At Elevation, the people who sit on the front row are hardcore. During worship and the sermon, they go nuts. They’re raising their hands, singing to the top of their lungs, saying amen, nodding their heads, and scribbling notes furiously.
Because of the way the auditorium is lit, all I can see are the people on the front row. And if you only judged the atmosphere of the room by the front row, you’d get the impression that everyone’s into this and that everyone’s getting it.
But if you look through to the back of the room, it’s not the same. You notice more people disengaged. Their arms are crossed. They’re mouthing the words to songs, if they’re singing at all. When you’re preaching, it’s as if their face has forgotten that their soul got saved.
As leaders, it’s easy to find ourselves only paying attention to the people on the front row. And I’m not just talking about the front row in the context of worship. We spend most of our time focused on those who are super-committed and involved, and understandably so. They’re where we want everyone to be. They’re encouraging and life-affirming. They make us feel like we’re moving forward and not wasting our time.
But the dangerous thing about the front row is that it can skew your assessment of the room and make you think your church or organization is in a better place than it is. You have to be aware of the whole room, not just the front row. You know, the 70–80% of the room that is more complacent, not just the hardcore 20–30%.
There are so many people in the rest of the room that aren’t into what you’re doing yet. They haven’t gotten it. They haven’t bought in. They may need to be brought along a little differently than your crew in the front row. You may need to alter your approach to reach them and get them onboard.
I’m not saying you should ignore your fan base. They’re your most important asset. I fully believe you should preach to the most passionate people in the room. Some bottom-feeders are always going to do what they do, so we shouldn’t settle for the lowest common denominator of commitment and enthusiasm. That will get you nowhere.
But we also can’t afford to forever function on the passion and commitment of the front row. If you want your church or organization to reach its full potential, you have to get the people with back-row complacency to have front-row enthusiasm and motivation. And in order to do that, you first have to be able to correctly gauge the entire atmosphere.
Assess the whole room. Work your fan base. Preach to the most passionate people in the room. Just don’t leave the 70–80% on the back rows behind.