Thursday, April 26, 2012

Worship Style...I was Wrong

I was wrong. Those are three tough words for people like me who spend lots of time researching, studying, and reflecting. I strive to be well informed, especially related to the call of ministry upon my life to serve the local church. This is one of those times that I’m increasingly becoming aware that the prevailing wisdom, which I have advocated for years, is actually wrong. For years I advocated diversifying worship styles. I believed that a single church could do two, or more, styles of worship in order to reach varying demographics. I am coming to believe I was wrong.

Jesus told his disciples that a person couldn’t “serve two masters…for he will love the one and despise the other.” I believe that this is also true for worship styles. When a church divides its focus it usually (there are some rare, notable exceptions) does one style with passion, and the other with apathy. One style gets the resources, talent, attention of the leader, and the financial support, the other becomes the recipient of whatever is left. Eventually it takes on a “thrown together” feel as it becomes obvious that this is “the other” worship experience.

So what does this mean? I am coming to believe that a congregation should do one style of worship, do it passionately, and do it to the best of their ability. The concentration of resources, the focus upon the intentionality of the experience, and the dedication of the leadership will increase the impact and focus of that worship experience. Distraction will be reduced, and the stress of trying to radically shift gears for the leadership will be eliminated, possibly even allowing them to worship instead of manage the “style.”

What is the cost of eliminating and concentrating your worship focus? This focus will make some of your spiritual consumers unhappy (spiritual consumerism is a whole other issue!) because they are not getting the “product” that they are “paying for.” It will mean that you aren’t doing what everybody else is doing, cause “all my friends churches are doing it.” You will lose people because you get intentional, but that is okay. If we learn nothing else from Jesus it is that growth always follows pruning. Most of the time before you can get to the harvest there has to be the elimination of distraction.

So whether you are rocking it with the organ, Bach choral responses, and artfully written liturgy or celebrating with praise music, drums, and a casual atmosphere do whatever you do, do “as unto the Lord!”

Marty Cauley

I’d love to hear your feedback! What do you think?


Bill Shepherd said...

Sounds familiar. You know my thoughts on this, and I am excited about the potential at St Paul once the vision is fully developed and all our resources are directed at that vision/mission. Let me know when and how I can help.

Unknown said...

Hey bro,

You know I agree whole-heartedly. In the UMC, we are being told by consultants to the General Church that UMC's offering different types of worship experiences are the churches that are growing. I have no doubt that is true. But a look beyond just UMC's will tell a much different story, and one that resonates with your own discovery. Our fastest growing UMC's are pitiful compared to others beyond us. Growth at a whole different level is happening in all regions and with sizes ranging from medium to mega when those churches offer a single type of worship service that is 1) natural to them (authenticity matters more than intention), 2) done with passion rather than excellence (what is natural becomes supernatural), and 3) that connects to the culture within which it resides.

If anything, the trend is to offer a more eclectic experience, but then do that one thing several times each week. This is different than blending traditional and contemporary worship forms. It's thematically connecting forms from different genres and styles--such as, a caffeinated hymn on forgiveness followed by rock-ish song on forgiveness followed by an r&b gospel song on forgiveness followed by a spoken word/poem on forgiveness followed by responsive reading and prayer on forgiveness followed by a video bumper with a scripture on forgiveness setting up a sermon on forgiveness followed by a great thanksgiving and communion on forgiveness followed by the presentation of a piece of art painted during the whole service visually capturing the essence of forgiveness followed by a ministry time that lingers whereby persons are encouraged to actively forgive one another within the church family or go out straight away and seek out someone they need to forgive or ask for forgiveness. That is an example of one way to make it meaningful and memorable, and thus transformational. People come back because of an experience of God, not a service about God.

A worship team just needs to keep playing to it's strengths so it becomes naturally supernatural. Like you don't already know all of this. But I wanted to say it anyway! ;-)