LITURGY & Episcopalian ministry among millenials: When worship works.

by Jason Evans [Episcopal Diocese of Washington] 5/8/15.

…Almost every Sunday, I visit a different parish within our Diocese. Most of the time, I meet at least one or two young people who have found their way into the Episcopal tradition. Each time, I make it a point to talk with them about what brought them to their church. Whenever I listen to their stories a sense of hope rises up within me…

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman writes that there is a “43 percent drop-off between the teen and early adult years in terms of church engagement.” The Pew Research Center reported that more than 25 percent of millennials were unaffiliated with a faith community. This is enough to concern any rector or vestry member. But it isn’t a complete picture of what is happening amongst emerging adults. The National Study of Youth & Religion tracked the religious transitions of young people over a five-year period. Sociologist Christian Smith wrote in his book Souls in Transition that the study found mainline Protestants were “… relatively good at attracting new emerging adults who grew up in other religious traditions–good enough, in fact, to hold their own over these five years in terms of overall ‘market share.’”

Referring to anyone as a “market share” makes my skin crawl a bit. But you get his point–enough emerging adults are finding their way into the Episcopal Church to abate what would otherwise be a steeper decline. So, what are we doing right? In order to answer, I thought we should ask some of those I’ve met in our Diocese.

I met Dongbo Wang, a young scientist, a few months ago. He is a member of Church of the Redeemer in Bethesda, MD. Dongbo did not grow up Episcopalian. But he clearly remembers the first time he walked into an Episcopal parish while in graduate school. “When I walked through those doors, I thought to myself, this is what church is supposed to feel like,” he told me during our conversation. “It was something I couldn’t analyze as a scientist. It was something that felt right–I felt connected. The year before I had visited more than 20 churches and never felt that.”

Like Dongbo, Tiffany Koebel is a young adult who did not grow up Episcopalian. Today, she is a member of All Saints in Chevy Chase, MD. For Tiffany, the Episcopal Church provided a consistent, reliable religious culture that countered what Tiffany referred to as, “a culture constantly fixated on the ‘next big thing.’” She discovered more of a depth of theology in the liturgy during one worship service at All Saints than she had experienced in years attending churches of other traditions. “I was struck by the richness of the liturgy,” she shares, “and the central role of Scripture in the service.”

Read more at … https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/article/ministry-among-millenials-when-worship-works

And for more innovative ways some Episcopal churches are reaching out see this article … Church Has No Walls But Many Doors Accessible to Seekers.

 

CHURCH HISTORY & African rhythms, ideas of sin and the Hammond organ: A brief history of gospel music’s evolution

by Robert Stevens, The Conversation US, 3/28/18

The enslaved Africans who first arrived in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 after being forcefully removed from their natural environments left much behind, but their rhythms associated with music-making journeyed with them across the Atlantic.

Many of those Africans came from cultures where the mother tongue was a tonal language. That is, ideas were conveyed as much by the inflection of a word as by the word itself. Melody, as we typically think of it, took a secondary role and rhythm assumed major importance.

For the enslaved Africans, music – rhythm in particular – helped forge a common musical consciousness. In the understanding that organized sound could be an effective tool for communication, they created a world of sound and rhythm to chant, sing and shout about their conditions. Music was not a singular act, but permeated every aspect of daily life.

In time, versions of these rhythms were attached to work songs, field hollers and street cries, many of which were accompanied by dance. The creators of these forms drew from an African cultural inventory that favored communal participation and call and response singing wherein a leader presented a musical call that was answered by a group response.

A cornfield holler.

As my research confirms, eventually, the melding of African rhythmic ideas with Western musical ideas laid the foundation for a genre of African-American music, in particular spirituals and, later, gospel songs.

Spirituals: A journey

John Gibb St. Clair Drake, the noted black anthropologist, points out that during the years of slavery, Christianity in the U.S. introduced many contradictions that were contrary to the religious beliefs of Africans. For most Africans the concepts of sin, guilt and the afterlife, were new.

In Africa, when one sinned, it was a mere annoyance. Often, an animal sacrifice would allow for the sin to be forgiven. In the New Testament, however, Jesus dismissed sacrifice for the absolution of sin. The Christian tenet of sin guided personal behavior. This was primarily the case in northern white churches in the U.S. where the belief was that all people should be treated equally. In the South many believed that slavery was justified in the Bible.

This doctrine of sin, which called for equality, became central to the preaching of the Baptist and Methodist churches.

In 1787, reacting to racial slights at St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, two clergymen, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, followed by a number of blacks left and formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The new church provided an important home for the spiritual, a body of songs created over two centuries by enslaved Africans. Richard Allen published a hymnal in 1801 entitled “A Collection of Spirituals, Songs and Hymns,” some of which he wrote himself.

His spirituals were infused with an African approach to music-making, including communal participation and a rhythmic approach to music-making with Christian hymns and doctrines. Stories found in the Old Testament were a source for their lyrics. They focused on heaven as the ultimate escape.

