen, as a result of the campaign?
As a result of the campaign, we’ve seen several things that have happened. First, we saw a much greater spirit in the worship services. When you’re really dialed in and focused on God, and different ways to worship Him, what happens is, it results in what I consider to be really genuine worship in an actual service, in the actual event. But more than, one of the emphasis over and over again that we told everybody, is that worship is not a life event. Worship is a life emphasis. And so, what we found was that probably 90% of the people who had the daily devotion guides were engaging in daily devotions with God, spending time with God, reading the material, praying over the material, and spending time literally, focused on worshiping God.
“90% of the people who had the daily devotion guides were engaging in daily devotions with God."
So, how did that happen? Well, we saw some people who had a real major change of heart and attitude about their personal life with the Lord. We saw some families that were really encouraged. Every worship service throughout the entire campaign, someone got up out of their seat, walked to the front, and gave their life to Jesus. In addition to families joining the church that we’d been trying to get to join for months, they came on and joined. And we saw that personal devotion time really become something in people’s lives that took feet, took action. It calls them to move worship from a thought, just an ideal, a concept, to a practical daily activity, which resulted in showing love to others, inviting people to their Sunday school classes and their small groups, making a real effort. And so, we saw those things happen. So, we saw greater evangelism, we saw personal discipleship taking place.
“We saw greater evangelism, we saw personal discipleship taking place."
And for some people over and over again, people told me, “You know, this is the first time in a long time I’ve done a daily devotion. And I just can’t remember that I’ve, can’t think about how I’ve been missing out on what God really was trying to say and do in my life." And I think it really kick started a lot of personal daily devotions. And so, when we saw that happen, it was good in people’s lives.
“We saw our average Sunday school attendance increase."
But now, as far as small groups go in our Sunday school, we saw our average Sunday school attendance increase and stay above what is one of these barrier numbers that we’ve been trying to reach for the last year. And we were able to get to that number. And that’s been our bottom number now, going forward, from the time we started all the way through even today. And so, we’ve really seen our small groups strengthen in great ways. It made a lot of our Sunday school leaders, small group leaders, really think outside the box because it was very engaging in the questions that asked. They were able to use the video that’s provided with the material in the class. Probably 70% of our classes used that on an iPad, or a tablet, or laptop computer. And so, it really was outside the box for a lot of the teachers who like to just stand and lecture and give history lessons. So, we saw a major change in that way.
What thoughts do you give towards promoting it? What made it so successful for y’all? I mean, what did y’all do that propelled that forward?
One of the things that I think really made a big difference was, we started with our church staff and our key leaders of the church. We sat down with them, and we really sold them on the idea, “We need to get the whole church focused on this idea of worshiping God. And we think it’ll have the following results." We talked to them about greater evangelism, greater discipleship, growth in our small group Sunday school classes, personal discipleship. We talked about all the benefits of those things, and then we just started praying together about this event, about this whole emphasis.
And it just seemed that the Lord opened the doors, and the hearts, and minds of people among our leadership, our church staff, our key leaders in the church. And once we had the buy-in of all of those people, it was a matter of trying to sit down and determine, “Okay, when is the best time to launch this, where we can create momentum?" Creating momentum in the church is a vital thing for us to do as pastors and leaders. So, we came right out of summertime into the beginning of the fall with new church here, a lot of things happening. And we launched it then, because we knew that September, into October, into Thanksgiving, into Christmas and the new year, allows us to build some great momentum, and it would carry us into fall and into the wintertime and really propel us forward.
And so, once we set our dates, we began talking individually with Sunday school teachers. We did Sunday school leadership training. We even took the material to them, and trained them, and taught them how to use that material. We got their buy-in. We showed the promo videos. Then one of the best things we did was, we had the worship renewal weekend. And that’s where Dwayne comes in, and he’s able to share with all of our key worship leaders on Friday night. Then we had all of our church leadership deacons, staff members, Sunday school leadership with their families together on Saturday, to really launch the whole mindset behind this whole WorshipLife concept of focusing on God.
“We had Dwayne on Sunday morning come in and preach the first sermon."
And so, it really set the proper tone for the whole event and the whole emphasis. And then, we had Dwayne on Sunday morning, come in and preach the first sermon. And it really launched in a major way, what we were trying to do. And then we just followed the schedule. We would preach the sermon on Sunday. Everyone would do the daily devotions based on the topic that was preached on Sunday. And then they would have a small group lesson on Sunday, the next Sunday. And then during worship, I would introduce the next major topic, which it reinforced itself. What it did was, it created a lot of accountability in the church, and it created a lot of accountability among our leadership, as well.
If you were going to kind of pinpoint one thing, maybe one topic that really spoke to you personally, what would that be?
For me, the most important topic that really stood out to me that I’ve carried over into Thanksgiving and the message that I’m doing now is, that we are to worship God, not just for the things that He has done, but for who He is. And a lot of times, we get really stuck on, Count Your Many Blessings and thank You for our family, and our job, and our friends, and our church, and all these things. But we forget that God oughta be praised and worshiped for who He is, that God is awesome, He’s majestic, He’s all love, He’s merciful, He’s gracious to us.
And we ought to begin our times of worship with who God is. And for me, that was a topic that really stood out. And I saw it stand out in the lives of other people. I listen to people pray now for the offering, in Sunday school. And now, their whole prayers are different because they’re thanking God in the prayer first, for who He is, instead of just jumping into all our words and our needs list. And for me, that was one of the most valuable topics.
