Six Reasons Some Churches Are Moving Back to One Worship Style

August 30, 2014
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You could not help but notice the trend of the past two decades. Numerous churches began offering worship services with different worship styles. It is not unusual to see a church post its times of worship for a contemporary worship service, a traditional worship service, and an occasional blended worship service.

The trend was fueled by two major factors. First, many churches were fighting worship wars. The great compromise was creating a worship service for each faction. Unfortunately, that created divisiveness in some churches as each faction fought for its preferred time slot. Second, some churches had a genuine outreach motivation. Their leaders saw the opportunity to reach people in the community more effectively with a more indigenous worship style.

Though I am not ready to declare a clear reversal of the trend, I do see signs of a major shift. It is most noticeable among those congregations that have moved from multiple worship styles back to one worship style.

So I spoke to a number of pastors whose churches had made the shift back to a singular worship style. I asked about their motivations for leading their congregations in such a direction. I heard six recurring themes, though no one leader mentioned more than three for a particular church.

  1. Multiple worship styles created an “us versus them” mentality. Worship wars did not really end with multiple approaches. In some churches the conflicts were exacerbated because those of different preferences did not interact with each other.
  2. The church did not have the resources to do multiple styles with quality. In many churches, inadequate resources meant one or all of the services suffered. It was deemed better to put all the resources toward one style of worship.
  3. The church moved from multiple services to one service. I heard from a number of pastors who have led their churches back to just one service, a move that naturally necessitates one style. Some did so to engender a greater sense of community; others did so due to excessive space in the worship center.
  4. The Millennial generation has influenced many churches. This generation is much more flexible in its preferences of worship style. They are questioning the need of multiple styles.
  5. Worship wars are waning. Many congregations with multiple worship styles created them as a response to worship wars. Now that the conflicts are waning in many churches, the need to segregate by worship preferences is no longer necessary.
  6. Multiple generations are becoming more accustomed to different types of church music and worship style. Contemporary music, in some form, has been around a while. It is not this strange aberration it once was to many congregants. And many church members who did not grow up on traditional worship are hearing those hymns in new and meaningful ways. Simply stated, there is a much greater appreciation for different forms of church music than in the past.

Again, I am reticent to declare a major trend to be taking place. But, anecdotally, I am seeing more congregations move to the singular worship style approach.

I would love to hear your perspectives. If you have any specific information about this trend, please bring it to this community so we can all benefit.

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218 Comments

  • We recently went to one multi-generational worship service. The move was made in order to bring the church fellowship back together for at least a season. From two worship services with a lot of room left over to a full house of worshipers. Many people worshiping together is contagious. It has been an extremely popular move with our entire fellowship.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Mark –

      I heard very similar sentiments from a number of pastors. Of course, such a move presumes there is adequate space to accommodate all the people in one service.

      • When it comes to space in the service at our church it’s simple………
        If you sing four songs……2 are contemporary and 2 traditional.

      • This is an interesting thought Thom. I pastor a church in a small town. We have had to go to two services because the renovation we made (and we told them it would be about a 2 year band-aid) has held true. We have plans for a further expansion but are taking the approach of no more debt, even debt-free. We are having our 10th anniversary next month (October) and plan one service to show how crowded it would be if we only had one service and why we need to expand. It ought to be interesting since one service will over-crowd our facility.

      • I forgot. We use a blended style, leaning more toward contemporary. Both services are exactly the same musically. The musicians are the same. The singers are different.

  • My church is a small church in a small rural town of about 700 people. We have no young people in our church but my church isn’t alone. None of the churches, in town, are reaching the younger generations. When I have asked younger people why they don’t go to church in town, it is because they would rather drive 30 minutes to a bigger town to attend contemporary worship services.

    Two issues with that.
    One, the younger generations are missing out on serving in their home community.
    Two, most people say they like one church in particular, that is a charismatic, prosperity gospel church.

    So it may just depend on where you live. For my church, we must change in order to actually reach our community with the one true Gospel!

    One last thing…
    I heard Matt Chandler talk about being sensitive to people in the church when changing things away from tradition. Since we are talking about music, we have to remember that some of the hymns sung in traditional worship were once used by the Holy Spirit in profound ways to move people to worship!

    • Perhaps the church in their local community does not want them. You sometimes have to go back and look at your leadership to figure out why people don’t want to come and join your church.

    • “When I have asked younger people why they don’t go to church in town, it is because they would rather drive 30 minutes to a bigger town to attend contemporary worship services.”

      Therein lies my major quarrel with this movement toward contemporary worship. Aren’t these young people being just as closed-minded and uncooperative as the senior adults they criticize? If style doesn’t matter, then why do they refuse to accept anything but contemporary worship?

  • Contemporary worship by all measures emerged from the worship wars as the dominant style. It is good to see congregations that split being brought back together. It’s doubtful that organs and choirs will ever make a comeback. But it is excellent that hymns and other older music is being incorporated in worship again.

    • Choirs are coming back in large churches as a way to train and establish new and up-and-coming worship leaders and musicians!

  • Question: Do you see a shift back to a single, more traditional style worship or is there more of a total contemporary style?

