CHURCH EXIT & New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers #LifeWay

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my consulting on church change and church revitalization, I sometimes encounter a judicatory leader or a parent church that will want to change another church’s theology. But, research indicates that you must be very careful in doing so.

I have observed that churches many times grow around a specific theological viewpoint. Sometimes that theological view is in error, unorthodox, schismatic or heretical. In those circumstances it must be changed.

But in my experience I have also seen churches that, while they may have primarily orthodox beliefs, have a unique view on (what John Wesley would call) nonessential theological points. These might include issues such as charismatic gifts, healing, modes of baptism, etc.

In such latter circumstances, the research cited below indicates that we should move cautiously when changing a theological perspective if it is not an essential orthodox belief … or church exit might occur.

Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

Don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers
Image: via LifeWay Research

… Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher.

But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

Churchgoers stay put

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.

Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.

Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.

Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.

“Most church members have been at their church longer than their pastor,” said McConnell.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/july/churchgoers-stick-around-for-theology-not-music-or-preacher

COLORFUL CHURCH & Why I don’t have a problem with segregated worship at 10:30 am, IF reconciliation takes place at 11:30

April 10, 2017 | by Bob Whitesel, published by Church Central.

It has been said that “10:30 on Sunday morning is the Church Central copy.jpgmost segregated time of the week.” I don’t have a problem with that if 11:30 is the most integrated time during the week. Here is what I mean.

The purpose of worship is to draw near to God as if to kiss his feet. This means the goal of our “worship services” should not attempt to create unity but to create a connection with God. I asked a girl in one Millennial church why they had such a large foyer with a coffee shop. She said it was because the large foyer was designed as a place for people from the early service and the late service to fellowship and discuss what they are learning. I replied that in my observations, most of the time in Boomer churches this fellowship takes place in the sanctuary. She replied, “That’s a poor place to have fellowship. The seats are facing the wrong direction.”

Worship has become too many things; it is one thing.That got me thinking about 15 years ago, about how we have turned worship services into pep rallies. We often celebrate the church and our volunteers or our different musical styles, when really “worship service” in its very terminology is about connecting people to God. Maybe that is why people sometimes feel less connected with God, because we have the wrong emphasis in large segments of the worship service.

I’m not saying worship doesn’t take place in our worship services. It does. I’m saying, however, that it often feels sandwiched in between so many other things.  Worship is too important to be sandwiched.

Where is fellowship, dialogue and reconciliation fostered: the Fellowship Foyer, Hall, etc. I believe fellowship is better fostered when we can talk about what we are learning at length. That takes place best in small, intimate groups where we can dialogue on a regular basis about our differences. But, it is especially hard to do when you’re entering or vacating a sanctuary so the next service can be held.

A good first step, however, would be for churches to provide a fellowship foyer (fellowship hall?) adjacent to the worship area where people could hang around after worship services to discuss what they are learning. I believe we must again create robust areas for fellowship, like the fellowship halls of old. These were the places of old where congregants hung around after church and deepened their relationships.

Even today many large churches with trendy facilities foyers too small for congregants leaving one service to fellowship with congregants attending the other.  One pastor said, “We have a foyer, but they don’t hang around.”  Well, if we are intent on creating unity and making 11:30 (or 10) a.m. a reconciliation time, then we may have to spend more time and thought on how to create fellowship. Just don’t do it during the worship time and detract from that.

And, worship services should be multiplied according to the artistic genres with which people are most culturally comfortable. It has been my observation that people worship best when they are singing songs with which they are familiar, to music with which they are comfortable.

I don’t think the worship service is, by its very name, purposed to create unity. I believe this is the wrong use of the worship time because the designation “worship” means a time to draw people close to God as if to kiss his feet.

I’m not against unity, I’m for it … just not at the expense of worship.I want to see more unity in our churches. But, we detract from the important ministry of worship and the Word by trying to cram into our worship services a unifying experience as well. In fact, I’ve written a whole chapter in the book The Healthy Church (2013) on how to create unity services.

Reconciliation begins with dialogue. Reconciliation is not going to take place in the limited conversations of a fellowship foyer, fellowship hall, etc. But it needs to start somewhere, and it can be fostered there. What if people who enjoyed different musical genres could attend the same church, hear the same sermon (perhaps by different culturally relevant preachers) and then exit into a “fellowship hall/foyer” to might with people of other cultures and learn how the sermon impacts each culture similarly and differently. This can begin a dialogue that can then branch out from Sunday morning to the rest of the week.

Here I think is the reason the quote that “10:30 is the most segregated time of the week” was utilized by Martin Luther King Jr. That is because our churches are segregated on Sunday mornings. This may be because most churches offer only one musical genre style of worship and therefore those who come to worship are primarily people attracted to one musical genre. I recently wrote a book with a colleague titled: re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color(Abingdon Press).