“Now their whole prayers are different."
The other most valuable topic that we really saw a lot of emphasis was worship is not an event, not what you do on Sunday morning at 10:15 to 12 p.m. in a worship service. That worship is a life emphasis. It is something that you are, and it’s something that you do.
“Worship is not an event."
Wherever you are in life, whether it be at work, or with your family, day to day, you can find ways to worship God, praise God, and honor Him. And I think that topic and that focus for me, personally, really came through. And I really sense it in the church, as well.
Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome, or any little victories that you celebrate?
We didn’t have any major obstacles. There were people upfront that were very suspicious of this whole thing, only because in this particular church, this kind of thing has never really been done before. And that was why we did the buy-in with all the key leaders and everyone going forward. So, there was a little bit of skepticism, especially among some of the senior adult classes who are used to doing the same exact thing every Sunday for years, reading their part in their learner’s guide and those kind of things.
Well, this was outside the box for them. And one of the great victories that we had was, just a few weeks ago, I was at one of the local grocery stores here in town, and one of our senior adult ladies walked up to me and said, “Pastor, I need to tell you something. Come here." And I thought, “Well, oh, me, here we go." Because she’s not one that’s known in the community of being very positive. And she said, “I just want to talk to you about this worship thing you’ve made us start doing, and that book you made us buy." And I thought, “Well, here we go." I said, “Well, yes ma’am, what do you want to tell me about it?"
“This is the best thing we’ve done in our church in over 25 years."
And she says, “That is one of the best things I have ever done. I’ve not done anything like that in over 25 years, and I can tell you, this is the best thing we’ve done in our church in over 25 years. God has taught me so much from reading that daily devotion guide. The ladies in my Sunday school class, they are just talking and talking. They used to never say a word. And you can just walk in the sanctuary on Sunday and know the Holy Spirit of God is about to fall." And she just got all teary-eyed telling me about this. And she just took hold of me and hugged me, and said,
“Thank you, thank you, Pastor, for leading us to do this. This has been really life-changing."
“Thank you, thank you, Pastor, for leading us to do this. This has been really life-changing." So I saw that to be just a little small victory in an area where you would have thought traditionally, there’s not going to be a lot of buy-in. But we’ve seen lots of buy-in. And there were people that were participating, having discussions that honestly, as a pastor, I hate to say, I would have said up front, they won’t even buy a book. If they do buy a book, they won’t open it. They won’t participate. And they won’t engage. And they were some of the most engaging people, discussion about it. They brought it, they talked about it in the deacons’ meeting when we had a deacons’ meeting. They talked about it in the hallways. And everything they said was so positive and uplifting.
So, here’s what I know. The WorshipLife material, not only is it very well-written, but it’s easy to understand. And everyone who participates in it will get something out of it. Our small group Sunday school classes have grown. Just my own personal Sunday school class that I attend, my Sunday school teacher, Brad Dyer, did an amazing job of making the material come to life. The discussion that was driven in that room was an amazing kind of discussion, topics that men don’t sit in rooms and typically talk about at that men’s class. Now, these men come to small group time every Sunday ready to engage, ready to participate, ready to talk about, answer, or ask questions. And before, they were just sort of really standoffish until we did WorshipLife material. And now, it’s like that is now the new norm of our small group Sunday school class.
So, if you had just any advice to offer to a pastor who’s considering using WorshipLife, what would it be?
What I would tell other pastors who are considering using WorshipLife is, number one, you can trust the material. It is theologically sound in every way. It is very, very practical, and it is very life-changing to your own personal life, much less the church. Secondly, I would say to you, surround yourself with good key leaders. You don’t have to have a big staff. In fact, you could have no staff at all. But you get the key leaders around it. Give them the WorshipLife Journal in advance. Show them the topics. Show them some of the videos. And literally, cast the vision for, what could God do if we all focused literally, on Him in say, that 40 days, that 5 to 6 weeks’ time?
“Have a worship renewal weekend. Bring in Dwayne."
And then I would say budget for it. Don’t do it cheap. Have a worship renewal weekend. Bring in Dwayne, bring in next-level worship people. Have them come in. And go ahead and offset the cost of your people for the cost of books. That’s what we did. We budgeted to do that. And offset the cost of books for people, so they can get it at a cheaper price, but they do have some investment into it. And then, make sure there’s nothing that competes with it, nothing distracts from it. Satan did everything possible here in our campaign to distract us with other things, personal attacks of the staff from Satan of sicknesses, and family problems, and people who had to go to the hospital, and all kinds of things. Key leaders at work being called in on Sunday mornings, a lot of those things.
So, Satan’s gonna distract you. So, take this material and realize that’s gonna happen. If it’s happening, you can be a fact that you’re onto something that God is doing, that’s bigger than you, that’s bigger than your church. And just let God move.
And the final thing I’d say to pastors is this. Work really hard weeks in advance in taking the topic, making it your own, but making sure you thoroughly introduce the topic to your church, so that when they are doing daily devotions and they are listening to the small group Sunday school lesson next week, all of it fits together very cohesively.
“If you’ll do those kind of things, and really promote it, and make it a church-wide emphasis, God will show up and move in an amazing way."
So, it really drives people, when a good sermon is preached on Sunday and people are called to decision, it really drives the daily devotion in the small group the next week. And if you’ll do those kind of things, and really promote it, and make it a church-wide emphasis, God will show up and move in an amazing way.