    I have not read all the above comments. The answer may be there.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Bill –

      My data is limited, so please accept more anecdotal information. The most common singular style was blended, followed closely by contemporary. Of course, those labels are contextual and can mean different things to different people.

      • Very true. I recently told my youth pastor that “contemporary” is a very relative term. I can remember when “Because He Lives” and “The King Is Coming” were somewhat contemporary!

      • Amen! And Bill Gaither had to self publish because no one would accept his contemporary music.

        He is an example of blending old-new, traditional-contemporary, young-aged, country-classical, choral-personal….

      • He also introduced a whole new generation to southern gospel. I listened to some southern gospel before the 1990’s, but it was largely because of Gaither that I became a fan of groups such as the Speer Family, the Statesmen, and the Blackwood Brothers.

  • You can’t over spiritualize this
    The worship style has always reflected the society at any given time. Do we think 1st century Christians had a Piano and the Baptist hymnal? Worship comes form the Heart.
    The musical style is but a reflection of the age.

    • Same tired responses here. People are social creatures of comfort. Bad sound/pitch/volume/harmonies, etc…sets everyone’s teeth on edg

      Music well done with Biblical content is comforting. Many churches who tried to change to contemporary did so with traditional musicians….and it was uncomfortably badly done. Others went to the extreme and brought in young talented musicians with very little clue about the heart of the Word of God. Those churches who blended good musicianship with quality content and comforting encouragement to sing….they are the ones who will last and grow and reach ALL age groups and ALL musical styles ….

      Church is not exempt from all other aspects of life here on earth – it requires balance in all things – preaching singing caregiving social outreach internal fellowship and encouragement – ALL of it.

      • Yes, you make an important point. Contemporary worship never works unless it is done well. If your church doesn’t have the personnel for this sort of thing, stick with a style that you do well. Nothing will turn people off like trying to be something you’re not.

  • Chuck Deglow says on

    We moved to one blended worship gathering because we thought it accurately represented biblical truth that we are one church and we defer to one another in love as we celebrate the beautiful musical variety God has given. Besides choosing only one style would be like insisting on only one color. “My favorite color is blue. I only want to see blue. Don’t throw reds and yellows at me. I don’t like them and I will shut my eyes. Just sayin.

  • Greg Pickle says on

    I wish I could say this was happening due to the realization that music itself is not a biblically-legitimate evangelistic tool (though content in music can evangelize). But as with the inception of the seeker-driven movement, it seems from the reasons above that pragmatics have simply won out yet again.

    More than that I generally see more traditional music being abandoned in churches that focus on younger generations, which is where most of our church news comes from, since they’re the ones populating blogs, social media, etc. Why the need for compromise when the people only want one thing?

    Have you seen the speaker list, for example, at the upcoming SBTS Doxology and Theology conference on worship? Almost all young guys.

    What’s even sadder is that this youth focus is driving older people to traditional churches in liberal denominations that often are very weak in their teaching. That doesn’t say much about them either, but I think it’s a cause.

    Just so you know it’s not sour grapes, I’m a pastor at a church that uses multiple types of music in one service, tilted toward contemporary style, with some really skilled musicians. But we focus on content and wouldn’t think of inviting people to church based on the style or even quality of our music.

    Does any of that sound reasonable?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Greg –

      I hope and pray more and more churches will focus on biblical content of the music first, and style secondarily.

    • And yet I have seen churches with choir and pipe organ that get the young there. Some of these are growing due to the fact a lot of the Bible is read in the service and homily is straightforward and has applicability to life.

      • Greg Pickle says on

        Yes indeed. Jesus’ sheep “hear his voice” (John 10:27). They flock to God’s word!

      • When I served as evangelism director for my association, I did a study of different churches. I found that growing churches all had one thing in common, and it was not their worship style. Some were very contemporary, and some were very traditional. What did they have in common? Their laypeople were involved in personal evangelism. I’m convinced that’s the missing ingredient in many of our churches.

  • We still do multiple styles, 2 contemporary, 1 traditional. We are not a very old church, just celebrated 20 years, maybe for that reason we don’t have a lot of “us vs. them” to be honest.

    But…

    Most people who are coming back to church (read: families with kids) are choosing a worship service based on the time that works for them, not so much for the worship style. THAT is an interesting development, imho.

    • Millennial here. I’ve been trying to say this for years. My church does a small chapel service, a traditional service, and a contemporary service, all fairly well-attended (although the traditional holds the vast majority). Most of the Millennials and their families don’t particularly care what format the service is, rather checking against their schedule for the day. And that will change from Sunday to Sunday.

      There’s still a “worship wars” going on between the core of each style’s following, but honestly, those are largely seen as pissing contests between the Boomers and the GenX crowd. The Millennials mostly attend the traditional service (as a percentage of Millennial members in the congregation), believe it or not, but they will be the first to defend the contemporary from the traditional war hawks, and vice versa.

      The “Worship Wars” are really a generational pissing contest between the 1950-60 crowd and the 1970-80 crowd. Each says the other is wrong. Millennials say both are wrong. The words being proclaimed are far more important than the instrument that accompanies them. There are hymns I like and hymns I hate. There are contemporary pieces I love, and then there’s Chris Tomlin.

