Pastor’s Article 1/25/2022
During my current preaching series on the subject of worship, you may have noticed that, on a couple of occasions, I addressed the matter of our having 2 worship services.
On both occasions, I expressed the view that I don’t believe our current practice is spiritually healthy or beneficial. Based on some feedback and questions I received, it may be helpful to elaborate.
My understanding is that the church added a 2nd service (called “the contemporary service”) 15-18 years ago.
The purpose (I’m told) wasn’t overcrowding in the sanctuary, but rather a desire to attract and retain younger people in the church by offering a worship service that featured modern music and a more informal atmosphere.
In order to not affect those in the church family who preferred a traditional style of worship, the contemporary service was offered as an additional service, as opposed to a replacement or make-over.
This decision had “win-win” written all over it. Moreover, having experienced some conflict over worship style at my previous church, I happily embraced the 2 services when I arrived here in 2010.
However, over the past 12 years, I’ve developed the conviction that the benefits of our current practice (and there are benefits!) are nevertheless superseded by the spiritual harm it causes.
The primary harm, in my judgment, is a lack of unity within the church body, or perhaps more accurately, less unity than we might otherwise have. I believe what we essentially have are 2 churches that happen to share the same building.
Countless times, I have seen or heard evidence of an “us-and-them” mentality, or members will speak of “our” service versus “theirs.”
The 2 services are largely divided on the basis of age. This is unfortunate given that one of the great strengths of First Baptist is the fact that all 4 generations are well-represented. We are neither a predominantly old nor a predominately young church. This is a tremendous blessing & strength that we then devalue through our 2 services.
The Bible is very clear about the importance of unity in a local church. Key texts include: Psalm 133:1; Romans 15:5; I Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:3; and Philippians 1:27.
Perhaps most compelling is Jesus’ fervent prayer for unity the night before his crucifixion (see John 17). It’s striking that this is what was on his mind just hours prior to his death.
In short, unity is an extremely important biblical value and is something we must constantly strive to protect and enhance.
Besides a lack of unity, I believe there are 3 other harms of our current practice.
One harm is that the planning and execution of 2 services each week requires significant time and energy. The truth is, it’s very taxing, especially on leaders, demanding a great deal of organization and administration week after week.
Two services are also expensive, doubling our expenditures in a number of areas. Thus, it’s fair to ask: How else could we be investing that time, energy & money?
Another harm is that our current practice fosters a spirit of selfishness. It teaches us to be consumers of worship (what do I like?) as opposed to givers of worship (what does God like?).
Think about it . . . the first question that confronts a person who might want to join our church is which service he or she will attend. This decision will likely be based on personal preference and, whatever their choice, they immediately cut themselves off from about half the church family.
And then, moving forward, the worshipper misses the spiritual benefit of learning to appreciate, or at least learning to put up with, music that may not be their preference, but it blesses others. What is that called? Learning to die to self for the sake of others.
Yet a 3rd harm is that we lose the spiritual benefit of the entire church family singing the same songs and praying the same prayers. Yes, both services hear the same sermon, but there’s more to our worship than the sermon.
Ephesians 5:19 says church members, when they gather, are to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” So, it’s not just the pastor who “speaks,” but the entire congregation through its singing.
Just like the matter of our denominational affiliation, I know the desire to worship together has been on the hearts and minds of many of our leaders for several years. It was one of the reasons we hired an architect a few years ago to tell us how we might increase our seating capacity.
Of course, the pandemic put a halt to any thought of combining our services. All of a sudden, it became advantageous to have multiple services for the sake of social distancing.
But now that we’re learning how to live with the virus, it may be time to move this issue to the front-burner.
Of course, any time a church makes a major change to what happens Sunday morning, it’s a big deal. So, the church needs to proceed carefully and prayerfully.