Spread of spirituals

After emancipation in 1863, as African-Americans moved throughout the United States, they carried – and modified – their cultural habits and ideas of religion and songs with them to northern regions.

Later chroniclers of spirituals, like George White, a professor of music at Fisk University, began to codify and share them with audiences who, until then, knew very little about them. On Oct. 6, 1871, White and the Fisk Jubilee Singers launched a fundraising tour for the university that marked the formal emergence of the African-American spiritual into the broader American culture and not restricted to African-American churches.

Their songs became a form of cultural preservation that reflected the changes in the religious and performance practices that would appear in gospel songs in the 1930s. For example, White modified the way the music was performed, using harmonies he constructed, for example, to make sure it would be accepted by those from whom he expected to raise money, primarily from whites who attended their performances.

As with spirituals, the gospel singers’ intimate relationship with God’s living presence remained at the core as reflected in titles like “I Had a Talk with Jesus,” “He’s Holding My Hand” and “He Has Never Left Me Alone.”

Read and watch more at … https://theconversation.com/african-rhythms-ideas-of-sin-and-the-hammond-organ-a-brief-history-of-gospel-musics-evolution-90737

MULTIPLICATION & Not 1 homogeneous unit but rather a heterogeneous organization w/ many indigenous cultural channels to communicate the Good News & through which to celebrate it.

“A key to respecting indigenous art forms is to connect the Good News via the most appropriate communication modality for the people we are reaching…

Biblically speaking, it thus seems best to see a worship gathering as a time of indigenous artistic expressions that draw people from an indigenous background into connection with God. This would suggest the more worship services we can offer, the more opportunities we can offer for people to connect with God.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/8/18.

I found that all church organizations, regardless of size, grow the quickest by multiplying their sub-congregations. So in other words, they see themselves not as one homogeneous unit but rather as a heterogeneous organization with many indigenous cultural channels to communicate the Good News and through which to celebrate it.

For example, a multiple sub-congregational model blooms when even a small church  adds a youth program. The youth program has its own leader, it’s own style, its own music and its own outreach. It is a sub-congregation, of a different culture. Then, as the church grows over 100 attendees it can often begin to reach out to a different culture  by offering a different service with a slightly modified culturally aesthetic.

Of course working against this is the concept that people want to be united. And when they say that, they usually mean they want to be united in the worship gathering. However the Hebrew word for worship means to come close to God as if to kiss His feet. It doesn’t mean fellowship.

So biblically speaking, it seems best to see a worship gathering as a time of indigenous artistic expressions that draw people from an indigenous background into connection with God. This would suggest the more worship services we can offer, the more opportunities we can offer for people to connect with God.

If we want to call them “fellowship services” instead of worship services, then we could see unity as an objective. But it’s hard to create unity in a sanctuary.

One young lady I interviewed for a book said it was hard to create fellowship in the sanctuary because, “The seats all face the wrong direction.”

So therefore, I see “sub-congregation multiplication” as a key to respecting indigenous art forms and to connecting the Good News via the most appropriate communication modality for the people we are reaching.

I’ve expanded upon some of the research in this area in an interview by LifeWay. Here is the link to that article: https://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/29/when-big-goes-small-how-large-churches-are-learning-from-those-with-less/#.VxDLWcj3aJJ hey sweetie how you doing

BLENDED WORSHIP & Sharing our homes & lives creates more unity than sharing a pew #BiblicalTheology

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/26/17.

A biblical theology of worship.

Churches often want blended worship services because they seek to create cross-cultural understanding and unity. But, while earning my PhD in intercultural studies at Fuller Sem., I came to believe a Biblical theology of worship does not include creating unity.

Do we try to make worship do too much?

Because we feel we only have people for 1 hour on Sunday morning, we cram too much into that one hour.  That one hour becomes announcement time, unity-building time and worship time.  If that is the case we should call it the “Communication – Unity– Worship Hour” 😉

My goal is to get back to a biblical theology of worship which includes encounter, more than unity.  Theologically I think that unity and encounter are mutually exclusive (see the excerpt from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013, below).

Sharing our homes & lives creates more unity

If you’re there to encounter God, you’re not going to spend time encountering your neighbor. Jesus created unity usually over meals.

Thus, I would suggest that sharing our homes and our lives creates more unity than sharing a pew.

Here are some thoughts I’ve written with more detail in The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

RECONCILIATION & The Power Struggle Involved in Transitioning to a Multiethnic Church

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Reconciliation is not about acculturation or blending, but about “giving up power.” That’s what Mark and I tried to say in our book: re;MIX Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2017). Read this article below for a good corollary.

“Transitioning to a Multiethnic Church” By Eric Nykamp, Global Christian Worship, 8/25/17.

