Integrated Worship

Over the past several years it has become common for churches to conduct dual worship services. For some it is from necessity – the congregation is growing and building is not an immediate option. For others, it is rooted in a desire to draw more attendants by offering greater variety and appealing to a younger demographic.

Often these services are based on worship styles, one contemporary, the other traditional, An unfortunate consequence of this is to essentially divide the congregation into two age-segregated bodies.

I have personal reservations about this approach, and found it interesting that at least one church has found reason to move away from it. From the article (emphasis mine),

“The best way a church can demonstrate unifying power of the Gospel before our very segregated world is to maintain a community that transcends cultural barriers,” Tchividjian said in a sermon earlier this month. “The church should be the one institution, the one community – this countercultural community – in our world that breaks barriers down.”

Tchividjian, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, has lamented that “segregation seems to be as prevalent inside the church as it is outside.”

He recognized that many churches in the U.S. are following the lead of the advertising world by targeting specific age groups and employing the separate contemporary and traditional worship services model.

“That may be good business but it’s bad worship; it’s bad church,” he stated plainly.

For some time I’ve sought to refine my thinking on this subject. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that I lean pretty heavily toward the integrated approach. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this and your experiences with either dual worship services and/or integrated worship.

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4 thoughts on “Integrated Worship

  1. I actually emailed my former Pastor (at a traditional church) when he talked about some of these issues, and my thoughts are still similar now, on my concerns with “contemporary” worship:

    1. Unity. Many arguments that are put forth in defense of using Rock/Pop music (CCM) in church has to do with reaching the youth or being culturally relevant. Thee rock/pop idiom was specifically aimed at the teenage market from the beginning, and spoke of rebellion, revolution, sensuousness, freedom from authority and other things. Of course when more adults and church leaders objected, that only increased its appeal. George Harrison (from the Beatles) once said “Music is the main interest of the young people. It doesn’t really matter about the older people now because they’re finished anyway.” A prominent rock critic also said “Rock music has widened the inevitable and normal gap between generations, turned it from something healthy, and something necessary for forward movement, into something negative, destructive, and nihilistic.” When this philosophy is the underpinning the this type of music, it is easy to see how it reflects itself in the church, where the youth become increasingly segregated from the congregation, or the congregation is forced to accept their rock music in the service. Since the Christian church is a family, and family members should engage in solidarity, emphasizing the music of 16-25 yr olds is emphasizing differences, and damages church unity. This sort of emphasis on ‘youth culture’ is damaging to the life of the church. In the book “Can We Rock The Gospel,” the following statement is found which I think sums this argument up nicely:

    Yet there is no such thing as a ‘youth church,’ nor is there a ‘youth gospel’ or ‘youth worship style.’ There is ‘one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith…(Ephesians 4:4-5). If we are segregated by age and drive out the ‘non-youth’ with music styles that offend, how can the church carry out Paul’s instructions that the older women train the younger women to love their husbands and children, and that the young men learn to be self-controlled, from the example of older men (Titus 2:1-6).

    2. Immaturity. This point is related to the point above. Since the Rock/Pop idiom was originally (and still is) geared towards youth, it encourages people to never grow up. We have 50 yr olds who pay $300-400 to go see a Rolling Stones concert, and the Rolling Stones themselves are in their 60’s, but doing the same things they were doing in the 1960s. This is not healthy culturally, and causes a culture to be perpetually immature. Up until the 50’s or so, even popular music (think Big Band, Glen Miller, Benny Goodman style) was geared towards adults. Since the church should be by nature culture forming or at the minimum, reforming, is conforming to this sort of culture healthy for the church or for society as a whole? The easy answer is no. I was once asked what my favorite decade ways (do you like 80’s, 90’s etc..) I responded the 60’s, the 1760’s, and the conversation certainly changed. When those who are 40 and 50 years old are promoting the music of 1960’s rebellion and the youth of today are promoting the 21st century version of the same message, church health is in trouble.

    3. Historical Ignorance. We have 2,000 years of church history, and we have church music used in church that dates at least 500-600 years ago (perhaps further, O Come O Come Emmanuel’s melody may go back to the 700’s). This music has survived the test of time, been theologically vetted, used cross-culturally, across generational lines, and is still in the hymnal. Most CCM/Pop/Rock does not go through such a process, other then how it makes the congregation react (usually emotionally). When churches decide to go the Pop/Rock/CCM route, many Christians become ignorant of their own historical heritage, which contributes to the decline of culture as a whole. This is especially true in Western culture as Western Cultural history is church cultural history for at least 1,000 years. For example, music for church was often written in multiples of 3 to reflect the trinity, and an entire theory of music involving what is a pure harmony and dissonant harmony was created using theological models. While some of this may have been carried to far, this sort of care and thought is not even closely approached by those who advocate Pop/Rock/CCM.

    As a whole, I agree with your thoughts about being integrated, and if anything am appalled such a problem even exists in the western world….

  2. Years ago I was walking along and griping about the new worship songs at church and I felt the Holy Spirit stop me.. I sensed Him saying something like this to me:

    ==When you were young did not the older folks in church yield singing from hymnals so that the younger folks would enjoy the more current songs displayed on overhead projectors? Why are you resisting change? It is your turn to yield.==

    Sadly, we older folks do not always grow up when it comes to church. Our hearts should be desirous of capturing the hearts of those younger than us – and music is the chief way that we can relate to younger people. My opinion is that we should train our older folks to think this way instead of coddling them to want things their way.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, guys.

    For me the problem with the style-segregated services is about an un-Gospel-like division more than musical style. It’s the “yielding” (or lack thereof) that you mention, Bob.

    I understand that each church must come to terms with the parameters they will set for their music in worship, and I’m OK with that. But, within those limits, why can we not teach/have/exercise mutual forbearance? Not just on one side (often there are multiple sides, not just two) but on all?

    Isn’t age/style segregated worship contradicting what we claim to believe about the oneness of the body? As Tchividjian says in the article, “The church should be the one institution, the one community – this countercultural community – in our world that breaks barriers down.”

  4. I think that the issue of unity is somewhat an issue of the maturity of both the leadership and the membership. Sometimes unity is difficult because religious people can be DOGMATICALLY black and white when they are dealing with colorful (as in gray) areas. In these times it is incumbent on leaders to guide members helping them to see the various sides and colors of an issue.

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