Six Reasons Some Churches Are Moving Back to One Worship Style


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.

Posted on August 30, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I am not surprised that the churches are changing styles slightly. I trust that they are holding true to the doctrines and principles that they hold dear, perhaps just a different way to express them. There is good all around, if one church sees something good from another church that they would like to include, I don’t see a reason that they shouldn’t.

  • so the question for me – what are the results?

    does the church continue in decline? is there a turnaround because the one service has “critical mass?” and if health leads to growth, does the church have the will to add an additional service or does it fear losing its identity?

    has anyone measured the outcomes?

  • I am 67 and I personally do not like Contemporary Christian Music that is played in church nowadays. Some of it almost sounds like rock music.

    I have yet to hear a Contemporary Christian Music song that can touch my heart the way some of the “Classic Hymns” do. Hearing classic hymns in church when I was younger is what led me to ask Christ into my life. I do not feel the same presence of the Lord when I hear CCM when compared to classic hymns of the church.

    Most churches today seem to prefer CCM. I wish I could find a church that still plays classic hymns in their church services. It seems that most churches in this day and age cater to the younger crowd and play CCM in church services. I like classic hymns because they usher in the presence of the Lord into a service, that is something I have never felt when listening to CCM.

  • Paul Washer on unbiblical church music ( can pull up on youtube)
    This site has different church leaders commenting on church music.
    The conclusion:
    Biblical absolutes in Scripture should be our guide to church music.

  • Pastor Paul Fredericks says on

    As a pastor we are considering moving to one service however it is more out of necessity. Our contemporary service is continuing to maintain while our traditional service has been declining in numbers with as few as 20 people in it. I would be curious to know if those churches moving from multiple services to one service are churches that are declining or have plateaued. Conversely, are there any churches that are growing, at least numerically, that are moving to one service.

  • Wow… worship wars are certainly not dead are they!

    I came to this posting because I am about to give an answer to a church that has called me to be their next pastor. The church used to be 1200 people 30 years ago and now they are down to 100 people. I’ve attended two services and to some degree they have tried to change, but the changes are minimal and I felt as though I was still watching a service from a church 60 years ago. The comments I’ve read can be summed up in a few phrases.

    1) “I don’t feel like there is a church for me anymore because all the churches have thrown out the hymns.”

    2) “you don’t need to change the style of music in order to reach people with the Gospel.”

    3) “you have to cater to all kinds of people, even the elderly.”

    When I read these my heart was aching. I wanted answers and all I came up with was more words of frustration.

    This seems so simple to me. The world has changed from the style it used to be 50, 40, 30 years ago. There is a reason that when you say the 60’s your get an impression of 60’s clothing, 60’s music, and 60’s architecture. The same when you say 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and now the 2000’s. And, while the church’s message is unique to that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is somewhat mind boggling that we expect the church to remain in a style akin to the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s even though we live in 2016.

    You can say that this church didn’t decline because it refused to change it’s style of music, style of dress, and its style of communication, but I will tell you those are the only reasons it could have. They haven’t changed their message. They haven’t stopped preaching the message of Jesus Christ. So you explain to me what the problem is?

    The 100 that remain are mostly 65 and older. The 65 year olds claim to the be the “young crowd.” All of their 30-40 year old children attend other modern styled churches, which of course they demean as “gimmicky” or “watered down and seeker sensitive.” And yet… they are almost completely reluctant to change to a more modern style.

    Am I missing something? It is completely true that if this church couldn’t change with the times then they would lose their children… and they did! THEY DID! THEY ARE GONE! So now I’m left with pondering whether or not God is calling me to a church who claims they want to reach their community and reach young families and fill their church back up as it was in the good ole days, and yet doesn’t want to change a single thing.

    And why don’t they want to change… it’s simple. The same three phrases I’ve heard here…

    1) “I don’t feel like there is a church for me anymore because all the churches have thrown out the hymns.”

    2) “you don’t need to change the style of music in order to reach people with the Gospel.”

    3) “you have to cater to all kinds of people, even the elderly.”

    So what am I to do? Can I reason with these people? Can I lead them towards change?