Many urban white churches realize that their congregation doesn’t reflect the diversity of the cities they reside in, and many of these churches desire to become multi-ethnic communities. However, moving from this desire to developing into an actual multi-ethnic community can be challenging, especially for churches with a track-record of being a “whites only” worship space in their city. Since most white people have little awareness of their white cultural norms, they mistakenly assume that what is normal for them is also the norm for all people … and are puzzled when their “outreach” or “welcome and enfolding” efforts fall flat with people of color. Due to this cultural blindspot, they are unable to recognize that some of their white cultural norms send the message that people of color with different norms of worship are not welcomed, unless the person of color is willing to assimilate.

Some majority-white churches realize that changing their worship norms will help them develop into the multi-ethnic space they desire to become … but find that they are stuck in making this happen. This talk, given at one such church, addresses how white Christians need to recognize and understand how white norms about worship may operate within their church. The presentation asks questions about what it would mean for white people to change their ways and give up power in order to become a multiethnic community. He concludes with a challenge to white Christians in multiethnic churches to love their brothers and sisters of color with Christ self-sacrificial love for the church, especially when it comes to issues of power and control in multiethnic churches.

Read more at … http://globalworship.tumblr.com/post/164621929550/transitioning-into-a-multi-ethnic-church-eric

Hear it at:

http://cdn.antiochpodcast.org/021.mp3

and go here for more:
http://antiochpodcast.org/podcast/episode-21-worshiping-whiteness-a-presentation-by-eric-nykamp/

STRENGTHS & Research Confirms 7Systems.church of church health & growth

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/15/17.

The following is my systems (7Systems.church) analysis of the “American Congregations 2015 Study” based upon  initial work by Arron Earls (LifeWay, Facts & Trends). The American Congregations 2015 Study” is available at ChurchHealth.wiki and http://www.faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/default/files/American-Congregations-2015.pdf

For a detail explanation of each mark and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/turnaround-churches/

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

#TransformationalLeadershipConference #StMarksTX #StLixTX #7Systems.church

WORSHIP & How to tell if it is organic

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/27/17.

In the Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church I described characteristics of worship that promote an organic atmosphere.  Here is an updated brief list:

Worship flows from the audience to the stage, not the other way around.

  1. Inorganic worship: This is usually manufactured with moving lights in the haze of an artificial fog. It may be lead by the worship team with admonitions of “Come on, let’s praise Him” or “Clap your hands for Him.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done all of those things (too many times to list).
  2. Organic worship: But, I have observed worship that is more natural and flowing from the Holy Spirit originates from the audience and moves across the stage, not the other way around.

The focus is on what is going on inside of your head and heart, not what is going on on the stage.

  1. Inorganic worship: Often focuses on beautiful slides/videos behind words with moving lights on the walls and the audience.
  2. Organic worship: The focus is on what God is doing in each congregants’ head and heart.  The lights on the stage often come from the back of stage, illuminating the worship team as silhouettes so the faces are not illuminated (so that the expressions of the worship team do not distract).

For more see ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church or email me you additions.

 

WORSHIP & Did Pub Songs Lend Their Tunes to Wesley Hymns? No, but popular songs did.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When I take groups to England, a question I often receive is, “Did pub songs of their day lend their tunes to the hymns of Charles or John Wesley?”

While writing a recent devotional book on the Wesleys (its purpose is to help church members understand what the method actually is), I see three important principles about music were part of the “method” of the Wesleyan Movement.

  1. The Wesleys wanted to not only revive the church, but they also wanted to revive worship songs. Therefore, they encouraged and wrote in more engaging and up-to-date musical styles.
  2. Though Charles did not write music, only the words, he did borrow melodies from secular orchestral works (music composed for an orchestra), folk tunes and even operatic works. Thus having studied his life I know that Charles utilized popular secular melodies, but did so carefully because worship is a critical and supernatural communication.
  3. However, I also believe from studying their lives that John or Charles would not borrow the melody of a drinking song and use it as the melodic foundation for a worship song.

To understand more about #3, read this article by Dean McIntyre, director of music resources for the the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.


Did the Wesleys Really Use Drinking Song Tunes for Their Hymns?

by Dean McIntyre, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church, 7/13/15.

…There is also the deeper issue of whether the importing of secular and drinking songs into the church to accompany congregational singing would be acceptable to the Wesleys. Wesley issued three collections of tunes: the Foundery Collection in 1742, Select Hymns with Tunes Annext (in which first appears his celebrated “Directions for Singing,” reprinted on page vii of The United Methodist Hymnal) in 1761, and his last, Sacred Harmony, in 1780. What we find in these collections yields an important insight into Wesley’s musical aesthetic for hymn tunes. Here we find the simple, traditional psalm tunes and hymn melodies, primarily from Anglican song. A number of these survive in our own 1989 United Methodist Hymnal (nos. 60, 96, 142, 181, 302, 385, 414, 450, 682). However, many of Charles’s texts were in increasing number and complexity of meter and required new sources for tunes to accompany them. John made use of new tunes composed or adapted from folk tunes, sacred and secular oratorio, and even operatic melodies. It should not escape us that whenever Wesley allowed the use of secular music as from oratorio and opera he used music of accepted high standard and almost always from classical rather than popular sources. In no instance did Wesley turn to tavern or drinking songs or other such unseemly sources to carry the sacred texts of songs and hymns.

