I was reading  Rich Kirkpatrick's blog post called "Contemplations & Conversations on Creative Leadership: 'Too Go....

The entire series is actually pretty good, but what really caught my attention are some of the comments he makes about "blended worship":

"One of my favorite 'old school' contemporary Christian songs is Steve Taylor’s “I Want to Be A Clone.” We homogenize rather than synergize. Like a blender creating slop, we put two independently perfect items and destroy their uniqueness. This is why “blended worship” is not as effective as ministries that choose to have services with a focus. It seems far better to have a traditional service done with excellence than to mix Steve Fee on a pipe organ or Isaac Watts with a banjo. Actually, the Isaac Watts thing sounds cool, I have to admit.

"Now, I am not against blended worship, I am just concerned about the purpose some have in neutering art in their church. If you cannot pull off modern worship to sound its best or traditional worship to sound its best why try? Why not program what you can accomplish uniquely well?

"Indigenous worship is a far better choice. We use that word in global missions, but I think for worship and creativity in the local church that it makes perfect sense. The concept is that it should be important to tell our faith community’s story. While we should not be afraid to jump on trends and movements of God’s Spirit around the world, it should be our staple to make our expressions of worship flavored and colored by the stories of God’s presence and work locally."


Perhaps this caught my attention because this is something I talk about frequently here and other places.  Don't try to do something that God didn't equip you to do.  Some churches force traditional worship styles when they don't have the musicians / vocalists to pull it off.  MANY churches try to pull off certain contemporary worship styles when they don't have the people with the skills.  The net result is a sloppy worship offering to God.

Another question that came to mind while reading this article: I know TONS of churches that do blended worship.  I don't know of a single one that I would call effective at the Great Commission.  Every single one that I can think of plateaus at a relatively small number.

Honestly, until I read this, I never actually thought that forcing blended worship might actually be a bad idea.

What are your thoughts on blended worship?
What does your church do here?
Is your church growing and adding to it's numbers?

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As we mature, hopefully our plate gets bigger. When I was a child, I thought as a child, I ate as a child - hamburger (plain, no cheese, NO NO pickle), cereal, apple (no slimy orange). Today, I eat all of these, even the yucky Chinese vegetables. I LOVE yucky Chinese vegetables. Not just toleration. Love.
I think I'm with Stevo. If anything, I'm at least a little confused.

A) - The opening argument was quoting someone who said Indigenous is best. Things that are native, local and familiar. Do (or don't do) this type of worship.

>> worship flavored and colored by the stories of God’s presence and work locally

B) - Now you're saying if anyone has a preference they are idol worshipers, and probably aren't really worshiping God.

>>If they are tolerating, the probably have an issue with idolatry.

Are those statements in conflict? I mean, if "B" is really true, then is any need for "A"-type discussion? Basically anything we play or do is fine, because they are going to be truly worshiping or not worshiping (or to your point worshiping something else). It has or at least should have no effect on them.

Maybe I'm missing something... or it's not that cut & dry or black & white.


I'll be the first to admit, when worship is done or presented poorly (and I've suffered through some bad ones...) I get distracted. At the very least, I can tell you I don't admire/love/attracted to bad-timing, out of tune, all over the place, mixed lyrics, all over-the-place worship. Am I an idol worshiper? I know I'm flawed, but I always thought it was because I was human/flesh & blood, meaning that I was tempted or distracted by sinful nature. I didn't realized that I subvert idol worshiper.

I always tell my worship teams to try not to get in the way of true worship. Would that statement be necessary anymore?

Don't get me wrong, it's simply NOT virtuoso quality every Sunday at our services, but I'm hoping there is some minimum level of quality, that doesn't leave the opportunity of distractions for weak-willed people like myself. For many of our teams, leading Sunday morning worship is still living proof of God's great grace and divine provision/intervention.

