FOR OR AGAINST: Style-Based Worship Services

In the latest Church Music Today series, we will discuss topics that could be controversial and push-button issues for many of you out there.  Our February series is called “FOR OR AGAINST: There Are Two Sides To Every Story” in which we will be taking sides on certain topics and sharing viewpoints on each side of the argument.

Today to close out the series, we will look at the plusses and minuses of churches leading style-based worship services.  Sit back, and see the two perspectives shared on this delicate topic.  And as always, we would LOVE your comments on the post.

(FOR Style-Based Worship Services)

In 2012, Pastor Andy Stanley wrote a book called “Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend”.  Church Leader Insights named this book of the top ten books of 2012.  In this book, Stanley says “our goal is to create weekend experiences so compelling and helpful that even the most skeptical individuals in our community would walk away with every intention of returning the following week…with a friend”.

The idea of that statement alone shows the culture has changed to entice the people of today into coming because what churches are doing isn’t working. If we are to be all things to all men, shouldn’t our churches show different sides in worship to appeal to the culture around us?  

Creating multiple services give people a choice and takes the conflict away because of the choice.  As a worship pastor, the majority of your conflict probably comes from the conflict over style.  If the people choose which service they attend based on style, that fight goes away.  I can’t imagine leading where there isn’t a conflict over worship style…it’s just that common.

There are pastors and church leaders out there today who believe that everything should be modern.  If a song was written in 2002, it is ancient and shouldn’t be sung in worship.  That is a statement based on the influence of the culture around us.

(AGAINST Style-Based Worship Services)

Colossians 3:16

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdomthrough psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Bob Kauflin, in his book, Worship Matters, (p. 104-105) he writes that we should sings songs that “reflect God’s various attributes”, that allow the worshipper to “hear familiar words in a fresh way”, and remember that “God has a heart for all people”.  Shouldn’t our worship be thematic to the most important thing happening – which is the presentation of God’s Word?

There is also the idea of the separate services creating two (or more) congregations.  This may not be an issue for styles.  You may not fit into your current location for worship and you MUST have more than one service.  But, if you need the additional space, why change the order of worship or style?

Final Thoughts

Offering a buffet line of worship services is a poor way for churches to accurately reflect the Gospel to their congregation and the onlooking world.  The Gospel calls us to put aside our preferences and find our ultimate unity in Christ.  No matter the style, the content (i.e. the Gospel) should be what drives worship.  If we believe the Gospel is what unifies us, then the oldest hymn and the newest worship song can both serve the church.  A long time ago I decided that I would pick songs based on what they say rather than how cool they sounded (counter-cultural, eh?).  If a new song tells the story better than the old song then I go with that and vice versa.  It’s funny how when you point people to the Gospel, the style issues seem to fade into the background.  Sure, they are still there but they are no longer the most important issue.  I’m all for fresh, vibrant worship songs – I’m just not hung up on having to sing only the top 10 Worship hits all the time.  When we point people to the Savior instead of style, the reality that we share a common bond with other believers becomes the driving force.  The greatness of our Creator / Redeemer God becomes enough to unify believers and attract unbelievers.  The heavenly scene painted by the bible is one of the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation joining together to worship the Lamb of God.  Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 REPEATEDLY mentions His desire for His people to be ONE.

On the outside, style-based worship services may seem to be a quick fix to alleviate battles over preference or attract people but the damage done to the unity of the body is far greater in the long run.  The temptation to elevate the form of our worship (contemporary, traditional, blended) can lead to us forget the object of our worship (Jesus).  God is great at unifying believers and attracting unbelievers.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  John 12:32 ESV

I will leave you with a challenging quote from David Platt…

People are not starved for the greatness of our music, they are starved for the greatness of our God.”

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