Friday, May 8, 2009

Worship repercussions (9) - Divided Churches

Another big issue that emerged from recent blogs concerns:

Leslie really made me think (Worship Conflict, April 2): "Division can't be cured by putting everyone in the same room and singing the same songs.....unity and community have to be about something much deeper - share values, purpose and mission." He suggested that different worship styles based on stylistic options could be compensated by shared ministry and small groups. He welcomed diversity of multi-congregations and multi- small groups as long as they share the same mission.

Here is a bigger issue than worship styles. Churches sometimes have divided services because of building size. I know of churches which have outgrown their building but have two or three identical services at different times on Sunday (or even Saturday evening). So the division isn't caused by music! Yet, the question about what keeps such multi-congregations unified is complex. Leslie suggests shared values, small groups and mission hold people together.

However, sometimes (more often?) it's the Senior Pastor, or the Worship Team, or lively programs integrating different age groups. In fact, the different congregations do seem to act as different churches. Meaningful relationships can only occur in smaller groups, but how often do these intentionally connect people who come at 9.00am with those at 10.30 am?

Somehow it seems of different order when churches divide not because of building size, but by decisions within the congregation to separate, whether because of music or anything else. Yes, people may be able to "relax" and "worship more easily" - and, indeed, the church can grow. But cannot the diversity of God's people ever be present by the mutual sharing of every part of the act of worship? Is not being the body of Christ so important that it dominates all else, including music choices?

I know this subject of divided congregations raises much more than this. But I still feel(as someone who loves music) that music has been allowed to become too important!


Unknown said...

Gosh, this discussion feels so important, but also very difficult. It’s right on the button for the church where I serve at the moment.

A few more reflections from me which are in no way purporting to clinch an argument – the argument is raging on within me!

I, like you, would argue against separated Homogenous Units as God’s vision for His church. I am sure that it is God’s desire that the church demonstrate to the world that very different people can live together in unity. And how the world needs to see that witness!

But I remain to be convinced that we should single out “worship” as being THE activity where everyone needs to be together – to demonstrate our being “the body of Christ”?

Why is that demonstration to be focussed so wholly, it seems, on worship?

For very good reasons we encourage members to belong to small groups for bible study, prayer and encouragement. For equally sound reasons we encourage people to find and exercise their gifts in different ministries – not expecting everyone to have the same gift or turn up for the same ministry. In other words, we build into church life expressions of diversity-held-together-in-unity in all sorts of ways, rejoicing in how that can happen and bring to life 1 Corinthians 12. Is worship of a different nature? If so, why?

It is also important to consider the missionary dimension to worship. It is commonplace these days for churches to be establishing congregations that seek to reach a particular people-group who might not otherwise engage with worship. We applaud the missionary intent, but are we expecting that ultimately that missionary congregation will become an embedded part of the whole-church-worship?

In the context of the church where I serve, it still feels to me like a multi-congregational approach can best serve our missionary calling, offer pastoral care and develop community, rather than throwing everyone into one pot and generating a crowd of diversity – but for what? To chip away at our personal preferences?

How can I be convinced that rubbing our worship likes and dislikes up against each other is going to do more good for the unity of the Body of Christ than any other form of Christian community development eg in the small group, in the working out of some ministry?

Anonymous said...

Leslie, you make good points that are thought provoking. Thank you.