With the right intentions years ago, churches began to employ generational worship services. Gone were the days of families worshiping side-by-side together in the sanctuary. A new era, marked by children’s church, student worship, and so on, was quickly ushered in. Without realizing it, a new normal began to emerge – worship culture was segregated within the Church.
Such practice, when laid alongside a mainstream culture outside the church that is increasingly self-centered, contributed to a worship philosophy that is in many places entirely upside down. I fear that far too many Church leaders are more concerned about pleasing the stylistic preferences of our congregation than they are about touching and moving the heart of God with authentic, unified, and passionate worship.
Furthermore, I believe that we have confused the issue of worship by labeling it a church growth device. The only common touch point between worship and church growth is found in God’s Word. The Lord Himself said that if He is lifted up, He will draw all men. The work is His, not ours.
I am not an overt champion for any one specific musical or worship style. I am, however, more and more convicted that we need to be proclaiming Jesus more victoriously and intentionally than ever before. I am also increasingly convicted that there are many traditions from which we should never depart. Repetition of the Holy Scriptures and recitation of creeds are practices which have carried Christian faith and values from generation to generation for untold centuries.
I fear that, in effort to reach the unchurched population and appeal to younger people, our efforts to become “cool” have superseded our efforts to teach and to preach.
I will say that there are churches in America that are growing. Some of these churches have embraced a variety of worship styles and formats. I would suggest meanwhile that worship style is by no means the only factor contributing to growth in these locations. It all starts and ends with devoted, well-equipped, and dynamic leadership that is unwavering in commitment to Christ-centered mission.
Finally, I pose this question:
If the practice of engaging a community with any particular style of music and worship – or a variety of such – represents the essential key to church growth, why, then, is the church in America in decline after the better part of 25+ years of this action?
Craig Adams is Director of Creative Development and Publishing for LifeWay Worship. He is a devoted husband, father of two, and member of Brentwood Baptist Church. His life-long hobbies include tennis, landscaping, any excuse for a laugh and a cup of coffee, and all things Disney. Craig can be found on Twitter @craigadams_lww and on facebook.com/craig.adams.927.