In our ministry we say "We aim for atmosphere that invites true worship". We theologically believe there is formula to 'force' a congregation into true worship, but we also don't belittle the effect a worship team can have in the worship process. An valid extrapolation would be song selection and style would also have an effect, ergo we "choose" blended worship.
For some reason, "reply to this" button is scarce this morning. So I'm going to try to address several comments here as best I can without getting too confusing:

One major aspect of worship is sacrifice. If your ability to worship is compromised because of musical styles, quality, mix, loudness, whatever, I think that shows that you have room to grow in your worship offering to God. This isn't to say that you can't have preferences. We all have preferences and this is OK (as long as you realize that preferences are just that, and that you can worship even if your preferences aren’t met). A thought: If you gave your child a candy bar and they ran off without saying "thank you" and you asked "why didn't you say thank you?" and they said that they couldn't take the time to show appreciation for blessing them because the music on the radio was wrong, you wouldn't be likely to accept that as an excuse.

So when we hold a worship service (our time to praise God because he is God), and we don't give everything we can to it because things aren't what we think they ought to be, then there is a maturity problem and probably and idolatry problem. THINGS are totally irrelevant when it comes to worshiping God. Heart is what is most important. Allowing THINGS to become an excuse to not worship isn't right. We need to learn to grow beyond that.

This isn't to say that it is EASY. Rather, the opposite is true. It is HARD. However, the more practice you put into it, the easier it will become.

So what about the pain factor? Let's face it, sometimes it hurts to worship God. People with sensitive ears, or as Steveo puts, he gets sick when he hears certain kinds of music. This is all part of the sacrifice that some make as Christian's for the God that we profess. Sometimes giving to God hurts, sometimes it kills. We still have to do it and give 100% at it. (The truth is, NOBODY can give 100%. We can’t forget about grace when it comes to this aspect of the conversation).

In all honesty, though, part of the problem with this conversation is that we tend to make worship more complicated than it really is. Acts of worship are easy. It isn't about focusing on the lyrics and what they are saying, it isn't about focusing on God. It isn't about playing perfectly, it isn't about great lights and sound. It isn't about hymns nor is it about choruses. Worship is about GIVING to God. It is that simple.

So while all of those things are part of worship, none of them are complete worship and none of them matter more than the condition of your heart and your motive for praising God's name. I do not think that a man can worship God and still have it be considered worship as long as the worship is conditional (it can be very hard to know if your worship is conditional unless you worship outside of your preferences).

Therefore:

Playing close attention to your lead sheets instead of 'singing the song? Worship, as long as you are doing it for God!

Sitting in the pew because it hurts to much to stand? Worship, as long as you are doing it for God!

Telling the leadership of your church that you can't worship as well unless you have hymns? Idolatry and immaturity, not worship of God!

Telling the leadership of your church that you can't worship because it is too loud? Idolatry and immaturity, not worship of God!

Anything that you do or don’t do for yourself is not worship.

Imposing ones will over what the leadership thinks that God is calling them to bring is wrong. The leadership isn’t accountable to “the people” as much as they are accountable to God.
For Church leaders to try and force a worship offering from a people group that they aren't equipped to give to keep people happy said worship offering is wrong. Likewise, forcing a group of worship leaders to give less than what they have been blessed with to keep people happy is also wrong.

Worship is only done through humility, self sacrifice, obedience, and giving back to God whatever it is that he gave us. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is hard. Either route, do what God called you to do with the things that he gave you, and you have what it really means to worship God.

I always tell my worship teams to try not to get in the way of true worship. Would that statement be necessary anymore?

1. This one can get interesting. MOST of the time I see this it is used as an excuse to give less to God. True worship, being a matter of heart, isn't an excuse to squash expression. It is true that, when working in a band, less is more. So as musical directors and worship leaders or whatever your title, if you are in charge, having a vision for what people should and shouldn't play is a good thing. Not everybody should be playing everything - that is poor execution. In fact, a friend of mine notes that "play skillfully" is more about what you don't play.

So if God gives you a guy who can solo on the guitar, do guitar solos! I had a fantastic soloist at my last church. We did at least one solo a week. Instrumental music can minister just as much if not more than words can.

