Bringing the Church Back Together- Part 1- Biblical Foundations

Over the last few years, I’ve had people contact me and ask questions about serving an intergenerational church and leading an intergenerational music ministry. I’ve really enjoyed discussing how we do what we do here. One of the more difficult questions that is asked of me is, “how do we go from having multiple services with different types of music to one type of service?” Honestly, I must confess, I’ve never had to do that so my personal experience is not applicable to my answer. However, I’ve talked with several who have brought their churches back together and their experiences are very helpful to the conversation. As a side note, I have, in all other churches I’ve served but my current church, started new services with different music styles. Let me tell you, it is generally not sustainable for the long term for many faith communities—especially those established churches. I’ll speak about that issue another time.

The purpose of this series of post is to delineate a few of the many ways leaders can navigate the transition from multiple worship styles back to one style. Because of the length of the material, I will break this into several posts. This first post centers on why we need to be together anyway. Click here for a few other blog posts I’ve written that deal with the importance of intergenerational philosophy:
Why Leaders Value an Intergenerational Choral Ministry,

Why should we educate ourselves in importance of Intergenerational Ministry/worship?

What does it mean to be Intergenerational?

Varying Music Types that are Biblically-rich Promote Unity

I begin with the MAIN reason I believe church worship should be unified in purpose…the biblical foundation of mutual submission. Sometimes being unified means not always getting your way. Many intergenerational churches strive to use a variety of music in their services because of the variety of people present. However, this is a common misconception. I know many intergenerational churches that are mostly traditional or modern in their musical approach. Find out the DNA of the church culture and be that first. Let the context drive the music selection. Be unified in purpose first.

Generally referenced as the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus included these words:  “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:21-23).

There are also many verses about preferring one another in love and striving for unity. For instance the well known passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 2-5: So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

There isn’t a biblical worship model that supports divided worship styles that I can find. Realistically, our churches couldn’t launch enough style-based venues to satisfy each church member’s musical preference. Have you ever notice that stylistically divided worship only exists almost entirely in the US evangelical church? I haven’t seen or heard of anyone who’s encountered churches with multiple style venues outside our country.

All Spirit-filled believers long for a healthy, growing church. I believe our worship structures should be guided by the words found at the end of Acts 2:  They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe…all those who had believed were together…Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple…taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Over the years I’ve discovered one thing…most churches with multiple types of services truly only have one prominent thing different—the music. Outside of musical differences, there are few changes worth noting: some “relaxed” atmosphere and casual dress. Maybe a lack of traditional liturgies in those churches that use creeds, responsive readings, etc. But, music and the teams that lead the music, are often the focal point of the style-based service.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are convicted that an intergenerational approach is necessary for the continued longevity of your church body, take heart. If you are weary from the strain having multiple smaller churches under one roof, then you’ll want to read the next few blog posts about some practical ways to bring your people back together.

I’m praying for the “few” who might read this and their spirits are crying out for their church to become unified in purpose and mission. You can be the catalyst for the Spirit to use you to inspire the needed change in your community of faith.

 

 

Worship Spaces Communicate What We Value

What does your church worship space communicate to others about what’s most important in your church? Is the church set up so participation and movement of the congregation is easy or is the seating and flow limiting and restrictive? Are the baptismal, pulpits, and altar tables prominent revealing the importance of these acts of worship? In this post I’ll briefly discuss a historical journey of worship spaces from Ancient to Post-Modern time frames. When you visualize and think of your own church, what elements, or which period in worship history would you say your own church context most reflects?

Ancient Period
*Usually met in homes of well to do members and highly personal with lots of movement and no fixed seating
*A meal was served which allowed communication and fellowship
*Communion served every time

Medieval Period
*Church buildings erected. Very ornate and focused on transcendence of God. Fixed seating appears
*Priests were far from congregation so hearing/seeing was an issue
*Congregation was silent—low participation
*Priests in charge of reading the Word…low literacy of congregation. Polyphonic singing (low congregational participation).
* Communion and Baptism were the focus of worship

Reformation
*Greater emphasis on preaching of the Word
*Congregation has access to Bible after printing press invented
*Congregational song less polyphonic, which allowed for greater participation

Baroque Period
*Access to priests is increased
*Acoustics improved to hear Word easier
*Dominant theme became altar-table, pulpit, and baptismal font near the front.