Another help to understanding what Wesley considered appropriate in hymn tunes is to be found in his “Directions for Singing.” Of particular importance is a portion of his fourth direction: “Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.” It is clear that Wesley intends the “songs of Satan” to no longer be sung. Also important is his seventh direction:

“Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.”

Wesley’s aesthetic to “above all sing spiritually” simply would not allow drinking songs to accompany hymn texts.

Finally, in no hymn book, tune book, or other publication of the Wesleys can there be found any example of or encouragement to use drinking songs for singing hymns.

What About Today?

The question still remains, “What about today? Just because Luther and the Wesleys didn’t use drinking song tunes and other popular music for their hymns, does that mean we shouldn’t?”

Whether Wesley did or didn’t use drinking songs is not really the issue. Rather, the issue is why Wesley did or didn’t use them. Wesley found the close association of hymn text and tune (even commonly referred to as a “wedding”) to be of such importance that the use of tavern songs was beneath consideration. It was never a possibility. That question remains for us to answer today. Do we find it acceptable, appropriate, and commendable to select the music of drunken sailors or the local tavern for our worship? If Wesley’s reasoning for the Methodists of his time remains valid for our own, then the answer is no; and those who choose to use such music in worship should be able to dispute Wesley’s practice convincingly…

For further discussion of this topic, see Dean McIntyre’s article “Debunking the Wesley Tavern Song Myth.” 

Download the full article and read more at … https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/did-the-wesleys-really-use-drinking-song-tunes-for-their-hymns


Now, (this is Bob Whitesel again) some people mention that the web is filled with references to John and Charles utilizing pub songs when, as you can see, this is not supported by evidence or the Wesleys’ practical theology.

Some point to an entertaining video by the Christian ‘acapella group Glad (I use this video in class sometimes) where they say the opposite.  Watch this entertaining video (and learn about culture from it, but not history) and then read the explanation by Glad former member Bob Kauflin.

Gary, thanks for stopping by. I agree that GLAD didn’t research the topic very well when we started singing That Hymn Thing in the late 70s. I’m sorry that it was a stumbling block for you and your friends.
We never said that the melody for “We Praise Thee, O God” was an actual bar tune. We were using the tune simply to illustrate a practice that has existed for quite some time. The Psalmists borrowed poetic forms from pagan nations, and the disagreement about what music is “appropriate” to use for the church has been going on for centuries. What is clear is that some musical styles are definitely more suited for congregational singing than others and as you said, music isn’t created in a vacuum. Leaders need wisdom and discernment. But songs don’t say the same things to everyone, and there is no one style of music that can effectively communicate the glories of God or enable us to express the range of proper responses to God.
Gary: February 28, 2016 at 9:31 AM #  Need to come clean on “I once met a girl and her name was Matilda, she hugged like a bear and she looked like one too”. being the source of a hymn. It’s most certainly a lie. It is still damaging our worship service this morning.
Bob Kauflin February 28, 2016 at 8:05 PM # Gary, I did “come clean” in my response to your previous comment. If you’re interested, I found Harold Best’s book Music Through the Eyes of Faith helpful in this discussion. Grace to you.

 

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 #DMin

WORSHIP & A leadership exercise comparing worship in different eras (Yikes! The 80s are Back ;-)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This is an exercise about understanding how different cultures worship. My students enjoy it, so I thought I would post it here. Here is how the leadership exercise works:

Watch this video:

It is a humorous video that actually teaches an important cultural lesson too. It is by the Christian band called Glad. They were known for great vocals (and probably also for 80s haircuts 😉

(the video seems to have disappeared, but here is the audio version.)

But aside from their fashion statement, the group makes a good cultural point in this video. Write down a paragraph regarding the point of their video in your mind.

This is an exercise to allow you to dig deeper into cultural patterns and why they differ. So what is the lesson from this video about culture, when we recognize culture is comprised of behaviors, ideas and products (Hiebert, 1997)?

Here is a more recent version of the video to will enjoy also:

And, for a final bit of humor here is a puppet ministry visualizing the song.)

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

 

 

WORSHIP & What the Hebrew Word Tells Us About Worship’s Purpose

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

WORSHIP & How to Multiply Worship Options & Avoid Worship Wars (by church size)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/31/16.

We all know, “one size doesn’t fit all.”  And this is true with church health and growth strategies.  So let’s look at how worship wars must be tackled differently by churches that run over 100 attendees and those churches that have fewer than 100 attendees.

But, worship is actually becoming less innovative!

Research from Hartford Seminary’s Institute for Church Research found that worship is actually becoming less innovative today.  Here is a link to the article: WORSHIP & Churches Increasingly Less Innovative in Worship. Yet even though worship is less innovative (not a good thing), conflict seems to have remained high.  A key part of the solution is conflict resolution.  As a professor who studies conflict resolution, it still surprises me how much conflict arises over styles of worship.