2. Honestly, I think the statement is more cliche than anything else. I don't think there is any real meaning in it. Immature worshipers will always find a reason to be distracted until you give them what they want. In turn, somebody else will be unhappy until you give them what they want. In the end, it isn't about them. It is about God. I think the only room for movement here is if your corporate worship service is seen as an evangelistic tool, which I think defines most churches. Even then, you can only give back to God what he gives you. Forcing something out of your worship offering that he didn't give you isn't going to work very well.

As a leader, look at what God gave you (time, money, and talent (people)). Put it to work for God. This is worship.

I'll be the first to admit, when worship is done or presented poorly (and I've suffered through some bad ones...) I get distracted. At the very least, I can tell you I don't admire/love/attracted to bad-timing, out of tune, all over the place, mixed lyrics, all over-the-place worship. Am I an idol worshiper?

I don't like poorly executed worship either. But my worship offering is different than most. Yours is too. Most of the people on this board probably qualify as "set apart" in their worship offering.

As a worship leader, it is important for me to see what other churches do in their worship offering to God. Unless you have all the good ideas and bad ideas, you are in the same boat. Just because something works from our perspective on stage, doesn’t mean that it works from the perspective of the audience. Likewise, you might see somebody doing something with God given time, money, talent (people) that you didn’t think about, that you could be doing too!

For example: I'm in a new church these days. I have been going there three weeks now. Sunday will be my first week in the band. The first three weeks I pretty much just stood in the back and listened to all the different parts. I didn't participate in the typical worship way. I would contend that what I was doing was still worship. Why? Learning how things work together or how they are not working together gives me ideas for what my contributions will be once I become a full member of the band.

When I visit a church and the worship offering is sloppy, and I take lessons from that, I still worshiped. Learning is an essential part of the growing equation. Stop learning, stop growing.

So when you walk into a place with bad timing / tune, etc, and you take time to study this, how it effects the presentation of the music, etc, then this too is worship. However, if you are upset that *you* didn't get the worship experience that you were hoping for, then I think you need to look seriously at your heart and decide if you have a maturity problem or an idolatry issue.

As an aside: As an added benefit, the times I have been in situations like this, I usually try to strike up conversation with the worship leader (in a private forum). Not because I think I'm going to save the day, but because I want to understand his plight more. The honest truth is, you learn TONS when you do this. Even more than if you talk to the guy who makes an excellent presentation every Sunday. You also make friends!

So are you being idolatrous? Ultimately, this is something you are going to have to decide for yourself. However, if you answer no - I’d suspect that you are wrong. Idolatry is a systemic issue in the church. Get to know somebody well enough, you’ll find their idols; we all have them. Really, the only way to find out is to develop a simple and concrete idea for what worship is (giving respect to God), and a simple and concrete idea for what an idol is (anything that we want or have to have to adequately worship God).
Argh, I didn't answer this question, which I think is a great question:

A) - The opening argument was quoting someone who said Indigenous is best. Things that are native, local and familiar. Do (or don't do) this type of worship.

>> worship flavored and colored by the stories of God’s presence and work locally

B) - Now you're saying if anyone has a preference they are idol worshipers, and probably aren't really worshiping God.

>>If they are tolerating, the probably have an issue with idolatry.

Are those statements in conflict? I mean, if "B" is really true, then is any need for "A"-type discussion? Basically anything we play or do is fine, because they are going to be truly worshiping or not worshiping (or to your point worshiping something else). It has or at least should have no effect on them.


Just for clarification: preference doesn't = idolatry. Not worshiping God because your preferences aren't met = idolatry.

I don't think that A and B are contrary I think they are conducive to helping us figure out what kind of worship we are capable and should be offering to God. Indigenous worship is best. Indigenous worship is something that will come along naturally (God establishes norms).