Frontier/Revivalism (18th century-today)
*Focal point is pulpit or lectern
*An altar near the front (mourner’s bench)
*Highly evangelical and large emphasis on congregational singing
*Pragmatic approach to sermons rather than biblical
*Architecture that was inside was very pragmatic and utilitarian

Auditorium Style Churches of the Late 18th century to today
*Auditorium approach to hearing/seeing
*Circular in shape with excellent acoustics
*Platform raised so all could see, balconies as well
*Comfortable seats

Modern Period
*Neutral Architecture, Contemporary look, clean lines
*Cleanliness important as well as comfort for seating
*While emphasis on preaching still there, less demonstrative pulpits (maybe Plexiglas lecterns)
*Any visual art (stained glass, paintings, sculptures) serve didactic or symbolic purposes

Postmodern Churches
*Geared for movement…seating is not fixed
*Focus on community so seating arranged that way
*House Churches appear again as well as revisiting Ancient worship practices
*Candles, visuals, fabrics, lighting all used to create a holy atmosphere (immanence of Christ)
*Storytelling is used for proclamation and preaching
*Communication is through participation rather than just listening to the Word preached

It’s easy to see which period most reflects the type of church in your own context. If you’re like me, you hate that participation is limited by your worship space. In what ways can we utilize our current space to maximize participation? I leave you with a few questions that I think should guide decisions we make about our worship space:

  1. What does your room (worship space) say is important to you? What do you value?
  2. Does your room aesthetic naturally draw your congregation to the transcendence of God ( lighting, artwork, architecture, etc.)?
  3. Is your room more intimate and make the congregation feel God is near and present?
  4. Does the worship space create community among the people gathered? OR is the room engineered to make one feel like they are worshiping God alone even among a large congregation?
  5. Do the acoustics of your room promote healthy congregational singing or is the room engineered to maximize the sound for the worship leaders (specifically the instrumentalists)?
  6. What role does the seating play in how we demonstrate horizontal worship? OR is the seating placed in such a way to focus only on vertical expressions of worship?

For more detailed information and selected bibliography of sources used, check out this link:

Worship Space as Communication

Choosing Choir Literature Based on the Size of the Choir

Based on my research, no more than 25 percent of church choirs in America have more than fifty participants. Even the major evangelical publishers are attuned to this fact because many offer choral music options for the smaller choir. I don’t see this trend in school choral groups, however, but the disconnect between school choral programs and church choral programs is REAL. I’ll write more on how we can bridge these relations soon.

Regardless of the size of the choir, there are non-negotiable traits of good, healthy singing. Tone, intonation, pitch, rhythm, tempo, articulation, expression, interpretation, etc. are some of the hallmarks of any good choral group. Having worked with both large and small choirs, I have noticed there are definitely some distinctions worth noting between the two sizes. Taking into account these difference can help the leader choose more appropriate literature for the size choir he or she leads. Here’s a selected list of some observations based on my own experiences:

Large Choir
1. Able to produce a large sound-especially if singing with orchestra
2. Less confident singers can find confidence in stronger singers/readers
3. Larger possible pool of soloists
4. Able to sing most songs with lots of divisi
5. Sing songs with more extreme ranges
6. Able to sing longer phrases (stagger-breathing becomes easier)
7. Easier to blend parts because no one has to “carry the section”
8. More difficult to sing especially rhythmic (syncopated) tunes (can be more difficult to get the train moving fast- so to speak)
9. Can have more strong sightreaders, which expedites learning

Small(er) Choir
1. Most have to pull their own weight, confident or not. (My first choir had excellent singer/sightreaders because the fewer singers had to step up and be confident)
2. Members feel more obligated to attend due to numbers–Greater chance of huge holes in sound if certain ones aren’t there
3. Can be more difficult to blend
4. Can be easier to sing more rhythmic tunes due to the weight of the larger number of singers
5. Literature choices can be limited by range, phrasing, etc.
6. Often part singing is limited based on availability. (We see this in the ever-present doubling of soprano and bass lines of popular church choral music geared for smaller choirs)

This is definitely just a start. What would you add to these lists? If 75 percent of evangelical churches with choirs have fewer than fifty participants, then how do we overcome obstacles the smaller choir has?  Let me hear from you.