      I’ve always said that EVERYONE needs to be mindful of taking the focus off God. If it becomes a rock concert, it is no longer worship. By the same token, if it becomes a Bach concert, same story (looking at YOU, organists).

      • For me both traditional and contemporary, hymn or chorus must be singable from the congregation as of church worship. Never have a song sing alone by the lead group without the congregation except a special song from one or a group. Every Sunday worship songs must be understandable and touching heart. Some weary heart comes in hear the lyric can feel touching heart. Most of all, both services must be holy at all time for church worship. God has no tolerate for His Holiness, no matter how people will change.

  • Rick Brooks says on

    While it is not stated outright, it sounds like the conclusion is that the contemporary style won the battle in most churches. Our church will remain traditional and offer a refuge for those who still believe some things should not change.

    • Even if by not changing you hinder the spread of the gospel?

      • Craig Giddens says on

        How could not changing hinder the spread of the gospel? I’m curious as to what gospel you’re spreading that depends on a certain style of music.

        1 Corinthians 1
        17. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
        18. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
        19. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
        20. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
        21. For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe

      • I’m not saying the Gospel depends on music. But if you could reach more people by changing something like the music style or service times, why wouldn’t you change?

        Which is more important man made traditions or the great commission?

        “Church, you will either lose your traditions or lose your children”
        -Darrin Patrick

        Darrin Patrick (pastor of the Journey Church in St. Louis) says it better in this video.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA8UcJnv2rY

      • I have to take issue with Darrin Patrick’s theory that if the church does not change its tradition it will loose its children.
        I am in my 60’s and have also witnessed the music evolution within the church down through the years.
        I’ve concluded that rather than teaching children in Sunday School classes that the church is made up of a wide range of age groups with a wide range of interests and preferences; all of which need to be considered if the church is going to function as a family; we instead seem to cater solely to the younger age group and their desire for contemporary music completely at the exclusion to anyone else in the church family, for fear that if we do not pacify their wishes that they will be going down the road.
        Instead, how about teaching the younger people like responsible parents and the corporate world will definitely do; that the church world does not necessarily revolve around them, but we need to learn to appreciate all kinds of music and be aware that they are not the only ones attending the worship service and they need to be considerate of others and their needs and interests as well.
        At home and as parents we begin training our children to share their toys and get along with each other and instill in them that the world does not revolve around them, yet in the church we tend to coddle the youngsters and completely ignore the fact that the church is also made up of other age groups.
        Our church of 250 members has only one service and our church is made up of approximately 35% with very active youth groups. And our youth leaders do a great job of instilling the awareness of the diversity of the church among our youth.
        We have one service with blended music about 50% contemporary and 50% traditional and we hear little if any complaints and have heard of no one leaving the church because of it.
        During our worship services we are careful that that the volume level of both contemporary and traditional are within a comfortable and safe range. Many that attend already have hearing issues and the church wants to be careful not to damage what little hearing they have remaining.
        During our Wednesday night youth groups, the bands will play predominantly contemporary music and at a higher sound level. But during our Sunday Morning worship service we use a blended format and at a lower sound level.
        I have visited churches that have offered only contemporary music and walked into their worship service only to have my head blown off by the unbearable volume and almost non-intelligible lyrics. It was difficult to tell if I were in church or a ZZ Top concert. Needless to say we never went back after learning that this was typical of this church.
        I guess in essence……if music style is the only thing keeping a young person at a church, then that church has other issues that it should be more concerned about.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        The church reaches people by taking the gospel to the world. We should invite lost people to church, but the primary purpose for church is for the body of Christ to assemble and minister one to another through the various spiritual gifts, but primarily through the preaching and teaching of God’s word. As the body of Christ is built up it then goes into the world as ambassadors of Christ. American churches are getting it backwards. Programs, ministries, and even music are now designed to attract lost people to church. It sounds good, but instead of the church winning the world to Christ, the church is just becoming more like the world. If a church is depending on a certain style of music to bring people to in then that tells me that church has a weak Bible preaching and teaching ministry. BTW worship is everything the body of Christ does when it assembles. Music is a just one aspect of worship. Worship (music) wars occur when a church places too much emphasis on music and not enough on Bible teaching and preaching.

      • I simply do not accept the premise that contemporary worship is the “cure all” to our problems. That kind of thinking is extremely shallow. I once knew a music minister who insisted on going to a contemporary worship format because traditional music “just doesn’t reach people”. Within a couple of years his congregation went from about 250 to around 130! Who was he kidding? The fact is, he just wanted to do things his way and everyone else be hanged.

        There may be legitimate reasons for your church to change its music format, but I do urge you to check your motives. I find it difficult to believe that God is behind something that promotes rancor and division (and I agree both sides share the guilt on that point). Is Christ divided? Any decisions you make regarding worship style should be done after much prayer and seeking the mind of God. If all you want is a “quick fix”, your motives are wrong.

