Tag Archives: blended worship

Could starting an additional worship service be of the devil?

1 Nov

Well, could it?  People have wondered this.

We started an 8am worship service a few months ago, in addition to our 9:30am service.  We did not need to have another worship because lack of space necessitated it.  We have plenty of room in our sanctuary for our current attendance on Sundays.

People wondered if starting the early service was a bad idea.  Some even cautiously speculated that the devil might be at work in the process.  The reason they thought this is that adding the extra worship service can give the impression of disunity.  There are now two groups.  The 8am people and the 9:30am people.  It seems that this is not a good thing, especially when our sanctuary could fit them all at the same time.  Is this not division in the church?  A kind of church split?  We know the devil loves those.

This concern was part of the reason that we balked at the idea of two services as long as we did.  Since I’ve been at Faith Church, we have been discussing this at least as far back as 2007.  We want unity.  We have asked people to give up their worship style preferences so that we can have a visible expression of unity, worshiping together on Sunday mornings.  As a result, starting in 2007, we decided to hold one blended worship service, half traditional, half contemporary.  I don’t feel it went very well.  (And yet, look what I wrote here.  Interesting the change.)  You set out to please everyone a little bit, and you end up pleasing no one.  20-25 people left the church because they felt it was too contemporary.  Others visited and never came back because it was too traditional.  Unity?

I wish we would have started a second traditional service years ago.  The heart behind our decision to do so earlier this year was love.  Express love by ministering to people in their language.  For some in our congregation, that language is traditional worship.  We have 15-20 people that attend the early service.  Could it be the work of the devil that we are reaching out to them in love?

And what of unity?  Some people from both services have legitimately expressed concern that they miss seeing and talking to the people from the other service.  That is a great concern!  The issue is not how the new service broke unity, but instead how we will pursue unity in spite of the new service.  What do you think you could do to be unified with those who attend the other service?  Is there Scripture that might apply to this?  We’ll talk about this more on Sunday, but feel free to start discussing here now.

Why I dislike church worship surveys very, very much

7 Feb

The pastors of the EC Church have a Facebook page.  It’s a place where we pastors talk shop throughout the week, ask each other questions, debate, and so on.  Recently a pastor friend of mine asked the following question:

Has anyone ever surveyed their congregation regarding worship style? If so, do you have any questions that my worship committee might use?

I knew I had to respond.  We’ve done worship surveys at Faith Church.  Maybe some of you remember them.  How would you answer his questions?  Want to know what I said?  here is my response:

Don’t survey them! It always went bad for us!!!! Ha! That is true though.

My eye starts to twitch when I think about surveys.  They give the impression of interest in hearing from people and caring about their perspective.  But somehow it has not gone well for us.  I think that might be due to believing that majority rules, or that majority is always right.  At Evangelical Seminary’s recent Faith in the Marketplace breakfast, speaker Jim Smucker (CEO of Bird-In-Hand Corporation) gave a wonderful presentation, including a clip from the movie Invictus.  Please watch it here before reading further.

So I knew I had to say a bit more in response to my friend’s question:

When I said, “don’t survey them,” above, the more I think about it, the more I think that is serious. By surveying them about worship style, how could you avoid promoting a consumerist mentality toward worship? In 2007 Faith Church was going through worship difficulties. One proposal (which I admittedly favored) was going to two services, one traditional, one contemporary. I was wrong. Though kicking and screaming, I supported our decision not to go to two services. Instead we attempted a blend. Our reasoning was that we wanted our people to practice unity over and above their personal preferences. Many were unable to demonstrate that kind of sacrificial attitude. Faith Church is now smaller from a resulting worship exodus, and has ongoing budgetary concerns.

I wonder often if we should have just given people what they wanted, and hoped to minister to them (change their minds) after keeping them here. This is speculation, but after decades of consumer-oriented worship, I highly doubt we would change their mind. Could the Spirit do it? Sure. But we didn’t go that route, and here we are smaller. About two years ago, we evaluated the blend idea, and found that wanting too. Attempting to place everyone in a position where they get a little of what they want, and have the opportunity to sacrifice a little bit, it wasn’t working. Trying to please everyone leads to pleasing no one.

So we went back to the foundation, asking “what does it mean for the gathered church to worship God?” The traditional style doesn’t have a corner on the market. Neither does the contemporary or the blend or high liturgy or anything else for that matter. Our conclusion was that we needed to lead our people in a varied, experimental, creative, biblical, Christ-centered, joyful, worship of God. Now, we tinker with order of worship almost every week. We introduce elements of worship from a variety of traditions. Some weeks an entire worship service is devoted to one of those traditions. We practice variety in giving, with communion, with baptism, etc. One week we didn’t have a worship service and instead did a Church Has Left The Building…worshiping by serving. We worship twice each summer in a local park. And we’re looking into more options this year. Not everyone likes every Sunday, but we’re no longer driven by their preferences. After a Silent Sunday (Quaker and Taize influenced), I asked for feedback, and one couple gave the best compliment: “We didn’t care for it, but we respect what you’re doing.” They’re still here a year later.

Unless you can avoid promoting consumer worship, I urge you not to survey them. Lead them into worshiping God.

So while we don’t have worship figured out at Faith Church, I hope we never do.  Instead I hope we always experiment, having teachable hearts that expectantly seek to worship God in new and old ways as much as possible.