Our Church is Different – Just Like Everybody Else


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Living in a suburban area that has seen enormous expansion over the past twenty years, we receive numerous mailings at our house, announcing new church starts, as well as announcing that churches that have been around awhile are changing or adding to their scheduled worship service offerings.  In most of these advertisements there is included a proclamation that what will take place in the “new” worship environment is different.  Of course the point is to entice us and our neighbors to come and try out the “different” church, or the “different” worship.  My own church and denomination (for which I work) are smack on the front line of new work strategy as well, so I proceed with some restraint in seeking to bring a word of caution that I trust is appropriate.  No doubt there is hope that people transitioning to new neighborhoods, new homes, attending new schools, and seeking to assimilate into a new community might be candidates for a church change, or better yet, for unbelievers, who might be open to conversion to Christian faith.  As Christ-followers/ambassadors this is, of course, our prayer.  We are on mission toward this very result.

The focus of these marketing campaigns usually is, “This Church Is Different!”  Some make the proclamation through a parodied slogan, like “This ain’t your daddy’s worship!” or “A church for people who don’t like church.” Both of these have made their way onto a slick postcard that has come through my mailbox, and I believe both are steeped with bad implications, and at some level reflect badly on the churches that sent them.  If your church has sent one of these or similar, I do not intend to offend, but do hope further reflection would give us all pause.  There are many more of these slogans that are devised for shock, and depending on the sensibility of the reader, they succeed. A quick Google search unearths the proverbial plethora of resultant slogans, including the lists of humorous misfires that end up on church signs making odd declarations to the world.  My experience has been that the whole marketing thing presents a myriad of problems for the church, and perhaps more often than not, may well represent a deeper issue within the soul of the church itself.  Could it be that in desperation we are wont to substitute commercial strategies for a spiritual ferver that is missing from our congregations?  Are we over-stimulating our experiences, while under-nourishing the souls of worshipers?

I am not at all seeking to “take on” the need or value of using all means possible to get the word out about our churches, the availability of ministry, service, and worship, or to promote through all means possible so that our neighbors will know about us and our desire to reach out to them.  Rather, I want to invite a more prayerful and careful process when deciding upon what will be pronounced through various media.  Even more, I want to advocate for a better sense of what is, or is not actually happening among our own people spiritually.  I would likewise encourage a more thoughtful consideration of how certain public pronouncements reflect on other churches in the area.  What’s more, I would ask whether our advertisements ultimately besmirch the larger body of Christ in our community.

In Franklin, Tennessee where I live there are more than 125 churches of all denominations, including those who declare no formal affiliation.  With the possible exception of the Orthodox Church I would venture to say that all of them have made significant changes over the years in their worship services.  Some have started additional worship ventures themselves, having done their own announcing of “something different.”

Most of those that have come on the scene in the past thirteen years since we have lived here worship in a very similar style.  By in large their music expressions would be called contemporary or at least contemporary-blended.  Those that have no denominational loyalty, for the most part, seem to follow the conventions of whatever church or para-church ministry from which their pastor received his training.   So, for a church to announce “Worship here is different?” we must ask, “Different from what?”

Most of these attempts seem to be fueled by efforts to let others know that they can feel comfortable in our setting.  I meet often with church staffs who are trying to figure out why church members no longer attend worship, and why their community is not beating down the door to their services of worship.  Most of the time these same churches have spent a number of years bending over backwards, so to speak, to accommodate what they thought would be conducive to attract outsiders.  Meanwhile, the churches seem to have largely lost their distinctives. What are we really running from?  In only a few short years many worship environments have escaped one tradition that they described as a rut, only to establish another tradition, entrenching them in another rut, albeit a “new” one.  The pronouncement, “We Are Different!” truly could be followed by the absurdity of “Just like everybody else.”  Lord, we need Your Spirit.

Encouragement for Worship Pastors – Be about these things

1.  Lift Up Jesus and trust Him to bring all unto Himself – this applies to our music as well as the preaching.

2.  Give good and consistent effort to helping the church know and sing its song wel– sink your teeth into this task and bring your musicians along with you.  Be not afraid of teaching theological depth along with artistic skill and develop musical sensitivity.

3.  Boldly bear the responsibility to discover and develop leaders and musicians –monitor opportunities to train people in your own setting and by sending them to other sound settings where they will be helped and encouraged.  This is a culture you nurture.  Do not be afraid to advocate publicly for music and musicians.

4.  Foster a healthy relationship with your senior pastor and make a point to converse regularly about the worship environment and participation of the congregation – sensitivity to congregational responsiveness may help avoid larger problems later, and may signal spiritual condition to your pastors ears and your own.

5.  Offer assistance in external communication and promotion efforts – musicians often have an eye for how things come across externally

6.  Purpose to know churches in your community and denomination and demonstrate a cooperative servant spirit and Kingdom mindset – our task is too big for any of us, and our competition is not with the church down the street or in the next town

7.  Connect to other worship leaders and pastors who encourage your spirit and help you grow

8.  Balance your research, making sure you are just as invested in discovering the gems of historic value and import as you are in the newest wave or technological advance.

9.  Feed your own soul through personal and public worship opportunities and through artistic involvements that may stretch you and nurture the artist’s heart

10. Pray fervently for wisdom, grace, and understanding for the life you are given to live, and art you have opportunity to express, and the calling to which you have been called

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

4 Comments on “Our Church is Different – Just Like Everybody Else”

  1. AJ Sharenberger Says:

    Amen.

    Jesus said He would build His church. If we allow ourselves to chip away at any part of His church for the sake of some other part, we do not serve Him well.

    Moreover, as others have said elsewhere, we diminish the Gospel message of man’s absolute need for forgiveness of sin and Jesus as the only means of obtaining salvation when we pander some lesser message.

  2. Eric Benoy Says:

    Wonderful and poignant insight (as usual), Paul.

    I have a 2 couples who are learning and adapting what you present here to their roles as “regular” church members — it has been a sheer joy to watch them grow so much.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement and blessing …

    P.S. We recently received two such ads in the mail at the church and noticed on both that they hit activities and “prizes” for children every Sunday really hard as well as testimonies from wives about how their manly husbands love it. Indeed, the marketing of the church which took hold in the late 1980s and early 1990s is in full swing.


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