Less conflict = Church Growth

And, it stands to reason that lack of conflict leads to church growth.  Plus, research has supported this. Aaron Earls, commenting on research from Hartford Seminary’s Institute, noted that churches that grow have a “Lack of serious conflict — Fighting churches are not growing churches. Serious conflict stunts growth.For churches that maintained relative calm—no serious conflict in the past five years—more than half grew. Only 29 percent of churches with serious conflict did the same.  For more read: 7 Statistics That Predict Church Growth.

Different Tactics for Different Sizes

But, one of the most important mitigating factors for putting and end to worship wars is the size of the church too.

  • If you are over 100 attendees you must solve worship wars in one manner.
  • And, if you are under 100 attendees, you must solve your worship wars in a very different manner.

So, take a look at these twin-tactics in this post: How to Settle Worship Wars By Church Size. At this link you will also find how you can address the “Four Forces That Control Change,” (e.g. lifecycle-, goal- and trend-orientated change forces) with two different tactics depending on the size of your church.

#StLizTX #StMarksTX

WORSHIP & Fewer Churches Changing Worship Style / More Churches Less Innovative #AmericanCongregationsStudy

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My colleague Aaron Earls, while analyzing Hartford Seminary’s American Congregations 2015 study, points out that innovation in worship is declining today. Earls sums up how this impacts churches by stating, “While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report.” Relevant and engaging worship is critical for the sake of church mission and so she needs to launch into innovative worship again. While writing the book “Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations” one major takeaway was that innovative worship kept younger churches not only growing, but their worship more joyful too. Read Earl’s article for good insights based on Hartford Seminary’s report.

Fewer Churches Changing Worship Style
by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, 3/31/16.

Most churches appear to have settled on their preferred worship style, according to the American Congregations 2015 study, as the growth of contemporary music in worship has “largely plateaued” and churches’ willingness to change worship has declined over the last five years…

These three points demonstrate the static nature of worship in American churches.

1. Most see their church worship as similar to five years ago. When asked to describe their services as joyful, reverent, or thought provoking, there were only slight variations in the last five years.

Those describing their worship as very joyful grew less than 1 percent, while those calling their worship reverent decreased by slightly more than 2 percent. The percentage saying it was thought provoking remained the same.

2. Contemporary worship has plateaued. To avoid a vague definition of contemporary worship, researchers began asking churches if they used electric guitars. After a relatively large jump in usage toward the beginning of the century, growth has stalled.

Churches using electric guitars climbed almost 10 percent from 2000 to 2005, but since then growth has been under 2 percent in the last 10 years.

3. Fewer churches describe their worship as innovative. Churches where worship is described as “quite or very innovative” declined from 38 percent to 32 percent.

While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/17/fewer-churches-changing-worship-style/#.Vv0MLGH3aJI

WORSHIP & Why Sunday Mornings Remain the Best Time to Reach Non-churchgoers

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2/21/16.

Recently a student asked if their church should solve their Sunday morning crowding problem by adding a Friday evening service.  I replied that Friday evening worship times offering a similar convenience as do Saturday evening options. But, my experience has been that they (Fri. and Sat.) must begin before 7 pm and be done by 8 pm. This is my research from client churches, but it does cover several hundred churches.  Here is an extended explanation of how many services should offer and when: How many worship services you should offer and when.

The student then asked why Saturday services don’t usually meet expectations.  I responded that a reason many Saturday evening worship options fail, is because leaders expect them to be as well attended as Sunday morning services. However, in my observations, Sat. only garners about 20% of the attendance of Sunday mornings. This may be because there are so many competing activities on Saturday nights.

Therefore, if a church is running 250 in attendance on Sunday morning and they start a Saturday service, then they should only expect to run about 50.  Usually churches feel this is a failure, when actually in my case-study research it is proportionally the same size.  Remember this is just my research among clients, which is a skewed sample because my clients are usually evangelicals. But, it does indicate a testable hypothesis (any of my DMin/PhD students listening?).

Sundays also appear to be the best time to offer services to reach non-churchgoers.  When I interview non-churchgoers in connection with consultations, for 20+ years I have heard the following response to the question, “If you were to attend church,  what time during the week would be most convenient for you?”  Their most frequent answer: “Sunday mornings.”  My guess is that Sunday mornings continue to be the time during the week when people don’t (yet) have a full schedule.

So based upon the above, it is usually better to offer multiple services on Sunday (by even making them shorter) than by trying to reach out at less convenient services such as Sat or Fri.

For more on this, here is my ranking from  case-studies of the best times on Sunday to have services: Worship & the best times on Sundays to have worship services.

Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX

WORSHIP & Reasons Why Blending Worship May Not Be An Effective Evangelistic Strategy

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/24/15.

A student once tendered the following query.

