GoingFullCircleBlog

Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

For God’s Sake… PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!

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TowerThen they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves . . .” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth . . .. There the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Genesis 11:4–9, NIV 

This biblical story is commonly referred to as the Tower of Babel. Here are men who decided to try to transcend God by building a monument to their own power and their own ingenuity. Do situations like that ever occur in churches today?

The young worship leader came to his new church assignment with excitement. But he encountered a congregation there that had worshiped basically the same way for the past 30 years. Most of the members were very happy worshiping that way. Nevertheless, they also agreed it might be time to freshen up their song choices with some newer expressions of faith. So they looked forward to the arrival of their new worship leader with guarded anticipation. But what they got was a full frontal assault. He changed everything: the songs, accompaniment, order of worship, volume levels, and everything else that was possibly changeable. A few younger members applauded his assault on the status quo. But the majority of the congregation was shocked and saddened to have their worship turned upside down. Some got angry. Relationships between the worship leader and the people became awkward and forced. Church members reacted with cool nods as they passed him in the church hallways and grocery store aisles. The beleaguered young worship leader sought advice from a pastor who took his own church through such a major change of worship style. The changes this pastor had instigated in his church had come at a high cost, as many had left that church. But the pastor firmly believed that his church was better off without those tired old traditionalists holding them back. He noted that the remnant left behind was worshiping with real feeling, and he was sure many more would be attracted soon to join the church. His attractional rationale, of course, was to win the world for Christ by getting people to come to church. He expected that the remaining remnant would soon see numerical growth since worship was “so much better now”. So when the young worship leader sought out the pastor’s advice it was given authoritatively: “You are the leader; you are in charge; you must make them follow you. And if they fire you, you can always go start a church somewhere else. Don’t let them intimidate you. God is in this.”

Now, please allow me to ask some tough questions:

1.) How is this young worship leader’s approach any different from the missionary who forces his home culture on the native people he is called to serve?

2.) How can this pastor be so misled as to think that the way to grow the body of Christ in spiritual maturity is to run off a large percentage of the membership?

3.) How can either of these men think that their personal preference of worship style is superior to those faithful members who have been there for years?

Our calling as worship leaders – like a missionary – is to discover the worship heart language of those we are called to, use it to grow them as disciples, and lead them on mission to their community.  Like those in Babel, we cannot expect to escape the judgment of God if we are instead building memorials to our own stylistic tastes. The answers seem obvious to me; yet I encounter this situation constantly in my work with churches. I know that a church member who cannot support the stated mission of the pastor is right to find another church. But the notion that we must purify the church of longtime members by forcing a foreign worship culture on them seems ridiculous to me. And I find this especially aggravating if the rationale behind that strategy is: “We’ll win the world by getting the world to come to church.” NO!  The Bible says we will win the world by getting the church to GO to the world.

Disguised in our worship wars is often a far deadlier enemy than stylistic change for the sake of attracting the world. The hidden enemy in many worship wars is our selfish desire to have our own way and be in control. Think about it!

— Mark Powers

 

 

Please post your feedback and comments so we can work through this issue together!  Thanks.

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Author: Mark Powers

Director, Worship and Music, South Carolina Baptist Convention, Columbia SC. Author - "GOING FULL CIRCLE: Worship that Moves Us to Discipleship and Missions" - www.GoingFullCircle.org (Resource Publications, Wipf & Stock, Eugene OR, 2013) President, www.WorshipWise.com - Growing Brilliant Worship Leaders . Presenter/Speaker on the MusicArts Mission Movement (M3). To contact MP about presenting or speaking for your conference or training event, e-mail markpowers@scbaptist.org or call 803-227-6166. I would love to come and share how your worship ministries can join God on mission in your community!

9 thoughts on “For God’s Sake… PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!

  1. Pingback: Response to Last Week’s Post, “For God’s Sake… Don’t Do This” | GoingFullCircleBlog

  2. Excellent!

    Fact is, it is entirely possible to do both, to freshen the worship style while still using the current songs. There’s nothing holy about “Holy! Holy! Holy!” Being sung a la funeral dirge. Or with same accompaniment style on every verse. Or having everyone sing every verse ( use a soloist; have the choir sing a verse; more…). Or sing every verse in the same key. Or sing in harmony each verse (unison with altered harmonies is always nice).

