First – a definition. What is “boutique worship?”
Any shop considered a “boutique” earns that distinction with two key attributes – size and customized services or products. In other words, the shop aims at a narrow segment of people and attracts them with superior products and services.
Sounds like a few churches I know.
Ever heard a church describe their worship strategy this way? “We’re going after Millennials with contemporary worship and coffee tables.” I have heard a church leader say that very thing recently. Another church could easily say the opposite – “We attract mature believers with a sacred worship approach based on a well-defined liturgy.”
But, what does that say about our worship? I was blessed to have a robust conversation on this question with a Pastor recently who understands a thing or two about worship – Jim Cymbala from Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Here they are – the unintended implications of a boutique worship strategy –
1. It reflects a lack of trust in God.
Worship is comprised of two things – the revelation of God and the response of his people. Believing that it requires a specific approach to be effective suggests we don’t believe God is enough and we can’t trust him to move in his people in worship unless he has our help with a specific approach.
2. It reveals a lack of understanding of the role of Holy Spirit.
If you study the early church in Acts, you won’t find a lot of strategy – you’ll find dependence on the Holy Spirit to move in power. And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer… and an unvarnished declaration of the Gospel.
3. It rivals the focus being completely on Christ.
How do you describe the worship services of your church? With stylistic attributes? Boutique worship can easily become about the approach – and not about the One we have come to worship. What if we described our worship in descriptions of Jesus and what he is doing in our church?
4. It threatens to create a false sense of accomplishment.
You can set out to produce a specific worship style and hit the mark… and still not have a dynamic worship service that engages the Body of Christ in corporate worship. Musical methods don’t accomplish spiritual objectives.
5. It can waste a lot of resources and time.
Churches will spend lots of money to hire musicians, build a lighting and sound package that could rival a concert hall, and produce a well executed music experience for their church believing if they will just change their approach, they will grow their church.
Go back and read 1-4. Churches waste time and money chasing a boutique worship strategy when prayer and faithfulness to God’s Word and a focus on engaging his people in worship are what really needs to happen.
Now, none of this means that different music styles shouldn’t be used in worship. They should. Be true to the community you serve and the people you are leading.
They should be used. But, they shouldn’t be trusted.
There are no shortcuts and non-spiritual answers to growing your church.
Prayer. Proclamation. Engagement. And, use every resource you have.
Until Jesus comes back to get us.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.