    The Bible doesn’t say that thou must changest thy style to reachest the pagan masses!

    As Platt says, The Gospel Should be Enough. Well this church has had the Gospel for 100 years. Why then is it dying? Why does it feel that in this instance the Gospel isn’t enough.

    Perhaps the Gospel + common cultural sense that says your church can’t survive and be 60 years behind modernity = enough!

    And as many have stated, my frustration comes into play when I see how reluctant an older generation is to submit to the younger generations style. Isn’t enduring a new style in your church worth seeing young families come and feel like they are a part of your church? Is listening to Bethel’s “It is well with my soul” too much for you to endure so that the lost won’t feel so lost in your worship service? Is taking off the choir robes too much of a sacrifice for you to see the lost taking off their sin at your churches 100 year old altar?

    It is so funny that when you ask… “are you willing to do whatever it takes to see people come to Christ in your church,” everyone says an emphatic; “YES!” But when you ask… “are you willing to change your style of music and style of dress to see people come to Christ in your church,” everyone says; “Jesus wouldn’t ask us to do that.”

    Hmmm… I think he just did!

    • Steve Davis says on


      While I respect your opinion, I would not want to attend your church. Traditional hymns speak to me in a way Contemporary Christian Music never will. I believe CCM is too worldly.

  • It has been a while since I posted last. Reflecting on this topic after reading ongoing posts I am strongly convinced that the issue is in fact the organized church. Read through all the topics Five ways to change this, Six areas to restructure that. The truth is that what the church is should never change or need changing- love, God’s Word, studying His word, prayer, etc. What is, and has been changing is church attendance. Why? It is due to worldly changes, cultural changes. Every posting acknowledges this as do publications. The issue is that while the church must update its buildings, there is no need to change the message and call of Christ which is EXACTLY WHAT is happening. “Don’t say the words CHURCH, or JESUS, or talk with scripture references, it scares people away. Let them tell you their stories and relate to them in a non religious personal way just you and your opinion.” The very reason undeniably that the music and mode of worship must be changed to a more acceptable cultural meeting format like a rock concert is to make it more palatable to unsaved people. Whatever happened to the biblical go save them THEN bring them in over the get them to come and see it isn’t so bad? As long as church leaders bow to political correctness, the church will lose ground. Minimizing Christ’s message is at the core of that worldly movement- no judgement, no authority, no standard- anything goes many roads to God per se.

    Even christians have been duped. “Don’t judge anyone.” Have you heard that one? God’s Word says “Judge not lest you be judged,” but further reading states for that which you are judging (don’t condemn a thief if you are one too). His Word also says “judge righteous judgement”. Judgement is the open expression of God’s standards we are to apply to our lives AND help other peeps who claim to be Christian – a brother/sister who now answers to God and His way. Those not of Christ, the Bible says are condemned (judged) already. It is that simple. It is the world that twists this meaning and says you cannot say anything OR God will straighten them out OR you cannot tell someone else how to live OR they just aren’t along in their faith enough yet. Loving each other is also caring about each other and encouraging them in the faith walk.

  • Scotty Searan says on

    I am coming straight to the point.

    I am 63 years old. I am believe in Holiness.

    Yes I prefer Holy-Spirit filled Southern Gospel and Choir singing Like is sung on Jimmy Swaggart Network.

    No I do not like contemporary Christian music for the most part.

    The churches main responsibility is to preach the unadulterated Word of God preferably the KJV Bible.

    Music is a side issue and should minister the Word to the listener.

    I am not going to give long commentaries about my points.

    The generation let down the gap in failing to teach their families to have Temperance (self-control) which is a discipline life.

    For the most part, people are of the entitlement nature, Bless me, Bless me, but don’t tell what I should do or not do.

    Why are we losing our children? They are not being trained. They are being pleased.

    Another reason we are losing our children is that we are sending to these ungodly public schools of learning where they teach against God. Then we send them off to college and the same thing is taught, but more powerful.., We expect them to come out being a Christian when at 18 years of their life has been filled with the influence of Satan and his imps. They can’t do it because they are not matured..

    The Family altar has been destroyed. They barely hear a table grace, because families don’t eat together anymore. They have the smart[hones blaring in their ears all the time.