I pray fervently for churches to develop a ministry of reconciliation to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

So, what if we offered multiple genres as well as united opportunities to talk about what we’re learning over a cup coffee in our foyers? Reconciliation might not end there, but it certainly should start.

Most people who attend church do so on Sunday mornings. And they attend a segregated church because the music we select and the facilities we build promote one dominant culture. That is not good.  So, if we are going to start breaking down cultural biases and walls, we must start church makeovers with facilities and options that promote multicultural options with uniting environments.

Read more at … https://www.churchcentral.com/blogs/why-i-dont-have-a-problem-with-segregated-worship-services/?utm_source=Email_marketing&utm_campaign=emnaCCC04112017&cmp=1&utm_medium=html_email

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UNITY & 7 Ideas That Create Unity Among Multiple Worship Services

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Hold unified worship services, not just around holidays & special days.
    • Hold a combined service around the 4th of July and meet offsite at a lake or
      community pool for baptisms. Hold a combined fall fest service around Halloween or Thanksgiving, and make sure it has creative elements that express thanks and gratitude.
    • Hold a combined service after the new year, and speak to the ‘state of
      the church’ or the ministry focus for the year to come.
    • Make sure to celebrate ministries that have gone well in the previous year.
    • KEY > This is not about convenience (i.e. to compensate for a low-attendance Sunday).  Rather, it is about showcasing how God is moving through each of the worship expressions by:
      • Sharing testimonies
      • Sharing music
      • Sharing prayers
      • etc.
  • Swap Sanctuaries.
    • Have the different services / congregations switch their worship space for a
      week. Speak vision for the congregation to understand why they are doing it.
    • Consider mixing up the music just a little, and have some unique service
      elements – video, live testimony, special reading, etc.
  • Swap Serving Teams.
    • Not ready to swap sanctuaries? Okay, then how about swapping serving teams?
    • Greeters, Ushers, Hospitality Teams – send them to the opposite end of the
      building once a month to serve the other congregation. A hassle? Perhaps.
    • But the interaction might add some new life or increase the perspective or
      appreciation for what’s happening at the other end of the building.
  • Recruit prayer partners for multiple services.
    • Have designated prayer partners visit the other service and pray for the service, the families, the ministry effectiveness of that unique service.
    • Think about the impact of older folks praying for the younger families in their service, while seeing younger folks praying for the older folks who have prayed and given and sacrificed to build a church of great witness and reach in the community?
  • Hold a combined marriage retreat (or any similar type of retreat).
    • February or March are optimal. Be sure to highlight older couples in the church who are modeling good marriages for those who are just starting out.
    • Partner up older and younger couples for the weekend, and have public moments of prayer and words of encouragement to each other.
  • Hold combined prayer walks.
    • What would it look like to gather 2-3 times a year as one congregation and walk around the church’s neighborhood and pray for the people living in all those homes.
    • Make sure to read up on holding prayer walks; this isn’t a demonstration.
    • But what a great opportunity to expand the bandwidth of everyone’s prayer
      concern for the neighborhoods around the church!
  • Hold a combined mission emphasis weekend / go on trips together.
    • What local, regional, national, or global ministries do you support?
    • Get everyone from both services for a night or weekend to eat food from another country, hear stories of missionaries / ministry representatives. Schedule trips where various groups can interact and serve together.

© Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & MissionalCoaches.com #PowellChurch

 

 

BLENDED WORSHIP & How to Employ the Compartmental Option … by Rebecca W.

by Rebecca Whitesel, 11/22/16.

Recently, a worship leader friend of mine received an anonymous note from a church person Sunday: “How about a hymn!”

He said they’d done two that morning…

Here’s a thought on churches who insist on having people of differing worship preferences present in the same service:

Offer two sets of music at different times during the service. Maybe start with traditional music before the message rather than “blending” so the older folks feel like they’ve been to church as they remember it. Ask ones who like modern music to pray during the traditional music.

After the sermon, enter into a contemporary expression of praise and worship. Traditionalists can either stay and pray during this or quietly leave.

For more examples and planning ideas on the “compartmental option” for worship see these posts:

 

CULTURE WARS & How Stravinsky’s composition “Rite of Spring” sparked a musical and physical clash between Russian cultures

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Worship wars over styles of music are nothing new. And, if you look at musical history you will see they are often a cultural clash between different cultural preferences. Understanding that cultures (including age, ethnic and affinity cultures) prefer different styles of music is part of understanding other cultures. Read this interesting article by the classical music critic of the BBC to understand a classic (pun intended) example of cultural and musical clashes that accompanied the debut of Stravinsky’s landmark composition “Rite of Spring.”

Did The Rite of Spring really spark a riot?

by Ivan Hewett, BBC Classical music critic, 5/29/13.