      • Jennifer says on

        It is a known fact we are losing the young generation. Check the numbers. I live in a rural community where most of the churches are dying due to the lack of attracting young people to keep them going. We as Christians need to meet the people where they are and times they are a changing and fast. I have young teen granddaughters and they complain they do not understand the hymns…..I raise my Ebenezer, come thou Fount….etc They listen to Contemporary Christian Radio all the time. They know and love the songs and ask me why we can’t sing those songs in church. There are three different Contemporary stations in our area. I can’t find the station that plays piano/organ hymns. Are we about keeping those happy within the church or to do outreach to those not churched. I was told once if we change we will lose the older generation who are the bigger givers. Do you really think God would honor that! In the large towns near by there are churches who have changed to all contemporary and they are busting the seams. Now these churches are, instead of growing bigger, are doing Church plants. I have told my church repeatedly if we don’t change and one of these churches comes to our community (with solid teaching) we will lose all our young couples and where will be then. Do we then change and try to get them back….probably too late. We try a blended – one contemporary video and the rest piano hymns. No one is happy. The young say why can’t we have more of the music we love and the elders say they hate the video music. I love that my granddaughters listen to christian music on a regular basis and sing the praises of our God instead of the alternative. Why not promote this? I am very frustrated and so is my family. Waiting for one of the other churches to come to our town! Have even thought of visiting them and make a request. It breaks my heart we are leaving this generation behind!!!!!

      • jonathon says on

        >Even if by not changing you hinder the spread of the gospel?

        What hinders the spread of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ of Nazareth, is the failure to practice that Gospel.
        That failure is excebarated by not knowing what the Bible states.

        How many _chapters_ of the Bible are read at each worship service you attend?

      • I know a lot of churches don’t read much at all. And when they do it is only a few verses.

      • I don’t understand the logic that not changing music style is hindering the spread of the Gospel.
        The message of the Gospel is perfectly capable of standing on its own merit without the help of external crutches like style of music the décor of a building or order of worship.
        I am not accustom to the music of central Africa or Latin America but could just as easily be won to the Lord in either of those places simply due to the power of God’s Word and the message of the Gospel.
        The present contemporary music will one day also be considered yesterday’s old music and I have to wonder what will be the next necessary reason for change in music in order to be spiritually relevant.
        Blowing the windows out of the church building at 300 decibels accompanied by unintelligible lyrics does not seem very edifying or evangelistic or worshipful unless your target group is the Led Zepplin followers.
        The church is supposed to be different from the world and yet this need for necessary change that the church professionals keep talking about seems to only be blurring the line between the world and the church even more.
        Those that are seeking God and salvation should notice immediately that the church is different from the world. I’ve attended services where there seemed to be little difference from the world when the worship service consisted of painfully loud music, scantly dressed music leaders, and stage movements that boarded on pole dancing. Now days when it is common for men who are co-habituating with girlfriends, living together out of wedlock and at the same time giving communion meditations from the pulpit and serving at the communion table…..the world sees little difference between the world and the church.
        To me it’s no wonder the elderly are leaving the churches by the droves and seeking a quiet place to meet and worship their God.
        The old hymn goes…..”I come to the garden alone where the dew is still on the roses.” Indicating a quiet meditative place of peaceful worship which is rarely experienced in churches today. Some have actually left a worship service commenting as they go that the feel like they had just been hit by a bus. One elder lady told that pastor on her way out. “I have not been to church yet today, I feel I’ve just come from a football game”.
        I will say it for those that wish to reply….”well it’s not all about them”, and you are right. And on the other hand the church today seems to want to make it “all about them” …those that insist that contemporary is the only way to go at the exclusion of everyone else.

      • Theo-ann Johnson says on

        AMEN! I couldn’t have said it better…..great job articulating this. I feel the same way at our current church, and I am praying something happens with the “blended” worship style mentality, or that God opens a door somewhere else for me and my family.

      • Carol Monson says on

        Well said! I agree totally. Jesus said, if He be lifted up he will draw all men unto Him. What is the nature of Jesus, but one of peace, love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, humility, self control, comfort, calm, quietness, assurance, and reverence toward God, and the like. Why would the church think that a discomforting volume and non-meditative atmosphere in our services would be apt to encourage the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit, who speaks in the still small voice to our hearts? Traditional music can be majestic, as well as meditative, and praise can be a swell of joy and gratitude, but it still inspires a deeply spiritual worship of Almighty God that separates one from the chaos of the world. This is what draws people to Jesus Christ, not compromising with the secular culture. We are to come aside and apart, and be separate. God hates “lukewarm”. “What you compromise to keep, you’ll lose.” “If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything”. These aren’t scriptural quotes, but they speak truth, just the same. “Rise up, O, men of God! Have done with lesser things. Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of Kings.” Let the children be taught. Don’t prevent them from coming unto Jesus, His nature, His ways, and His purposes… Return to the old paths, and remove not the old landmarks, the Bible says…Return to His rest. The “youth” will be attracted to that, as will everyone else. Believe that, by faith, and forsake the vanity….”Trust in the lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

      • It seems that instead of the CHURCH reaching out and influincing the world, the world has influinced the church to a larger degree.
        ” Be ye not conformed to this world”

      • How does that hinder the Gospel? Music is not the primary reason we are in church. There are many other reasons we may not reach people before addressing music style.

