Yes, having multiple worship services are of the devil…if we let them be.
Let me explain.
It is very interesting how we go through life and end up changing our minds about things.
For example, how did I go from this to this? If you don’t want to fully read those two blog posts, here’s a brief summary. In the first post, written in February, I make the argument that it would be wrong for us to have multiple worship services because people need to give up their consumer mindset and be unified. In the second post, written last week, I explain that in June we started a second worship!
All it took was the short time from February to June for my mind to change. Actually it was a bit quicker than that because the decision to start an early traditional worship service was made in April or May. I remember during that time feeling a bit like a hypocrite. I had written an impassioned blog post decrying consumeristic Christianity (which I still agree is a problem), and now I’m appearing to give in to consumerism.
I remember the series of meetings our church Council had about it. Things got very emotional. People were making points to support their position, and we didn’t have any kind of consensus. Between meetings I thought and prayed about it a lot. I talked with people and sought out their wisdom. At one point a different perspective struck me. When God wanted to express his amazing love to us, he didn’t say “Jump through these hoops and get to me.” Instead, he knew we were unable to reach him, and he gave up a whole heck of a lot to reach us. Philippians 2:1-11 tells the story pretty well.
As I thought about Jesus’ sacrificial love for us, I compared that to our worship situation. For the previous six years we had asked people to sacrifice in order to worship together. But this was the opposite of how God looked at us. No doubt God calls for us to sacrifice for him, but he took the first massive step. I pondered this and knew my heart and mind was changing. When it came to worship, we, the leadership, first needed to sacrifice for our people before asking them to sacrifice. We needed to give of ourselves as an act of love. That act of love needed to be a new worship service specifically for people who prefer a traditional style.
The idea was born.
At the next meeting, I sat quietly while the Council debated numerous ideas. After 30, 40, or 50 minutes, I don’t know, I decided to submit my proposal. I explained the change in my heart and mind, and then I suggested that we start an 8am service in a traditional style. No volunteers, just me in a suit and tie, and our worship leader playing hymns. We would use the offering plates and the doxology. Same order of worship every week. An act of love.
And it passed.
I expected 5-10 people to show up, with 10 being a victory. I was afraid it would be only 5. For five months now, we’ve averaged 15. It’s tiny, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not about numbers, but instead about giving in love. After a three month trial the attenders thought we would shut it down, but instead we removed the “trial period” label and made it a permanent service. We’ve found at least one unexpected benefit: people who are serving in various ministries and would normally have to miss the 9:30 worship can now come to the early service.
Are there any downsides? Sure. Our worship leader has to wake up earlier and prepare a whole set of extra songs. We used to have a Sunday AM worship practice prior to the 9:30 service, but that is now impossible, so she also has to have a new practice time on a weekday night. She has graciously sacrificed more for this venture than anyone. I have to get up earlier too.
What of the other downside I refer to in my previous post, the possibility that this additional worship service has led to disunity in the church? Is Satan at work in this? I think not. Not if we respond to the concern in a healthy way. Here’s how I finished my sermon this past week to address this:
Unity cannot be accomplished by sitting in the same room as other people during a worship service. To borrow an illustration that Billy Graham used about shots, such as flu shots: perhaps by having worship together, and thus having a small dose of fellowship each week, we’ve inoculated ourselves from the real thing. Building a relationship that leads to unity takes a lot of time outside the walls of the church. Let’s envision fellowship in a whole new way. Miss people from the other service? Give them a call, a visit, take them out for lunch, coffee, and spend a good long time with them. Then do it again and again. Invite them to dinner. Pray together, serve together, etc.
Unity takes work. Unity is not easy. Unity can be messy. Unity requires sacrifices.
So how are you going to pursue unity with the people at the other worship service?