Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't Be a Schizophrenic Church!

One of the biggest topics of discussion over the past several years among worship leaders has been about churches that offer multiple worship gatherings with different styles of musical worship. For example, a church will offer a 9am "traditional" gathering and an 11am "contemporary" gathering. Is this a good idea, is it the best strategy, is it a really stupid thing to do?

From my experience, a church that offers multiple styles of musical worship is, practically, functioning as multiple churches. Just because two groups of people meet in the same building, share the same pastor, give to and spend from the same budget doesn't make them one church. And, if these kids of churches do attempt to function as a single church, they tend to suffer from something that resembles schizophrenia...they are constantly dealing with internal conflict, they fail to think logically, and they may experience delusions and hallucinations.

As described several times in the New Testament, a local church is at it's best best when it is functioning as one "body"...when the hands, legs, eyes, neck, etc. are all serving their unique roles to serve each other and and fulfill the purpose of the church.

In comparison, a church with two or more groups of people who do not worship and serve together cannot function as one body. It's certainly not impossible for two groups to coincide together and partner with each other to serve God and others...I've heard of a few churches that offer multiple worship styles and function well as two separate churches, but only because they've recognized their situation for what it really is and have made the decision to do so.

But, for one church to be unified, to be one body, it's individual members must share goals, purpose, vision, strategy. It is difficult for a single church with multiple worship styles to be one unified body because each worship style identifies who the "target" audience is going to be (whether purposefully or not). Although people will tell you they love a church for many reasons, few people will attend a church service that uses a musical style that doesn't fit their personal preferences. Especially when the pastor is preaching the same sermon twice with two different accompanying musical styles, people are naturally going to migrate to the service with the style they prefer, and stay there.

And, I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. People naturally thrive in an environment that is comfortable and with a mission that is challenging. We all have personal preferences, and that's a good thing. And, naturally, people with similar preferences will group themselves together. And, if so, why are so many churches trying to force their square people through a round hole?

Interestingly enough, Jesus didn't spend much time instructing his disciples (the very first New Testament church planters) what music style to use, what color to paint their church walls, how to most effectively divide the time of an average a church service between music and sermon. My guess is, because He is God, Jesus knew that all of those things are really up to each individual church to figure out for themselves (hopefully, in a peaceable way)...instead, He focused on teaching those twelve guys about the things that are not up for debate (if you're not sure what those things are, read the words of Jesus in the Gospels).

Seriously, how many churches would be in a much better place if they would simply recognize the truth of our human tendencies and choose function as two separate, Bible believing/teaching churches?


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