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Do Multiple Worship Styles Say “We’re Not Sure What Kind of Church We Are?”

Do Multiple Worship Styles Say “We’re Not Sure What Kind of Church We Are?”

Posted February 9, 2011 by Jerod Clark

Brian Kaufman wrote a great article this week for Shrink the Church talking about the things we do as churches to focus inwardly on ourselves instead of reaching out to our communities.  He listed five practices of an inwardly-focused church which you can read here.  But one of them stuck out to me.  Kaufman wrote:

An Inwardly-Focused Church Offers Multiple Styles of Worship

This one is difficult, so bear with me for a moment.  Is our God traditional or contemporary, emergent or conservative, Catholic or Lutheran?  In my opinion multiple worship styles communicate one thing very clearly, We are not sure what kind of church we are but we want to appeal to a broad audience.” My issue here is not with specific styles of worship, it is with specific styles of worship under one roof.

In my opinion multiple worship services/styles are confusing and further promote an Enlightenment-era philosophy in which our personal comfort and preference supersedes the reality of the Great Commission and cross of Christ.  If you’ve got the resources and vision to do multiple styles of worship perhaps the strategy needs to be rethought?  For example, perhaps a new style of worship could be saturated in a church plant located closer to the demographic which responds to that certain style?

There are a lot of very large and rapidly-growing churches that produce multiple worship services and would probably argue well against this point.  Admittedly, and to the frustration of my wife, I tend to over-simplify some things as black or white.

This is a bold stance that I can relate to very well.  I used to go to a church where there was an early service with traditional music and a late service that was more contemporary.  The problem was the church didn’t necessarily do either one of them all that well.  Resources were stretched.  Practice time was limited.  Our worship staff didn’t really like doing the traditional music but they felt like they had to in order to appease a certain group of people.  In the end, they couldn’t focus on what they could do best or which style best reflected the church’s DNA which was more modern.   

That said, this was a large church with a wide variety of people.  Shockingly to me, friends of mine preferred going to the traditional service instead of rocking out with me at the late service.  It showed there was a difference in what the congregation liked.  Would the traditional folks, who were in the minority, quit coming to the church if all the services were contemporary?  It's hard to say.  Some might.  I'd guess most would still come because of the church's dedication to reaching out to the community.  They'd get over the switch to all contemporary music knowing the church was having a greater impact.  Changing to better reach the community is a part of this church's history.

Either way, I can argue for or against Kaufmann’s point.  Although I applaud him for taking the bold stance because for some churches I think this is a real problem.

What about you?  Do multiple worship styles say, “We’re not sure what kind of church we are?”

Filed under: Branding, Visitor's Perspective, Communications, Worship Service

About the Author

Jerod Clark

Jerod joined ReFrame Media in 2007 and built Church Juice from scratch. He poured all his passion for branding, marketing, and messaging into the ministry, publishing e-books, blog posts, and speaking at conferences to help churches energize their communications. He also served as ReFrame’s in-house graphic designer. Before beginning his work at Church Juice, Jerod was a local TV news reporter. In 2016, Jerod stepped away from the ministry to pursue interests in marketing and communications on new horizons.

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Comments (2)

  • MichelleCastle
    2:41 PM
    Thu, Feb 10, 2011

    No, multiple worship styles don’t say “we’re not sure what kind of church we are” and they are not a sign of an inwardly-focused church.

    He wrote, “Is our God traditional or contemporary, emergent or conservative, Catholic or Lutheran?” I would answer that our God is all of those. He is the same yesterday and today, so he is traditional and contemporary. My belief is that our God is great and worthy to be praised precisely because all peoples can find in him the greatest expression of their culture’s ideals. We don’t worship a tribal god who people outside our culture can’t find any value in. We don’t worship a god who can only be valued when we speak in Latin or perform African worship rituals that would cause large parts of the world to be excluded from knowing Him.  Multiple styles of worship reflect the grandness of our God; it doesn’t say we don’t know who He is. It says He’s worthy.

    Churches that want to “appeal to a broad audience” are not inwardly-focused. Paul wrote that we should become all things to all men, so that some might be saved. An outwardly-focused church does what it can to make it clear that the Gospel is attractive, and a style of music people respond to can be a factor in that.

    “In my opinion multiple worship services/styles are confusing and further promote an Enlightenment-era philosophy in which our personal comfort and preference supersedes the reality of the Great Commission and cross of Christ.  If you’ve got the resources and vision to do multiple styles of worship perhaps the strategy needs to be rethought?  For example, perhaps a new style of worship could be saturated in a church plant located closer to the demographic which responds to that certain style?”

    This seems contradictory to me. He writes that multiple worship styles promote the idea that our personal preferences supersedes the Gospel, but recommends that we base the worship style of a church plant on what we believe the demographic will prefer. In contrast, I think multiple worship styles can teach that it’s God’s worth that supersedes, not musical preference. It’s all in the way the leadership presents the multiple styles.

    “Shockingly to me, friends of mine preferred going to the traditional service instead of rocking out with me at the late service.”
    This shows a flaw in reasoning people make often. People don’t necessarily want to worship to rocking music, nor is it the only style of music that appeals to young people. Changing to better meet the needs of a community is great, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking your community only likes one type of music. There is diversity in every community, and just like it’s a tragedy when a church can’t reflect a diverse racial neighborhood, it’s not a good thing when their insistence of using only one style of music excludes the diversity inherent in their community.

  • Bradley
    6:35 PM
    Mon, Feb 14, 2011

    I have to agree Jerod.  As music pastor, I have struggled before with the possibility of adding a second service to appease a particular group in the church who was not happy with a blended service or more contemporary service.  In the end the decision between pastor and myself is that first, you’re splitting the church.  What happens is you have two groups who in essence say, I can not or will not worship with that group in that style of worship.  The next question is what does that portray to newcomers and visitors?  Instead of being outwardly or inwardly focused we decided to be upwardly focused asking God, “What would please you?”.  In the end, we’ve ended up with a wonderful blended service using contemporary arrangements of old hymns with some newer stuff as well that seems to be pleasing to most worshippers.  As such we do not have to worry about stretching our resources and can focus outwardly to the city.

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