“You really believe that three services are necessary to reach the three different generations? I understand a little difference in order to reach a different group, but three seems a little over the top…. Our church currently has two services. One is praise and worship, and one is Traditional. These two services have come with pros and cons at our church. It has expanded the ministry and allowed us to reach some new people. It also has created some division among some who don’t like the other service or feel the two services are actually driving the two groups further apart instead of together.  Personally, I am a proponent of a well blended service. Ideally this brings generations together in the same service and teaches them both about compromise when it comes to music styles. I will say for this to work the musicians and music leaders must be good and do a good job of blending the music. Music hopefully is a tool to lead us to worship, that is why I don’t get hung up on styles. I have a problem with those that think only one style is the correct way to worship.”

These are good, and common questions.  And, here are my answers.

Hello ___student_name___;

You queried, “You really believe that three services are necessary to reach the three different generations?”  Yes, I do.  However, variations of this exist so let me give you some general parameters.

Some churches will have a traditional (reaching older adults who want stability in their increasingly unstable lives), blended (really a Christian variation that can seem culturally confusing to unchurched people), contemporary (upbeat with a backbeat) and modern (more engagement and improvisation, see my case-study book: Inside the Organic Church, 2006).

You noted that this has “allowed us to reach some new people.”  That is good news!  And, wait until you read Chip Arn’s book, How to Start New Service (a textbook for this course) and you will see that his research supports your conclusion: more variation in service styles has been proven numerically to reach more people for Christ!

But, I also think you can see that each of these worship expressions are stylistically different enough to require separate venues, or a sizable segment will not relate and not worship.  While your desire to mature people by “teaching them to compromise” is a laudable goal (and one with which I wholehearted agree), the worship service man not be the best venue for this.  You see, if you have only a blended service you will lose some of the babes-in-Christ because they may not be ready for adult food.   Romans 15:1ff is as good summation of the writer’s argument that for salvation sake, we must try not to put roadblocks (if they are culturally inspired and morally neutral) in the path of young believers.

Thus, if your goal is to reach the unchurched and introduce them to Christ, you will need to get them into an environment where they are not uncomfortable or perplexed by the culturally-derived aesthetics.  You won’t want to leave them there. But, you will want them to be able to start there, in a place where they are more culturally comfortable.  This is what a missionary does, they take the Good News and put it cultural aesthetics (and worship styles) of a society.

Since my purpose is to introduce them into an encounter with God, it makes sense to present the encounter in the most relevant (to them) way possible.

Many people note that this creates division.  And, it does.  But I am not sure that worship is the best venue for unity.  One young man I asked about this responded to me “you can’t create unity in worship, the seats face the wrong way.”

That is why I agree with you that we need to foster compromise.  I wrote two books about this: Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church (Abingdon Press, 2010) and Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

But, to create this unity I am not sure worship is the best venue, for it is a place of spiritual encounter.  Thus, you will notice in my books that I strongly emphasize that we supplement varied worship venues with new community spaces where people can gather after church and talk about the same message they heard in the different culturally stylistic venues.  Therefore unity experiences and venues, where people can fellowship and get to know each other, must be created.  It means not trying to create this in worship, for there it can rob us of our heavenward focus.  But rather it means creating unity experiences and opportunities; and offer as many each week as we offer worship experiences.

WORSHIP & How Missionaries Approach Musical Styles

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D., 11/12/15.

“It is a tough job being a missionary, fraught with opportunities to fail and fall.  But, it must be done.”

A student once asked a very common and poignant question, stating “It does seem that about every six to ten years the contemporary music scene changes. Although I was a classical musician (yes, even in high school), I can recall as what was “in” changed from rock to rap to metal to grunge to alternative, with more variations than I can even find to name within the iTunes library. If we are going to try to accommodate culture in terms of musical styles, we will be constantly renewing our liturgy. We will never be able to keep up with the marketplace pace of change for what’s popular. The question becomes should we?  Do we really need to try to compete with society (as a way to transform it) or do we need to imitate it and redefine the terms (like early Catholic Christianity subsuming pagan festivals and “Christianizing” them)? I don’t have the answer, but as a musician I still struggle with this area – I guess I’ll always really appreciate things written before 1900 more, even my spouse’s beloved Gaither songs.”

I answered thus.

Hello;

You make some good (and common) critiques when you said, “If we are going to try to accommodate culture in terms of musical styles, we will be constantly renewing our liturgy. We will never be able to keep up with the marketplace pace of change for what’s popular. The question becomes should we? (Next) do we really need to try to compete with society (as a way to transform it) or do we need to imitate it and redefine the terms (like early Catholic Christianity subsuming pagan festivals and “Christianizing” them)?”