    • I hate you guys don’t have a piano in your “unchanged, traditional-type” worship service.

    • Where are you located?

  • As an expansion of number one (and a couple others too!), it’s also an “Us vs. God” mentality. Many are realizing that a division over something exceedingly preferential and secondary like a musical style is an exaltation of self over God and others, thus breaking the greatest commandments. When we cast our preferences aside and set the attention of our hearts and minds on Who God is and what He has done, specifically in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and then respond to that with love and service, we can expect to abandon our division and unite ourselves in worship.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I love your heart, Laramie.

    • It is more than that Laramie. It is not just music style that is changing. It is the entire interactive element of the church at the expense of scripture, hymns and many other things. It is not self. I greatly enjoy contemporary and traditional music and believe that it is all for the intent purpose of lifting up Jesus and praising God. See my post September on my church details.

    • Pastor's Wife says on

      Hear Hear Laramie!

  • I agree worship wars are waning if the exist at all.
    What I see in our region is a clear distintion.
    Contemporary if you want younger, under 60, congregations, and traditional for those older congregations. The largest churches, the growing congregations, are contemporary with screens and a band.
    The split services were an attempt by leadership to keep the elders happy while accommodating the under 50 group.

    • Allen E. Booth says on

      It’s my personal opinion that the sound of the music is irrelevant; what really matters is what the music SAYS: the message, in other words. But different people have different preferences.

      • T Raines says on

        AMEN! The content is the priority.

      • T Raines says on

        Scripturally-based, theologically sound content is found in many “contemporary” songs.
        Paul said: Speak to each other in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs., singing and making music TO THE LORD in your heart. (Ephesians 5:19). That covers just about any style available. If we can’t make melody in our hearts to THE LORD, perhaps the heart is the problem.
        Thom, keep up the good work!

      • L. Rogers says on

        I acknowledge being “more mature,” but the best description I’ve heard of some contemporary music is – 1 word, 2 notes, 3 hours. There’s much theology and social teaching in hymns.

      • To Mr. Rogers –
        “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing,
        Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
        The glories of my God and king!
        Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
        Refrain:
        Blessed be the Name, blessed be the Name,
        Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
        Blessed be the Name, blessed be the Name,
        Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”

        I think thatcherished hymn fits your description better than, say,

        “Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
        Breathe new life into my willing soul.
        Bring the presence of the risen Lord
        To renew my heart and make me whole.
        Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
        Give me faith for what I cannot see;
        Give me passion for Your purity.
        Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

        Holy Spirit, come abide within;
        May Your joy be seen in all I do—
        Love enough to cover ev’ry sin
        In each thought and deed and attitude,
        Kindness to the greatest and the least,
        Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
        Turn my striving into works of grace.
        Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.

        Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
        Giving life to all that God has made,
        Show your power once again on earth;
        Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
        Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
        Lead us on the road of sacrifice
        That in unity the face of Christ
        Will be clear for all the world to see.”

        The old “7-11” critique and those like them no longer applies (7 words, sung 11 times). That is, unless you’re singing “contemporary” songs written in the 70’s and 80’s. (that’s 40 years ago, as a reminder). Or, if you singing gospel favorites from the 1920’s like the one at the beginning if this response…

      • Comments like these tell me the “wars” aren’t over yet. I still see them taking place at some churches, but there are more and more churches that are transitioning out of blended or multiple services to purely contemporary.

        What I see happening is, as those born before 1950 or so become less and less in number, their influence wanes. The few who remain tend to leave the church where their preference then gets overridden because it becomes such a small minority. They then join up with other like-minded seniors at a traditional church.

      • Polen Guillott says on

        Regardless how this is labeled, it remains a generational issue. My demographic (over 65) do not understand why OUR songs of praise and worship are systematically being deleted from worship services..many of us leave worship hour weeping within out souls because we have had nothing to which we can relate as a medium of Worship. 9-11 and three hurricanes proved we hurriedly dusted off those old Sacred songs of praise, prayer and worship to plead our causes individually and collectively. In a generation these songs will be gone and so far,I hear none that remotely compares to them as far as doctrine and spirituality are concerned. Dome church Music Programs confuse decible levels with beauty. Some are so extreme, one can find a parallel with the story of the Tower of Babel. It is still young VS old and that is the tragedy of this century’s Christendom.
        Mr. Polen Guillott

      • Polen Guillott says on

        Regardless how this is labeled, it remains a generational issue. My demographic (over 65) do not understand why OUR songs of praise and worship are systematically being deleted from worship services..many of us leave worship hour weeping within out souls because we have had nothing to which we can relate as a medium of Worship. 9-11 and three hurricanes proved we hurriedly dusted off those old Sacred songs of praise, prayer and worship to plead our causes individually and collectively. In a generation these songs will be gone and so far,I hear none that remotely compares to them as far as doctrine and spirituality are concerned. Some church Music Programs confuse decible levels with beauty. They are so extreme, one can find a parallel with the story of the Tower of Babel. It is still young VS old and that is the tragedy of this century’s Christendom.
        Mr. Polen Guillott

      • “The few who remain tend to leave the church where their preference then gets overridden because it becomes such a small minority. They then join up with other like-minded seniors at a traditional church.”