Kind of an interesting irony that just came to mind: traditional hymns exist nowhere in the natural landscape of life. If they do, they are rare. Hymns belong to a niche market. Yet, we have a tendency make them be commonplace in the modern church. Is this really indigenous or is this manufactured?
Corey - what you said at first was perfectly clear to all of us. It's just plain wrong. Not being able to worship because you find the style or delivery to be distracting is just too bad, not idolatry. We should strive for clarity and quality in worship. Like you said above, we should strive not to get in the way.

When a person finds that they are tolerating a particular style, they can try to change their attitude or move to a church that is more to their liking. It's that simple. No idolatry involved.

And this can be picked to death - let's not fall into the trap of thinking we're more than we really are. On the typical Sunday, we're the worship team who leads the congregation in song. We're no more important than the person who prepares the communion or the teaches our childern in Sunday School.

Hymns are actually indigenous to a previous age. As such, that culture has been carried forward as many other things tend to be in the church. I struggle with several aspect of the hymns, not the least of which is archaic words and references.
We'll probably never agree on idolatry, which is sad. The Church is rife with it. It cripples the work we are trying to do.

As for leaders being set apart, they are. This is Biblical. While worship leaders are the same as every other person, we are still leaders, we have to be mindful of that.

As for whether or not hymns are indigenous to previous generations: I can't even find hymns in my grandparents collection of music. My grandma is 93 years old. The only recordings of hymns that she has is niche recordings for churchy people.

If you have something else to offer here, I'd like to hear about it.
I have plenty to offer, this is a good thread/idea and I'm glad you started it. But from your last sentence, it sounds like your standing there with your arms crossed, perhaps because I'm disagreeing with you on one point?

And yes, leaders are set apart. But I'm constantly reminded of Elijah and the time he said, "I'm the only one" and God said, "heck no you're not. If you want to fold, I can raise up more". I see this thread where worship leaders think that what they do is the most important and overarching thing in the Church.

Idolatry - I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm just saying that you should think a bit more before making a blanket statement like "If they are tolerating, the probably have an issue with idolatry". I can think of many reasons a person is tolerating a form of music, and idolatry is way down on the list. I'd be more likely to think of idolatry if they rave about the music!

As for hymns - the melodies of many hymns have their roots outside the church. As such, their flavor and metre are indigenous to a context, or to put it another way, they are of a genre that is not exclusive to the church. For intance, there is a song that we sing that is set to Beethoven's 9th. It could be said that his music is an indigenous form from his culture and period. Further, there several hymns that are set to the melody of renaissance lute tunes or baroque songs - that would make them indigenous to that period. And everyone knows the story of hymns that were set to common pub-tunes of the day. Further, there are tons of college fight songs and national anthems that are non-church hymns - again, it's a genre and musical form that is indigenous to a particular context. So it's no surprise that your 93 year old grandma doesn't have any evidence for this since most of the periods in which a given hymn tune would be considered indigenous are pre-1800, and often from western Europe.

It seems like to don't much like hymns - or so I gather from a statement or two you've made. That's fine, I'm not too fond of them either. But it would be a shame to toss them since so many folks love them so much. And there are tons of them that are so deep and rich that I'd hate to lose that focus on quality. This is why we do blended worship and it works well for us.
I'm replying here, because I can't reply there... (I think you are right, once a thread gets too deep, you can't reply.)

I have plenty to offer, this is a good thread/idea and I'm glad you started it. But from your last sentence, it sounds like your standing there with your arms crossed, perhaps because I'm disagreeing with you on one point?

I'm standing where I am because the idea of indigenous worship is very key to the entire thread. Perhaps 100 years ago the kind of music that we consider traditional today was more common, but even then, that doesn't seem very likely. I suppose a study on melodrama's effect on church music would be handy here, as that is the only place that I can think of that used piano / organ on a consistent basis. There are a couple of other theaters that were known for this, but I don't know that they were ever mainstream. It might be worth looking into.