I agree with you.  And, I want to delve into this a bit further.  To address your first question, “We will never be able to keep up with the marketplace pace of change for what’s popular. The question becomes should we?”  Let me say I think we must translate our message, not because of the marketplace, but because of culture changes.  The young people that relate to rap are a culture, as are the Goths that might prefer Metal.  The marketplace helps create them, just the way that the market for cows among the Neuer People in Africa make them a distinct culture.  Market pressures lead people to want to have enough money to feed their family and to live comfortably.  These market pressures come from what Abraham Maslow described as a pyramid of needs.  I don’t think we can change the affect of the marketplace in aspects where it is designed to help people live healthier and more comfortable lives.

But, we can see that each culture emerging because of marketplace forces, whether cow herders in Africa (Neuer) or head-bangers in Denver (Scum of the Earth Church), that both have emerged as a separate culture in response to marketplace forces.  And thus we must foster culturally sensitive missionaries who will translate the Good News into this culture.  Now, the properly trained and motivated missionary will not fall into the sin of that culture, but will “sift” that culture (do you remember who said that?) for the transformation of the whole.

Thus, I think this addresses your second question, “Do we really need to try to compete with society (as a way to transform it) or do we need to imitate it and redefine the terms (like early Catholic Christianity subsuming pagan festivals and “Christianizing” them)?”  A well trained and called missionary would never imitate the sinful practices of a culture, but through dialogue and explanation lead to the culture to understand how Christ is superior to their former beliefs.  In some ways the Catholic Church has done a great job of taking care of basic needs of disenfranchised people.  But also, the Catholic Church and Evangelicals have sometimes failed when we went too far and compromised some of the teachings of Christ out of supposed sensitivity to that culture. Thus, sifting is a difficult and ongoing task.

It is a tough job being a missionary, fraught with opportunities to fail and fall.  But, it must be done.

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 .

BLENDED WORSHIP & Will Blended or Indigenous Worship be the Future?

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D., 10/10/15.

The following argument for blending worship came from a former student.  You might benefit from the interaction.
——

Dr. Whitesel, You’ve really had me thinking about the whole question of ‘blended  
worship,’ especially as it relates to worship services, and in a  
church that desires to connect with its community, this is a big deal  
for me. You ask the optimum question: Can blended services actually be  
evangelistic?

You know I respect you, so I kind of naturally want to morph my  
thinking to accommodate your position. I do. You’ve shaped yours after  
years of working with hundreds of similar churches. It is wise for me  
to listen, and as I have the responsibility for helping craft worship  
during this particular season of ministry, I want to make sure I am  
truly aware of the bigger picture.

The puzzle rests in something I’ve wrestled with for years now. Though 
there is little literature in church history (that I’ve been able to  
find) about the nature of ‘Times of Transition,’ some literature  
exists concerning the nature of transitions in culture in general.  
Norman Cohn’s historic study of the end of the first Christian  millennium is a case in point. Dr. Cohn’s book “The Pursuit of the  
Millennium” (1970 ed, Oxford Press) studies the world stage at the  
999/1000 marker. (It was an interesting study prior to the so-called  
Y2K millennium break, that’s for sure.) There is a library full of  
information about both the Reformation and the Great Awakening  certainly, but precious little in the specific area of the reality of  
muddied communication during the course of a sensitive transition, and  
the movement from Modernity to Post-Modernity fits that description to  
a ‘T.’

Though I don’t want to stretch the idea too far, it seems that -—  
during times of extended cultural transition -— terms blur,  
definitions blur, and their applications often do as well. Is it  
possible part of the reason this discussion has something less than a  
crisp edge for me is that the idea of a blended service is an example  
of an idea that remains in flux?

As this decade comes to a close, fewer and fewer churches will follow  
a strictly liturgical path in designing worship, and yet few have  
absorbed the conventions of clearly contemporary music either. So many  
of us are somewhere in the middle. If we are to remain a step behind  
‘the latest and greatest,’ aren’t we going to have to wrestle with  
blends of style and application for some time to come?

Again, I’m really wanting to better understand -— and really there are  
few folks who even begin to want to engage in this conversation here  
:) -— so, I hope you don’t mind an ‘off-the-forum’ request for your  
insights. Your thoughts matter to me, and I’m grateful for any  
additional insight you might feel comfortable sharing.

As always, thanks for engaging the gears.

Steve W.

——

Hello Steve;
You are right about a transitional period in organizational behavior.  Van de Ven and Poole (Handbook of Organizational Change, 2004) have probably the most extensive overview of organizational behavior theories of change in such times.  It is a pricy book, but I had a copy bought for the IWU library and you can get it from OCLS.  Also, organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch deals with terms and icons in transitional periods.

Per these readings I would say that blended worship (and here I am making a difference between blended where two styles are bounced together in a service, and ancient-future where the two styles are integrated) is usually a result of cultural overhang.  Because as a missiologist I have such an adverse view of cultural overhang (due to the way it fosters what Wagner calls the creator complex, as well as inhibits evangelistic engagement) and because blending worship has become so prevalent by churches that hope such tactics are creating something aesthetically attractional (when they are usually not), that I see this as a widespread contributor to poor evangelistic performance.

