Friday, April 12, 2013
One of the most common questions I get as pastor of Grace Crossing concerns our worship "style." I heard it again last week, and it has prompted me to really think hard for the last few days about the answer I gave then - an answer that I hope represents the truth of why we do things the way we do.
"Why blended worship? Are you trying to make everybody happy?" That is most common response I get when I try to describe to people our chosen worship style. My answer, is "no!"
First, the only One we want to make "happy" with our worship is God. When we make worship about making one group or another "happy," we have totally missed the point and focus of worship. Not only that, but we know that blended worship isn't the path to make people happy anyway. In fact, just about every expert in church growth will tell you that blended worship doesn't make anybody "happy," and that the best way to try to reach out to younger generations while retaining older generations is to either split your services into "contemporary" and "traditional," or to simply try to do one style or the other as well as you possibly can.
We do other "crazy" stuff at Grace Crossing too! Like encouraging children to stay in the service with their parents, even though most American churches separate children and youth into their own little "churches" during the worship service. (notice I said "American" churches, because having preached in several other countries, I can tell you this idea is foreign to them!)
"But aren't the children distracting? Bored? Don't you have to censor your sermons?" First, we love the sound of children, so if it is distracting, it is only in the best way. Do they get bored sometimes? I suppose, but then so do adults! (hey, I'm not that great a preacher, sue me!) I do choose words carefully during sermons considering the little ears present, but I don't mind, and I would imagine the folks in the seats don't mind either.
So why are we trying to fly in the face of all of what seems to be "normal" in the American church? First, we believe that worship isn't something to be "consumed." Since we are not the focus of worship, we need to look beyond what makes us happy or comfortable. But beyond that, we believe that the church is best when it is filled with people of multiple generations. We believe that there is value in a 4 year old worshiping alongside his 35 year old parents and his 75 year old grandparents. We also believe that those multiple generations have different voices, different ways of speaking to and about God, and that there is value in each of those voices. Heck, we even reach back for worship elements from generations that have been gone from this earth for hundreds of years, so that we can continue to hear the voices of the "great cloud of witnesses" that have gone on before us.
Each generation brings a new way to talk to and about God, and each has value. God isn't static, nor is this world. Progress and tradition in our worship style can each express God's worth and value in our lives, and both are not only heartfelt when expressed by their intended generation, but they challenging to the "other" generations present in the room.
I think an email I received this morning expresses best what I hope we can accomplish at Grace Crossing. We are considering signing Evan up for Micro Soccer in Mint Hill, but we were concerned about paying for 8 weeks of soccer when we have no idea whether he will want to play or not. This is part of the response:
it could be really up to you on how much your child enjoys this, as the Micro program is one where the parent is allowed to be on the field to learn the game of soccer with their kid. You can hold their hand, walk beside them or even chase them if needed. We encourage it.
We want to create a church where we hold each others' hands across the generational, racial, gender, cultural, economic, social, and whatever-other divides. We want to walk beside one another, to run around together, to worship together the God that binds us beyond all those differences.
Is it the best way? I'm not sure there is a best way. It is our way though, and even though it may be hard, and even though it may not be the best "strategy," its what we will do.
Oh, and we're always looking for more people to walk beside us!
Jason Blanton is the pastor of Grace Crossing in Charlotte. This article originally appeared on his blog, http://jasonblanton.blogspot.com/.