    See? Creativity, patience and people skills can go a long way to saving the service.

    If the congregation prefers it one way and one way only–slow, ritualistic, boring — then the young worship leader failed to interrogate the pastor enough, and the pastor failed to vett the young worship leader.

    The excesses and petulance of youth can strain his reception, but he’s not the only one adding mortar to the wall!

    • Amen, Richard! Worship must be continually revitalized by focusing our affections on God and offering Him our best sacrifices of worship which will always require some updating. But that process must happen gradually and relationally from a desire to grow our people toward spiritual maturity. You’ve said it well. MP

  3. Hi Mark, Love you book bro! Jesus does not save us for church! He saved us for himself.

    • Thanks Randy. Yes, absolutely. We’ve been confused about that for several generations now as far too much energy has gone into maintaining the “Church Club Car” on our church train. As Chapter 16 says in my book, it’s time to place the Church Train cars out in our communities as mission outposts and go bring every person to Christ… not just into the church building. Blessings on your upcoming mission trip! MP

  4. God is eternal. His truth is eternal. The whims of society are temporary -very temporary, especially in light of our everlasting God. The timelessness of the ministry of the church has been traded for a fleeting shelf life approach influenced by current culture. The approach of a contemporary church is to focus on a twenty-five year generational span for the planning of worship gatherings. This approach purposely eliminates the participation and history of earlier generations within the church.

    Motivation for this approach often comes from a Christian consumer preference. The influence of our consumer society has caused our church leadership to lose focus of that which is eternally relevant and instead, focus on what we think will work right now. It is time to end our thinking of contemporary versus and traditional. What is required is to bring in that which the church has practiced for centuries and combine it with those things that are new. This idea is NOT limited to music. Music is only one element of worship expression.

    What is also required is an intergenerational approach to worship. I offer this definition: Intergenerational worship is the activity of multiple generations leading and presenting elements of worship during the worship gathering. Intergenerational worship includes a consideration and converging of how each generation approaches worship. An effort is made to go beyond the styles of contemporary and traditional, liturgical or free church, and music focus or word focus. Intergenerational worship is the consideration of how each generation participates in worship. It then attempts to include each generation in leadership and as a participant in the accomplishment of a worship service.

    In some contemporary settings the occasional introduction and inclusion of multiple generations is seen as a useful novelty, however, continued involvement of the old songs, stories, traditions and generations is seen as counterproductive for the growth of the contemporary church. Now, there is merit to some aspects of this approach. Please, do not throw out everything. I have seen how missionaries engage in worship when they may do so in their own heart language. I have witnessed people of the church react differently when a stye they are most accustomed to (music or liturgy) is used. We must keep in mind, though, that it is the narrowness of an approach that is most exclusive in worship. Our challenge, as the worship leader, is to represent on the platform the generations of people who are found in the pew.

    Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves. Please, do not take these questions at surface level. We need to dig in to determine what these questions mean on a deeper, spiritual level. Is what we present in worship important? Does worship relate to the worshiper? Are we trying to engage all of our senses? Is worship generationally inclusive? Most importantly, is what we are presenting in worship focused on honoring God or on pleasing a specific demographic?

    God is eternal, therefore, the story of God is eternal. We must include the lessons of all generations through intergenerational worship to teach the ageless truth of our God.

    • Thank you, Patrick. Excellent response that states clearly more of what I agree with and subscribe to Biblically for missional worship. I look forward to meeting you soon hopefully and having you teach for our Missional University School of Worship Leadership! MP

  5. Very well stated! I was tempted earlier in worship ministry to make rapid changes. I knew that I would cripple my long-term effectiveness with the church and do more harm than good. The temptation is there to build a monument unto ourselves, but the glory belongs to Christ not us. Bigger and better may build a resume, but faithfulness, wisdom, and humble ministry will produce greater results for the long haul.

    • Thank you. May the ongoing revelation of what it takes to move people closer to God continue in your life and ministry for years to come! MP

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