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?”