Of all the scandals of the history of art, none is so scandalous as the one that took place on the evening of 29 May 1913 in Paris at the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring.

The Rite descended into a riot, the story goes. Magnified in the retelling, it has acquired the unquestionable certainty that only legend can have. Everyone simply “knows” that there was a riot.

But is it possible to separate fact from fiction?

Was there violence?

Dozens of witnesses left accounts of the evening, but they tend to say different things. According to some, blows were exchanged, objects were thrown at the stage, and at least one person was challenged to a duel…

There had been some noise two weeks earlier at the premiere of Debussy’s ballet, Jeux, and critics had heaped abuse on Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography. Now Nijinsky had choreographed the Rite of Spring – rumoured to be the last word in Russian primitivism or modernist chic, depending who you believed. So part of the audience may well have been predisposed to be outraged.

“There was an existing tremor in the air against Nijinsky before any curtain went up,” says Stephen Walsh, professor of music at Cardiff University. Others say the trouble began with the start of the overture and its strangled bassoon melody, and other strange sounds never before conjured from an orchestra.

Igor Stravinsky, for his part, said the storm only really broke after the overture, “when the curtain opened on the group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down”…

The brand new Theatre of the Champs Elysees was “awash with diamonds and furs” according to one contemporary report. It seems that the beau monde really did turn out for this premiere – and some will have been keener than others on the avant-garde performance. Jean Cocteau wrote that “the aesthetic crowd… would applaud novelty simply to show their contempt for the people in the boxes”.

But were they divided by class? Buch says there are unlikely to have been any poor or even middle class people in the auditorium.

“My reading of the evidence is that actually the divisions went inside social groups – you have people who are very much alike and they have different opinions on the piece.” One barrier to understanding the quarrel, Buch adds, is that none of those who protested ever left a record explaining the reason for their anger…

The young Stravinsky had taken Paris by storm in previous seasons. His Petrushka, the year before, had been a massive hit. “There is no question at all, he was a star,” says Walsh. But compared with the Rite of Spring, “Petrushka was not such a forbidding score, by any means.”

Stravinsky himself said that when he first played the beginning of the Rite, with its dissonant chords and pulsating rhythm, to Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev asked him a “very offending” question: “Will it last a very long time this way?” (Stravinsky replied: “To the end, my dear.”)

So the music was as startling as the strange jerky movements of the choreography. Esteban Buch argues that you cannot separate the impact of one from the other. What upset people, he thinks, was “the very notion of primitive society being shown on stage”.

1913 production of The Rite of Spring

(Dancers portraying Russian primitives)

Fast forward to the last 30 minutes of this BBC2 video for an idea about the commotion this historic composition created

Read more at … http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22691267

WORSHIP & Three Reasons for Worship Wars and Three Lessons to Learn (A Leaderhip Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/11/15.

In the popular leadership exercise on “Worship & A Leadership Exercise to Untangle Worship Controversies” I’ve noticed that worship disasters often result from:

  1. lack of preparation,
  2. lack of understanding (of a different culture),
  3. and/or lack of focus (i.e. the goal of connect people through worship, to God with resultant evangelism).

Thus, here a few thoughts from the professor.

1.  Encourage your people to take more time than you think you need to prepare for worship events.  This means more time in prayer, practice and evaluation in addition to preparation.  Often people think that “If we provide it they will come.”  And they are right, if we provide an “authentic connection” with God, they will come.  But often our connection is weak or distorted.  It is like that mobile phone company commercial that intones, “How many bars do you have?”  Thus, we need to make sure our connections are strong and static free before we try to link people up.

2.  Next, ensure that your leaders fully understand the group they are reaching out to via your worship expression.  This is why in the textbook I suggest having different worship committees, over varying worship expressions. The purpose for this is to ensure that indigenous worship expressions develop.  In addition, help those involved in worship to understand how divisive this subject can be. This is because it deals with something very personal: a persons connection I with God.  And, few people want that connection severed or damaged.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting this has to do with an understanding of the nexus between Christ and culture.  Remember, this means we must “sift” culture, judging some elements and affirming others, with the goal the transformation of the whole. That is why I have found some of the best people to get involved in cross-cultural ministries and strategy teams are missionaries.  They are trained in the regimens and procedures of (as Dr. McGavran would say) “building bridges” to other cultures over which the Good News can travel.

3.  And finally, don’t forget that the goal of worship is to encounter God.  It is like it says in Good to Great, get the “right person on the bus.”  Instead … get the right goal on board.  In addition, for some people this worship experience can be a cathartic event in their life’s focus, and thus worship can be a powerful conduit for evangelism.  Always be prepared to encounter this, with incorporation strategies ready.

Thus, worship disasters provide us a framework through which to see alternative courses of action, parallel outcomes, and adjusts to strategy.  Don’t forget to analyze your failures as well as your successes!  Sometimes the former are more revealing .