The Changing Church

I took my first official church ministry position in 1996 at my home church as the music director. Church was simple in those days. There was minimal need for technology, programs had been “tried and true”, but things began to shift as we entered the 21st century. Some changes were great; some were not so great. I am going to share some observations of pros and cons. For those who read my posts enough, you know that I welcome your input and observations also.

Pros

  1. An emphasis on worship. When I was growing up, worship was what services were called. I can’t say that we did much of it, but we used the worship in bulletins and on church signs. We have become more expressive and gained a more multi-faceted, biblical understanding of what worship truly is. For that I am grateful.
  2. An emphasis on discipleship. The church realized that we were not making disciples. We had Sunday School classes and even small groups, but many pastors had to face the fact that their preaching is not enough to disciple believers. They need individual, intentional discipleship. We discovered that 3 weekly sermons of either the basic gospel message or preaching against the sin of the day was not enough to teach them the deeper doctrines or Scripture.

Cons

  1. A consumer-driven approach. We now are so focused on appealing to people that we often fail to please God. I am all about welcoming guests and making them feel welcome but not at the expense of the gospel. Programs are great as long as they are fulfilling the Great Commission. If they are just entertainment, church leadership should reconsider their validity.
  2. A performance-driven approach. Worship leaders and bands work countless hours to provide an awesome show. The smoke, the lights, and all the media are cued to go off at the right time to “help the Holy Spirit” work (like He needs our manufacturing).
  3. An emphasis on butts and buck$. The more butts, the more buck$…cha-ching! Roll them in, then roll them out. I visited a well-known megachurch several times. They rolled us in, told us where to sit, and rolled us out (that would go over like a lead balloon in the traditional church). People didn’t really talk to each other. The preaching and music were great, but it was totally impersonal. They say that small groups are intended to make up for this. That works great if the church returns your phone calls or emails about small groups.
  4. Mass evangelism. It’s 1-2-3-pray-after-me, and they promise that you have a one-way ticket to Heaven. Am I saying that people do not genuinely given their life to Christ in the services? No! However, many people gain a false sense of security because the message has narcissistically presented with a “sinner’s prayer” tacked on at the end. Mass evangelism is nothing new. This is decades if not centuries old. May we not neglect personally sharing our faith and watching the Holy Spirit convict hearts as we build bridges and share the life-changing message that Jesus saves.

What would you add to this? What insights do you have? I would love to hear from you.

20 thoughts on “The Changing Church

  1. I do love the greater emphasis on singing, prayer and Scripture in the services, but I do think that there is a need for more personal connection… there is a degree of consumerism like you suggest. I can’t believe you were doing music ministry in 1996! What were you, 10 years old? 🙂

  2. “The more butts, the more buck$…cha-ching! Roll them in, then roll them out.”

    LOL! I used to work in a restaurant, fast turnover was important, the more tables the more tips. Our motto was, “feed them,burp them, and kick them out the door.”

    For me,church is more like a hospital for souls. Worship is very healing, but we should be worshiping everyday, all the time. What we really need is refuge from the world, spiritual refreshment, renewal. I like Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

    In the bigger churches or places where they are doing a worship show, people tend to fall through the cracks. Also, entertainment feeds us and sometimes that creates this dynamic where people think faith is just all about sitting back and being fed. Then they don’t get involved and they leave church because they think they “aren’t being fed.”

  3. I like your list. On the pro I side would add the outurst of new worship songs, led by people like Chris Tomlin and Matt Redmon. But offsetting that on the con side would be drifting away from so many great traditional hymns like At Calvary and Blessed Assurance. We need a mix of both of these, as they are anointed just as much.

      1. We mix both every week with anolder cogregation. I think it highly deoends on your audience. I also,write quite a bit myself which we sprinkle in

  4. I don’t like the idea of putting on a show for people. Not at all. I do like modern songs, not the old hymnals. It is nice to have a band, but not essential. A piano would do. I love praise songs. I think of God with joy during them.

    I think real love for every person who comes in the door is all we need. If greeters at the door show interest, love and acceptance, I think people would return. And after the service, there could be a luncheon or tea, coffee and sandwiches, with all invited.

    Some people go to church because they want someone to pray for them. You could offer that at the end of the sermon. Some are very lonely. There could be members who could take time for new friends.

  5. I love it! There are so many wonderful Bible stories about the power of praise with the Glory of the Lord coming in and ministers not even able to stand in it and battles won through the absolute Divine intervention of God.
    I personally believe that so much of it has become about the numbers and the constant bombardment of certain “televangelists” promising miracles based on “sowing” money has left so many disheartened and truly believing that it is a money “racket” that they soon want nothing to so with the Gospel.
    And I am not speaking against tithing or supporting churches, but some of these people are reminiscent of Tetzel selling the “indulgences” to “free people from hell” and buy the way to heaven” because we know God’s goodness is free and our salvation cost Jesus a price none of us could pay.
    We are suffering from a lack of personal relationships and the true fellowship and comfort in the church family that someone IS always praying for you and someone always “has your back” and vice versa and the onslaught of megachurches has made it harder than ever to present the true “keeping the commandments is required” Gospel without everyone getting up, walking away and just finding a church that preaches what they want to hear but not necessarily the spiritual food strong enough to get this this world. Great post!

  6. Churches today focus more on the worldly, than on Jesus’ message of grace…people dont have belief in Jesus, they never take that big leap into faith, but are kept passive, the churches are focused on church growth, and raking in $$$, in my opinion, with watered-down sermons.

      1. Yes, Christ centered churches are hard to find these days. I go online to watch various sermons all week, but try to attend a church on Sundays that seems to appeal to the world.

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