There Is Hope

By Stephen M. Newman
Founder, & Author of Experiencing Worship
December 18, 2023

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A few years back I wrote an article entitled "No Throwaways". Its purpose was to encourage churches that were going through the process of change in the area of music and worship, to be slow and patient in their approach. It dealt the endless conflict in churches that resist change. Over the years we have seen church after church struggle with transitioning from a traditional approach to music to a more relevant style that is contemporary for the day. Unfortunately these times are not over as churches will continue to deal with an ever changing culture. Change of any kind is hard for all of us. However, we need to examine the reason for change. I hope the words to follow will help us all look deep inside to discover how we got to this place. There is hope for us to be the church God has called us to be. Corporate worship should be a time for the body to come together and not a time to pull us apart.

Throughout the past two decades I have seen hundreds of churches bully their way to make change at the expense of many faithful saints. I have seen thousands leave churches where they have served faithfully and supported financially for 40+ years. I have witnessed Pastors and Music Ministers lose their jobs over trying to implement change in the area of music and worship. The fallout as a result of this movement has been a black eye for the Christian community as well as a disappointment to the One to we are supposed to be worshiping. When did it all start? Is their hope to fix it? Is there a way that churches can move ahead and yet meet the needs of those who are not as excited as we are about singing the latest worship tune?

Fortunately many churches have figured out the "fix" to this 30 year struggle. It's not rocket science. The solution is simple and yet we missed it big time throughout the years of the “worship wars”. A time that I pray is gone forever. In my mind and heart, the worship wars were never about worship, but about music. To say to a 70-year-old woman whose favorite hymn is Blessed Assurance that hymns cannot be effective tools for worship is foolish and Pharisaic. The same can be said of a 15-year-old student who worships with Undignified by David Crowder. If their hearts are focused on singing to God and the text is Biblical, it is worship to Him. It may not be to us, but it is to the Father who receives it as a sweet aroma from His children.

How do we address the epidemic that is still spreading in churches around the world? Two words…multiple services. If the older generations would have let the younger ones move to a more relevant style of music to facilitate their experiences, our churches would not be experiencing the fallout and hurt that we still see today. If our leadership would have made the effort to go to multiple styles earlier on, we might not have had to see so many friends and families leave places where they have served for years. It really doesn't matter who we choose to blame. What matters is that there is a solution.

There are two types of churches that we see who are flourishing in the US. Those who were birthed in the past twenty years, who started with a specific style, and have continued that way. Then there are those who found the key to meeting the needs of the masses. These churches have made a conscious decision to offer worship services and styles and help people from multiple generations worship in a way that blesses the Father is in heaven.

People who value hymns and prefer the presentation of an organ, piano and maybe an orchestra, can worship freely as they have for years. Those who were caught in the transition years who still love the old hymns but like some of the newer music can experience a blended service where the presentation may have a piano, orchestra, and maybe a guitar or two with drums. They are allowed to experience and worship with music that is broader than any one style and suits them better for who they are. This is a compromise of the old and was birthed by what was going on in the church when they were growing up.

Then we arrive at the style of worship that most under forty prefer-- especially if you are a new Christian. The contemporary worship has not completely abandoned the hymns, but the presentation has left the house. A full band facilitates these experiences along with high visuals and lights to boot. Some would liken it to a mild rock concert but for that generation, it is what helps them connect in worship. To discard their needs now would only send us back to the seventies where most of this began.

Why is it that the latter churches are experiencing growth while others continue to struggle through change? They realize that people matter to God. They are not willing to throw the older generation out the door to serve a selfish desire to have it their way. They have made conscious decisions to effectively meet the needs of each person in their congregation and God’s Kingdom. Their attempts to be relevant to all people and not just the younger crowds is paying off not only in attendance and growth, but in creating unity where strife has resided for so many years. It is a travesty to discard anyone’s desire to worship in a manner that is Biblical and culturally relevant. Anytime self enters the picture, worship cannot survive. When we let a segment of the people dictate direction in an area so precious to God, we hurt the very thing He has called us to do as a body together.

Our challenge over the next decade is to continue to provide relevant worship experiences for all ages. If it takes traditional, blended and contemporary services to make this happen, then so be it. It may mean that we have to preach and lead an extra service a week. We may need to hire more staff to accomplish our goals. There may come a time when I will frown upon the younger generation for their choice of music. My prayer is that I will allow them to express themselves to the Father with music that helps them do that and not fight and force my style on them. I also hope they will allow me to worship in a corporate setting that helps me connect in worship too:).

Stephen M. Newman
Founder, & Author of Experiencing Worship
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