        So tell me, if young people leave a church because they don’t feel the church is contemporary enough, aren’t they just as guilty as the seniors you criticize? It takes two to fight, and to blame the worship wars solely on senior adults is both shallow and inaccurate.

      • This is a valid point. There are many contemporary songs with very uplifting content/words; however, often the choruses chosen are very repetitive. My concern is that the scripture is also being marginalized to make room for more social event leading to a perhaps friendly but spiritually shallow congregation. In the end that leads nowhere.

      • Elizabeth Sinclair says on

        Amen!!!!

      • I believe that the point is missed, at least with regard to my previous comment. Points 1 and 6, in my opinion are not as much about age or modified hymns to meet contemporary ears. It is more about the seeker sensitive church movement and making the church more worldly, and, the music is direct evidence. In my church there was an abandonment of anything that resembled “church” to make it palatable. Sunday school was abandoned, the message style changed from a scripture study to a personal story “esegetical” format so as to not to “get too deep”, small groups formed but with the function to interact/talk about feelings and experiences over digging through the week’s message or a bible passage together to learn about God’s Word- the ONLY thing that renews the mind and changes people. The music too went from choir, orchestra, worship leading congregational singing (contemporary and traditional) to a more entertainment format with some singing but a great deal of impromptu band music and songs difficult to sing with. Finally, the environment changed from a service that began and ended with clear cut time to a service where people walk in 15-20 minutes late in and out talking loudly with served coffee. During music the lights are turned off and the sound level is boosted to high levels creating a rock concert environment- all in the name of trying to church the unchurched and make church acceptable. The issue is not just contemporary music style but a much bigger concern- the falling away of the church.

        I know this sounds awful but Ravi Zacharias said regarding music style in an interview, that it is important that music leaders understand that music is associated to memory; to abandon older songs or hymns because they sound too churchy is to deny Christians who grew up with those songs a worship opportunity. I said I was troubled about my church in my first post. This post is more revealing. My heart is broken to see such a fleeing from Church ways. I was not raised in church and am not old- yet, but something is wrong. The pastor says to get involved in small groups or don’t bother coming- it won’t do much good. Go to help others and get to know them. You need a support group. Yet in the small group the rule is you cannot fix anyone and the language is censored to make it pleasant. The way you have to help people is try to meet with them at additional times alone. That is a rarity as people are busy. Even though they may openly speak about their issues at group- no address is permitted. That and the fact that scripture is kept to a minimum should be of primary concern to any Christian. I believe that this change of “Style” that is mentioned in this blog is because of this change that is happening in churches all over the country like mine.

      • I agree with you. I often think that we have denigrated worship to fit our modern informality and comfort. I am 54 and was raised in the Lutheran and Assembly of God churches and now attend a non denominational church. As a youth, I did not care for the traditional hymns of the Lutheran Church. As I matured into an adult, I came to love that music for it’s richness and more importantly, it’s holiness. I miss the choruses of the Assembly of God that were Scripture set to music-a very easy way to remember Scripture.

        Although some of the newer songs are beautiful, many drone on with lyrics that are not easy to remember if the screen is not in front of you. .And even the melody is unmemorable

        This is going to sound like I’m an old foggy, but have you ever watched the congregations’ body movements when some of the music is played. With some songs their shoulders or hips are swaying like you are listening to rock music-which some of it is. Is that holiness in worship? Or is that a response to earthy ,instead of heavenly music?

        Lastly, if we are talking about worshiping the King, why are people coming in late and talking and visiting? It used to be if you came in late, you were seated in the back and you did not walk in while the Scripture Reading was being done or a prayer. There appears to be no decorum or respect in God’s House. “Let’s not offend anyone, we want everyone to feel comfortable”. The reality is if you were going to a performance that you paid money for, you would be on time and it would be frowned upon if you came in talking and visiting. And yet, when we exhibit this behavior in church, we are indicating that God is not worthy of respectful holy behavior-it is more important to please the crowd. And further, we teach our youth that we can treat God like a pal that we visit when we want and how we want. Let’s teach our youth about the Holiness of God, and some of that begins with the holy music of old.

      • William Armstrong says on

        I am working in a missionary church in Sierra Leone and we have had to change much of the music because it became a contest to see who could dance the best, not worship God. I have allowed some music back in, Days of Elijah being the most notable, but it has been done in small amounts, with preaching to back up the reasons why. One thing I have asked them repeatedly is “If Jesus came bodily into the service, would you modify your actions when He showed up?”.

      • Denise SmithHudson says on

        If the music is centered on worshiping God and invoking His praise it really does not matter the style. Arguably, the old hymns are born out of experience rather than just melody and what excites the senses. I enjoy contemporary but that’s just, it I enjoy it but it is so controlled that one cannot hardly have a moment of true worship/reflection, however when I sing a hymn it reminds me of the God we serve, it speaks truth to my heart and puts a melody in my soul and it stirs my own need for Gods presence. Nothing wrong except there is so little reverence in our music and as a result so little reverence in our lives. The war is evident, it ‘s a war of our culture vs pleasing God. Contemporary worship consists of loud screaming and flesh pleasing, rambunctious worship. Has anyone noticed the lights in our worship center are being turned off to facilitate an attitude of praise. Is this worship fitting for a King. The traditional hymns were referred to a sacred , the contemporary is referred to as worshipful, but it all depends on who we are worshiping, or better yet who gets the praise, our worship leader or our Lord. The war rages on..