The middle ground I think you are probing is what I consider ancient-future, and I like the hyphen for it denotes a connection or integration (instead of a forward slash).  Ancient-future creates and integrates a new musical narrative, whereas blended (in my definition which I think is the accepted viewpoint of most churches) juxtapositions styles in hopes of an economy of scope.  You noted, “As this decade comes to a close, fewer and fewer churches will follow a strictly liturgical path in designing worship, and yet few have absorbed the conventions of clearly contemporary music either.”  I think this harkens to ancient-future, and is very relevant.

I hope this adds to your fertile thoughts :-)
 In His Grace;
 Dr. Whitesel

MUSIC & Comparing Troubadours from Different Cultures. A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/10/15.

A friend of mine, Dan Kimball, encouraged me to listen to some of the lyrics of John Mayer. I first thought he said “John Mayall” a great blues-rock musician from England in the 1960s (http://www.johnmayall.com). But, he meant the more modern singer John Mayer.  As I listened to this latter day troubadour, I found a very poignant song by this young songwriter that juxtapositions generational predilections.

Here are the song lyrics from two representatives, each of a different generation (in fact I included this comparison in my book “Preparing for Change Reaction”). Weigh the lyrics of Boomer musicians Paul McCartney and his colleague John Lennon, against the Postmodern Xer lyrics of John Mayer:

Getting Better by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (London: Parlophone Records, 1967).

Me used to be angry young man.
Me hiding me head in the sand.
You gave me the word I finally heard.
I’m doing the best that I can.
To admit it’s getting better, A little better all the time
To admit it’s getting better, It’s getting better since you’ve been mine.
Getting so much better all the time.

Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer (John Mayer, Continuum (New York: Sony Records, 2006).

Me and all my friends we’re all misunderstood.
They say we stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could.
Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world,
And those who lead it.
We just feel like we don’t have the means,
To rise above and beat it.
So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change.
We keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.

A Leadership Exercise:

What do you think these lyrics can tell us about each generation?  And, can the plaintive muse (of John Mayer) be Christian (can you cite Biblical support), or adapted as such?

Write down your thoughts and share with other leaders (or fellow students).

Note:  As you may remember, I’ve included these lyrical comparisons in my book, “Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change To A Church” (The Wesleyan Publishing House, January 1, 2008).  If you are interested, you will find in that chapter questions for discussion to get your lay leaders discussing this topic.

WORSHIP & A Leadership Exercise That Untangles Worship Controversies

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/6/15.

Worship can be a controversial area. This is in part because it deals with the intersection of Christ and culture.

Cultural anthropologist Charles Kraft, building on foundational concepts by Richard Niebuhr in the book “Christ and Culture,” argues that the most theologically defensible approach is what Kraft calls: Christ above but working through culture.  Eddie Gibbs explains that “such an approach represents a deliberate self-limiting on the part of God in order to speak in understandable terms and with perceived relevance on the part of the hearer. He acts redemptively with regard to culture, which includes judgment on some elements, but also affirmation in other areas, and a transformation of the whole.”

A Leadership Exercise:  

Describe in one to two paragraphs a Worship Controversy Case Study.  This is an example of some worship practice, liturgy, observance, act and/or event that was controversial.  Give the details in a paragraph.

Then wait for another leader to add to it.  You do this by reading another leader’s case study (that hasn’t been answered yet) and answer the following question:

Missiologists tell us that we must evaluate, sift, and either affirm or judge cultural practices.  This is what leaders must do as budding North American missiologists: analyze someone else’s case study by evaluating/sifting it, and then either judge it or affirm it.

End your remarks by giving your rationale for your conclusions.  This will probably take one to two paragraphs.

The Results:

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can often see things that we are too close to the scenario to notice.  Thus, this leadership exercise allows your colleagues to assist you with cultural sifting and critiquing

Notes on the instructions: Additional thoughts in blue are embedded [below] in the earlier instructions:

Describe in one to two paragraphs a Worship Controversy Case Study.  This is an example of some worship practice, liturgy, observance, act and/or event that was controversial.  Give the details in a paragraph.

Describe some personal cast study. Something you have witnessed.  Tell about it in one paragraph.

Then wait for another leader to add to it.  You do this by reading another leader’s case study (that hasn’t been answered yet) and answer the following question:

Missiologists tell us that we must evaluate, sift, and either affirm or judge cultural practices.  This is what leaders must do as budding North American missiologists: analyze someone else’s case study by evaluating/sifting it, and then either judge it or affirm it.

Look at another leader’s case study by “evaluating/sifting it, and then either judge it or affirm it.

End your remarks by giving your rationale for your conclusions.  This will probably take one to two paragraphs.

Basically explain why the other person’s case study you decided to address was controversial. Also explain what behaviors, ideas or products run counter to the principles of Christ (i.e. sift or differentiate between the elements that run counter to the Good News and those that support it). Finally, tell if you agree or disagree with the participants.