Worship is no ‘silver bullet’

Rev. Diane Gordon, Pastor of Mt. Pleasant: First United Methodist Church, presides over a table set by their creative worship arts team. ~photo courtesy Diane Gordon

Vital worship involves a clear understanding of the theological purpose of worship and the congregation’s cultural context.

DONNA C. SOKOL & L. ROGER OWENS
Lewis Center for Church Leadership

For years, many congregations have battled over which style of worship to embrace — traditional, contemporary, or blended. But this “worship war” is premised on a misunderstanding of what those outside our congregations seek from worship, and deep confusion about what worship really is.

Flourishing and faithful congregations understand that re-imagining worship involves something much deeper than style.

Often, adding a contemporary service will attract the people the congregation hasn’t been able to reach with its current worship service. But what does this suggest about the people who might show up for the first time? That they already know what worship is and what they want in worship. These people are those who are switching churches, or who have left a church because the style of worship hasn’t met their preferences. They are people who think worship should cater to their tastes and are shopping around.

When we advertise a new contemporary service or put on our billboards the times of different styles of worship, we are inviting a particular type of worshipper to join us. An informed consumer. Such a strategy might get a few new people to show up, but it does little to help a congregation introduce non-Christians to life with God and in God’s kingdom.

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