      • Carl Fernstrum says on

        This back and forth of judging traditional and contemporary worship music is killing the Holy Spirit in our churches. Get over your own personal hangups and worship God. That goes for everyone.

      • Mary Hufford says on

        I agree that worship opportunities are being denied the “elders’ in the service. Ravi has it right.
        It is much more than that but church leaders need to consider all the church members. Those who built the congregation ought to be considered I would think.

    • I love worship! I love music! I have recently made the decision to pursue a life of ministry! I am in high school still so I attend a main service on Sundays and a youth service on Wednesdays. I see a HUGE difference in worship styles. I love Hillsong United or Hillsong Young and Free and Elevation Worship as well as some of the older songs that I have grown up singing. But recently I have noted a change in our main service worship as it slowly is becoming aged. Our church used to be so young and vibrant! I loved the new worship songs as well as a few oldies which gave it a perfect balance! But our worship is slacking, and sadly there is not much I can do about it except pour my energy in our youth group because we are praising God and Jesus like nobody’s business on Wednesdays!!

      • My heart is heavy. I came to this posting and read the article and comments seeking some understanding. I was attending a church that went “contemporary” and at first I was ok with it. Then it started impacting my worship. I ended up leaving and returning to a church I attended for many years that I left when it split years earlier. They were totally contemporary with several seeker sensitive ques in their program. I spoke with a pastor who met with me as part of the “get involved” drive who, after talking to me shared that I really did not fit anywhere. I agreed but I am concerned. I am a Bible believing Christian that has been a part of church ministries since I was young. It is awful but it makes me realize that there is something wrong. As a young person I respected the older church members and even did things with them regularly. Now, at 53, I am struggling with finding a church that is grounded in faith. Music tells quite a bit about the church and about people. I was not raised in the church so I did not grow up with a dislike of traditional church like our pastor often speaks about. I came into church from the world and grew to love the music especially and often weep at the deep meaning in the Hymns and some contemporary artist’s songs – Sandi Patti, Steve Green, etc. Now, no one even knows those songs or artists. Music is part of our memory and being. I believe that this one-sided movement is more about survival and money. It is true that the young are vital to a church but just as I was young, the message does not have to be shallow and make someone feel good. God’s Word is tends to be convicting more often than comforting.

      • Mike Drake says on

        I can understand where you are coming from. I have played the organ and piano in church for years. I love all kinds of worship music. The one thing I do not like is the way the younger generation makes me feel. I feel unwanted, and I feel that my years of ministry are not wanted any more. They make no bones about it either. I do feel Like I do not fit in the church I grew up in and gave so much of my life. I love the Lord with all my heart and soul. I just do not know where I fit. Someone Help, I need to understand what is happening. One Sunday I was playing the Organ and the very next Sunday the organ was gone with no explanation. If you don’t think that was a shock.. Well it was.!!!!!!! Seems like they do things the way they want and don’t care much what anyone else thinks…… I’m willing to make some changes, all I want is for them to have some feeling for the way I feel… Do you understand where I’m coming from.?

      • You may try visiting a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, if there’s one near by. The tend to offer a traditional worship and they believe that the Bible is God’s all true inspired Word.

      • Theo-ann Johnson says on

        I totally hear you two who talked about “not fitting in” with the service, especially as musicians or serving in the church. My family and I moved from the western part of the U.S. to the south east because of a new job for my husband. Because we knew of the pastor and his past ministries, we thought that things were good in all aspects of that church, including music. And what I mean by this, is a more traditional/conservative approach. But, we came to find out after we moved, is that we are part of a “blended” service. I joined the choir right after we became members, but had to quietly exit a few weeks later. I shared with the pastor and music pastor that this was a personal conviction and one I had lived out for years as a musician in churches, Christian ministries, and even secular opportunities (like a community chorale). Many years ago, I searched out the Bible and counselors on this and was settled with where to draw my “musical line.” I have years and years of experience, teaching, singing, piano,etc, especially with children, and they both knew of this. While I was still in the choir, he had asked me if I would like to be part of leading a children’s choir, as they were looking to start one. After a few months wondering if they were still needing me, I get called into the music pastor’s office. And he basically tells me that if I can’t “support” the music ministry, then I couldn’t help lead the children’s choir. I would have to rejoin the choir. For the few months that I was out of the choir, I did not talk to others in the church about this, nor did I make any “scenes” or beg to do anything musically in the church. I was asked to sing once before I left the choir, and then I was asked by the pastor and his wife to sing two different times during the Christmas season. The music pastor still remains silent as to my involvement. Going back to this meeting a few weeks ago, not once did he share Scriptural principles on why I should “broaden my view” (in his words). But, I shared things with him as best I could, without criticizing and telling him what he needed to change in the church’s service. I left discouraged, wondering if I could ever serve the Lord in this capacity at this church, when I know that God has put it in my heart to do so. Even without being able to use my musical talent, I have to deal with music during the services and it is hard to bear. I am in my early 40’s and have been ministering in music since my childhood. I have never been rejected by any church ever with this. My conservative style is not in line with them, and it hurts. I’ve been praying for my heart attitude and that perhaps God would move in hearts there at the church, or even here at home with my husband. The pastor talked with him about what he thought, and for the first time, my husband told him that he didn’t agree with the music either. I just take it harder because I’m a musician and I have studied this out more thoroughly. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m praying God will expand my ministry elsewhere. I have been told to focus on my spiritual gift(s)… I know what it is, and music is a way for me to use them, although I know there are other things I could do as well. If anyone has any insights, I’d love to hear good, wise counsel on this issue. True…the wars truly are not over….

