There was a song by the group, Spanky and Our Gang, in the 1960’s called Sunday Will Never Be The Same. Even as I write this article, I hear it over and over in the back of my mind.
As ministers, we wish for Sunday morning to be life-changing and refreshing. We want people to come in beaten down, and leave filled with the Word and refreshed. At least I hope we do. However, many times our methods of fulfilling this task may not be working. In fact, in many churches I’ve seen the opposite taking place. Churches, changing music styles or platform approach, are actually ostracizing their people.
Now, before I continue it must be said that I am a big proponent of contemporary music and worship styles. I like rock, I like interpretive movement, and I enjoy relevant messages and dynamic video presentation. The question we simply must ask is: What is my motivation? Hopefully, these three statements can fine-tune your motivation, and help you as a pastor, musician or congregant to jump these hurdles.
We do not have the ability to out-entertain the world. For $87.88 per month, I get a heavy plate of DISH Network. I have concert channels, cooking channels, C-SPAN and even NASA. I get it 24-hours a day. With the Internet, I have the opportunity to connect to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and I can ‘wiki’ to my heart’s content. I have nothing, NOTHING in church to compete with this. With a music budget smaller than most community theaters or high school band and choral programs, I can’t do it. So allow me to relieve some anxiety. Don’t try to compete. Rather, give a great offering to the Lord, in accordance with Psalm 33 (Sing skillfully …).
Worship is not evangelism. Evangelism exists because worship does not. Ipso facto, evangelism serves worship. Not to get heady over this, because evangelism with strong discipleship is our calling as believers. However, worship itself is to strengthen the bond between God and believer – it is mutually beneficial and prepares our hearts to serve. This is the worship purpose. There is no doubt that great worship motivates and God uses sincere worship, even draws people toward Him. However, if you look at statement number one again, you will see that we can’t compete with the world. In fact, in rebuttal to her own book, Worship Evangelism, author Sally Morgenthaler made this statement to REV! Magazine, “For all the money, time and effort we’ve spent on cultural relevance – and that includes culturally relevant worship – it seems we came through the last 15 years with a significant net loss in churchgoers, proliferation of megachurches and all” (REV! May/June 2007).
The purpose of worship, is to warm the heart of God. The crux of worship is symbolized by the cross. We have the vertical relationship, and the horizontal relationship, beautifully typified by Matthew 22:37-40 where Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” Jesus defined how our corporate worship should look. Hearts to God, and hands to one another.
This isn’t a manifesto against or for any particular style. I would say most of our churches could use an infusion of new material. “Sing unto the Lord a new song” is mentioned six times in the Psalms. “Praise him with tambourine and dance” is clearly displayed. The issue is not should we do new music. The issue is can we do this bathed in love to God and to our fellow believers.
I have found that many churches grow with a new music format, simply because they are bringing in people from other churches who want that musical style. To me, as much as I love music and worship, this is a pretty flaky reason for swapping churches. This fair-weather flock will also typically be the first to leave when the going gets rough.
If you want new converts, find them and love them into a congregation open to help them with this journey called life and that will point them to the cross of Christ as the only refuge. As to the music you sing, find the heart-language of your congregation, and speak (sing) it. I leave you with a final Morgenthaler quote from the same article in REV!
“Let our deepened, honest worship be the overflow of what God does through us beyond our walls.”
Then Sundays will never be the same! (John Francis is the worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and produces MoWorship, a monthly worship podcast available at www.mobaptist.org/worship.)