And yes, leaders are set apart. But I'm constantly reminded of Elijah and the time he said, "I'm the only one" and God said, "heck no you're not. If you want to fold, I can raise up more". I see this thread where worship leaders think that what they do is the most important and overarching thing in the Church.
I would say that what worship leaders do is important, but not the most important. Our music worship offering is a small part of our entire worship offering to God. However, I (and probably most people here) would be remiss if we didn't take it seriously and invest into it fully. Speaking for myself, my service to the church strictly revolves around our worship offering of music. So while it might be a small part in a big engine, it is the part that I need to be most focused on - after all, a small broken part in any part of the engine labors the engine. That said, for the most part, our worship offering of music to God is broken and needs serious repair if we are to bring it to the point that it needs to be.

Idolatry - I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm just saying that you should think a bit more before making a blanket statement like "If they are tolerating, the probably have an issue with idolatry". I can think of many reasons a person is tolerating a form of music, and idolatry is way down on the list. I'd be more likely to think of idolatry if they rave about the music!

I should probably point out that when I say "If they are tolerating, they probably have an issue with idolatry" that while it is a blanket statement, it is also a supposition. You can't know for sure unless you do more diagnostic work - HOWEVER, chances are good that idolatry is going to show up as idolatry is a systemic issue with the body.

It seems like to don't much like hymns - or so I gather from a statement or two you've made.
Actually, this is not true. During the last three years that I was on staff at the church I was attending, I worked quite hard at bringing in a larger variety of hymns - I was even the first worship leader in our church (there is only a 5 year history with the current congregation) to find an organist for our pipe organ so that we could actually use it.

I employed several methods to bring hymns in, which even netted a response in our own youth bands electing to do hymns in their worship offering that they brought to God.

The trouble isn't the music, so much, it is the people's opinions behind the music. The trouble is that we do blended worship because we think we have to, or that we do things a certain way to keep a select group of people happy. Keeping people happy is NEVER the aim of our worship offering to God. Keeping people happy in our worship offering to God, more often than not, makes it less than what it could and should be. That is my overarching point.

And I think that is Rich's point as well. He notes that he isn't against blended worship as much as he is against the idea of people being able to squash our artistic expressions to God so that they can be happy.
I've been watching this thread for a bit now. It's very relevant to our church, since we have about 300 people in our service (one of 4 we run) and it's an extremely diverse crowd. Ours is the only English speaking service, and we've experience quite decent growth in the last 5 years. 15-20 years ago it was non-existent. Our service, due to a number of reasons is now the largest service at the church. We have teens to people well into retirement.

We have intentionally been trying incorporate worship songs from various decades every worship set, including hymns, older maranatha/vineyard, 90's worshiptogether/UK rock and newer stuff. It makes it more challenging for sure and stretches both the worship leaders and the teams because they need to know a lot of songs and be flexible in styles.

However, if there is anything we've learned over the last few years is that we're trying to adjust to need-based ministries, meeting people where they are and adjusting to help them grow, rather than make them more like us. This spills into worship for us, since we understand that worship is a very big part of Sunday service for all. Therefore, we've gone out of our way to be as accommodating as possible. Sometimes it's old songs done in a new way. Sometimes it's old songs done in an old way.

“Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor” - William Cowper (author of hymns like There is a Fountain, Filled with Blood)

I'm pretty sure if you judged us from a technical and musical point of view, you'd find our worship sets overly eclectic and severely lacking consistency. However, I'm hope if you do judge us, that you judge us that we love everyone in our congregation so much that we as leaders are willing to step outside our comfort zone to be as accommodating as possible. In so much as it's possible, we try to let love guide us. We don't hold auditions for positions and people make mistakes. However, we're trying to be a ministry of people, not of tasks and things. We want to grow people. We want people to grow by serving.

So does blended worship work for us? We'd like to think so, but even if it doesn't "work" by someone's standards, we'll probably keep doing it. ;)
Yes - Many times in the real church worship music is not a perfected product, but a work in process....
I have to be somewhat capricious here - how can I tell if I'm in the non-real worship category?
If you are doing it for any other reason than for God.

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