      • Very well said!!

      • Tara de Wet says on

        I agree with you totally! I am 40 years old! I do not fit in with churches anymore because traditional music is moving to me and takes immense practice to do well (not just anyone can do it) and that makes praise even more special and meaningul to me. Talk singing does nothing for me! And bouncing balls and lack of harmony does not speak to my soul. I worship by singing! In a modern setting, I am dead! Like some of the great singers that are dead! God speaks to me through music and I believe there are people out there still that appreciate traditional music. One day there real be a revival of traditional music and the beauty of it.

    • I must be an elder at 37, according to everything I read….(not just here).. I prefer much less contemporary, traditional, as do many of my friends. I think it is false to stereotype all young people as desiring contemporary. However, I do not wage war against contemporary ? I just giggle when I read “60 & under”. I’m definitely not. And I do enjoy both! Really do. Just love love choir music, Gaither style for example, and hymns.

      • Concerned says on

        I’m with you. I just love good music! I tend to lean toward the traditional service music just because the hymns are time-tested classics, but great contemporary music is fun to sing too.
        I’m finishing up my first year as the music director of a local church. I’m struggling with a number of issues, but the main one is the us versus them mentality between the contemporary and traditional services. The contemporary musicians don’t feel valued, while the traditional is bullied or is the bully depending upon the person you’re talking to. The contemporary musicians are dedicated volunteers, but are mediocre at best. (Despite the fact that I’m the music director, another gentleman leads the praise band, so I don’t have much influence.) The songs they sing well, I’m tired of hearing over and over and my recommendation to add harmonies was met with a stonewall by the singers because they weren’t a “choir.” The traditional choir has good musicians, but the choir is shrinking (down to 6-8 singers) due to the ages of the members. Younger adults aren’t joining the music groups, and I don’t know how to help them want to participate?

      • I appreciate your dilemma. I plan to get involved in this blog and pursue the subject further myself and hope to be helpful.

    • I will be 60 next month, but for the most part I prefer a more contemporary service- mainly because as a Methodist, I feel our traditional services, at least at our church, lack any real praise and worship. They’ve become rote. Announcements, bring in the Light as we sing a hymn, children’s time, prayers, offering, Doxology, prayers, sermon…. wait for it- sing another hymn… It just seems like “let’s get this done so we can beat the Baptists and Pentecostals to lunch.” That doesn’t mean I don’t love a lot of the old hymns- “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, “It Is Well”, “Come Thou Fount”, etc., those hymns have a depth in the lyric that not many contemporary songs do. But, I feel that depth passes right by most of the congregation.
      We had our first contemporary/blended worship service yesterday, which my wife and I led, and it was very well received- even by the older folks- and when I say older I mean ’70s, even 80s. I tried to pick songs that really praised and worshipped God, and people really responded. It was very encouraging. We plan to do it on 5th Sundays- so 4 times a year. We’ll see where it goes…

      • John Lewandowski says on

        Bill we are going through this exact situation at our church and I would love to understand how you constructed a service that was well received by all. This could be good for our transition. We have everything that many have posted here in our church and need a resolution thanks!

      • Pastor's Wife says on

        I fear that your 70-80 year old group is being gracious due to the fact you’re only bringing a contemporary/blended service on 5th Sunday’s. If you were actually trying to transition from a traditional to a blended service, I think the truth would surface with the 70-80 year old group – and the war would come alive before your eyes. I say this because my husband is a pastor in the UMC and has been working with a dying traditional church for the past 2 & 1/2 years to transition them to a blended worship service. The change management load is massive – as is the resistance to change. The congregation talks that they want to grow, but the truth is that the change required to do so is too much for them to overcome, so they’re stuck in hospice mode. They can’t attract any new members because they’re so stuck in worship that appeals to their internal focus, versus externally, to grow the church and attract new disciples of Jesus Christ. I believe the solution isn’t a change in music, but to find a church that worships in the style one prefers, so that style of worship does not become a stumbling block for those who feel they are otherwise strong in their faith (as it appears to be doing to several who have commented in this thread). “Church Wars” – 2000 years later and we just keep ourselves divided. I like the 18 year old’s comment above best…”We’re worshiping like nobody’s business on Wednesday nights!” You go sister 🙂 Amen!
        Signed – 58 year old Pastor’s Wife

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