The Prevailing Wisdom
It’s the standard procedure for churches like ours. It’s the prevailing church growth wisdom. Starting a contemporary service alongside the traditional one.
When I first got to Pembroke, I assumed this would be the best option. I thought through two morning services. I chewed on the idea of a Saturday or Sunday evening service. It’s easier to birth something new than to refresh and change something established.
But that doesn’t mean it’s right. At least, it wasn’t right for us.
I had one practical issue staring me down. Our auditorium seats 600 people. We were averaging about 125 when I started. It made it hard to pull the trigger on an additional gathering that would probably have been a couple dozen people to start.
The Power of the Gospel
The thing that really stopped me, though, was theological. I was frozen by a quote from Bob Kauflin:
How many of our thoughts about music and worship revolve around what we like, what we prefer, what interests us, and what we find appealing? And how often is that attitude passed on to the next generation, who then focus on what appeals to them?
I suspect this may be one of the reasons churches develop separate meetings for different musical tastes. In the short run it may bring more people to your church. But in the long run it keeps us stuck in the mindset that musical styles have more power to divide us than the gospel has to unite us.
As they say, BOOM.
I realized that entrenching a mindset of preference over mission, of style over unity, would do more long-term damage to Pembroke than the short-term gains of starting a new service.
It has not always been easy. It still isn’t easy. But it is worth it.
In August, 2010, we made a transition in our music to a more blended selection, about half traditional hymns, half contemporary songs. There were a number of Sundays after that change when our attendance plummeted.
I asked God to confirm this decision. It was so much harder than just starting another service. Was it worth it? It was. It is. God is proving that his Gospel is more powerful in the lives of his people than any other thing.
We’ve grown. Our multi-ethnic church has also become more multi-generational.
God’s promise is true, and I refuse to give up on the vision of a multi-cultural, multi-generational church united by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A church defined by God’s promises more than by our own preferences. A church defined by God’s mission more than by our favorite kind of music.