    How about offering an incentive to read the Bible from cover to cover to get one of their toys. I ain’t gonna bribe my children on religion. The devil is gonna bribe them and you better believe it.

    I do not believe that Jesus Christ intended for us to have monstrosities of churches that serves a man’s ego. I believe he intended smaller groups of people, because they went from house to house in the Bible. BIGNESS ONLY SERVES EGOS. The Bigger the church gets, the finer cars he drives and the bigger house he lives.

    Would that big church preacher go to a small country church running 50 in SS. No. He will say he is too busy. But it is a matter of pride.

    This is why our people are leaving. This is the root of the problem.

    • Ric hard Matthews says on

      I know as a senior we are fighting this new wave of music which I guess the early group calls Christian rock and I give it many names because of its loudness in a holy place, hallowed ground, spiritual ground. We are being pushed away by the age of the ministry staff. My concern is if the lord came back what would he say and what would he prefer as to music in a holy place of worship. I could see youth in a gym maybe playing Christian rock music but not in the main church again I say upon holy ground , hallowed ground. If the Christianity has a standard then it is up to all of us to conform not to the world but to our church beliefs. Thank is another problem that worries me that our staff is being pulled into this type music trying to save the youth who is dictating this style of music. Who is in charge? I say that God is and it is up to us to follow his teachings, desires, wisdom and it is up to us to take up our cross and follow him. People are faced with feeling left out, abandoned, and now feeling unspiritual because of how the church is becoming. GOD DOES NOT WANT THIS. A divided house will not stand. We must get it right by our church leaders who would do it gods way not our way. True the youth are staying in some of these services to where they feel like its a rock concert instead of traditional service method but they are singing , playing with gadets, taking pictures, talking, dressing down and becoming cult like along with losing the true focus on which is Jesus. I will cut it short but before this division gets out of hand the Churches of Jesus Christ has to do something and get control of our worship.
      Thank you ,
      Richard , North Carolina

  • I am an Episcopalian by baptism and confirmation and a Unitarian in my beliefs, but I attend traditional services at a local Methodist church because of its serious mostly-traditional music program, which features a top-notch pipe organ played by a retired professor of organ performance and a very good choir led by a working professor of choral music. This music program, which reaches out to heart, soul, and mind in a profound way, attracts a demographic of intelligent, educated, and caring folks I enjoy welcoming as my trusted friends.

    My first — and very deep — love in music is Baroque through Romantic (“Bach to Rach”), but I appreciate and enjoy a wide range of musical styles. Some contemporary liturgical music is quite good, but, as mentioned above, too much of it was/is simplistic in lyrics and/or score.

  • James Lambert says on

    I like the old songs that have the much deeper meanings than the contemporary music of today. Once in a while I am lifted by the once in a while they do sing “Rock of Ages” or “Nothing But The Blood”. But I have suggested more and more songs by Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby be used in the service doing contemporary music but all I get is “thank you for your suggestion” and that’s all the “pastor of musical arts” tells me, and there is absolutely no change in his position, same old type songs. He said the congregation people used to hold hands during the songs but they no longer do that. That is important spiritual connectivity in the hand holding. You just reach out your hand and pray to Jesus that your hand be an extension of His, and to reach out by His Spirit and touch the lives of those two people, on the left and on the right. I love the song “Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” and “Blessed Assurance” and “Just as I am”, and songs like that. It brings the people closer to God, and especially if there is congregational singing instead of being “entertained” by a pop like music group. I wish I could find a church I liked that sings the old songs that raise your spirits and make you feel closer to God!

  • jmfincham says on

    Not so sure we wouldn’t be better off if the government were to close all the church buildings and we had to meet in barns,the woods,in caves,etc. and had to sing the songs we remember from memory.. since all hymnals were confiscated. Th e ‘church’ has always flourished during severe persecution. Don’t think we’re anywhere near that yet. Maybe that’s why the worship war exists in the first place. It’s one thing to fight for your ‘pet’ choice of’ll be quite .another thing to fight for your life.. to worship at all. At that point I think ‘style’ will cease to matter…. Just a thought.

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