Friday, 12 December 2014

Multiple Choice Worship

Question: How advisable is it to put on different styles of Sunday worship services at our church - so that we may serve the widest possible groupings and tastes in the community? 

IF A CHURCH has the personnel and resources to do so, it can obviously be an advantage to put on, say, an afternoon service for young people, many of whom become tied into Sunday morning football matches and other sporting events - so characteristic of our increasingly secularised Sunday here in the West.

In some churches there is a certain amount of experimenting with 'main' worship services being held on days other than Sunday, as well as on the Lord's Day itself. This can particularly apply in localities where a fair proportion of the local people find themselves involved in Sunday work.

But I detect in the question an issue of worship 'style' for the different services, as claiming prime attention . Certainly many churches attempt this, with (just to follow an Anglican or Episcopalian pattern) a formal 'Prayer Book' style service for the early service of Holy Communion, followed by a 'happy' informal service for families; later, perhaps, a 'traditional' service featuring older hymns, liturgy and prayers..and then a rave-up in the evening. All this is assuming that a church is holding more than one service a Sunday.

There is something to be said for this approach - and yet one or two qualifications may perhaps legitimately be put forward.

For example, How many different 'congregations' does this approach create - and what relationships do such congregations have to one another? Is Christ big enough to hold us all together in a single worshipping fellowship? Are worshippers saying 'I belong to St James Church', or rather are they unconsciously being schooled into saying, 'I belong to the 9.30 service'?

Secondly, is giving worshippers what we sense they 'like' (in the style of a religious supermarket) good for authenticity in a local church? Is one set of worshippers to be reared on a diet of short modern choruses - but another to be fed only with ancient hymnody? Are some to be taught only with illustrations and powerpoint on a screen; others with direct exposition with Bibles on laps - and others still with little more than massive amplifiers and drum kits? What are we creating? And what, all in all, do we intend to create as being for the best? What is our own vision and basic conviction?

It is not the short-term, but the over-arching aim - the end result in view - that should dictate the shaping of a church's worship pattern. It is impossible to pass on an 'enjoyable' service, 'a great time' to the next generation, only the world-view that we have been bequeathed.

  • How big a place does Bible teaching have?
  • How does the worship style across the board reflect the legacy and riches of the contemporary church, the wider church, the world church and the historical church? It seems important that the full range should, in one way or another, be represented; yes, to some degree in every service!
  • Are we, over the course of a decade, producing believers who perceive themselves to be the custodians and ambassadors of a two thousand year-old rich Gospel inheritance?
We'll never, ever, get worship completely licked, but these seem to be some of the factors that should weigh with church leadership today.