A Sign of the Times?

June 07, 2016

"I recently came across a church sign that caught my attention. It said...

New Contemporary Worship Service

It then gave a date and time for this new offering. As far as I could tell the church had even rented the sign to make this special announcement. Though I'm sure the church has good intentions, it left me feeling frustrated. Here's why. A sign proclaiming new contemporary worship in 2016 is a little akin to announcing new rotary dial up phone service to millennials! It will simply get zero traction. I personally was saddened to see the sign because it reflected so clearly the deep disconnect some churches have with the reality around them. As important as worship is to the believing community, the same cannot be said for those outside it. And if you care in the least about being an effective Great Commission church we've got to get away from models that are at best twenty years old (I'm being generous). As I wrote recently, there are three reasons people bother to seek out a church in the first place. You can read the reasons here. So what's wrong with the sign you ask? Here are three major ones for starters:
  1. Who are they targeting?
The type of bait you use depends upon the type of fish you intend to catch. What's true in fishing is just as true for church. What this sign communicates to the average non-churched person is nothing they would see as valuable. The bait is unattractive. Unfortunately, anyone seeing this sign will think mostly in terms of music, not in any of the other elements that make up worship. In a world where music - any kind of music - is mere clicks away, why would you focus your service around the most subjective element? Also, this is really nothing more than an attempt to get some transfer growth. I can't honestly believe they think new people are going to show up in droves. Besides, there is an abundance of churches in the city who are already well advanced in their worship styles and offerings. 2.  What does contemporary worship mean anyway? This invites a huge list of expectations depending on who you ask. Does this mean the organ gets parked, or the organ gets amped up? Does it mean hymns in double time? Is it drums, guitars, or a rapper with the lights dimmed? And speaking of lights, what about them? Nowadays anyone even remotely aware of the modern music scene knows it comes with a light show as a minimum. You also better have a pretty amazing vocalist if you're going to highlight your worship. In an age of American Idol and The Voice, people's level of expectations related to anything musical has greatly increased the last number of years. I may be wrong about my assumptions, after-all, they may have an inspiring hip hop artist who his making their debut at this service and we will have a new catalogue of worship music to inspire the next generation. Just saying... 3.  It relegates the church to valuing style over substance To be clear, I'm all about staying current. I was a musician for many years so I value worship done well. But I personally would have rather seen a sign advertising a series that was current to what people are dealing with on a daily basis. Personal and financial insecurity, hopelessness, fear of the future, marriage and relational angst, the list is long and getting longer. There was a time when style played a role, but it doesn't anymore. Staying current is just an expectation in our present climate, not a carrot for enticement. The real value in any service that the church performs, is in the value of the message it proclaims. I think this is the point that irked me the most about the sign, beyond the fact that it was hopelessly outdated, is that it had the potential of diminishing the substance of the church. Not just their church, but any church.  "


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