Pivoting to Identical Worship Services
By Pastor Rick Henderson
Earlier this year, we announced that our church would be moving in a direction that would eventually lead to a unified worship experience where all of our services would be identical. We are making that transition now, and I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know why. Some are excited about this. Some thought we had already pivoted. And some are and will be grieving this transition.
Because there are so many different angles from which we approach this, I have written different categories of responses with the intent of serving our diverse range of needs and questions. You can read the entire article or simply jump to the sections that most interest you. For those who’d like an even deeper dive, I’ve included a video so you can hear from my heart.
What to Expect
The intent of each weekend service is to make a big deal out of Jesus. We want to lead believers to worship him and woo nonbelievers to trust him. Nothing new there! We are going to sing old songs, and we are going to sing new songs. We will include hymns and songs like Graves into Gardens. Most people will probably describe the overall feel of the service as being a modern expression that also skillfully incorporates a rich history of songs that Christians have sung for centuries. Passages like Psalm 150 encourage us to use a wide variety of instruments. We are going to do exactly that. Based on how our worship team plans to lead us each weekend, you can expect guitars, piano, orchestra instruments, drums, bass (electric and acoustic), etc. It won’t always be the same mix of instruments each week. But every time we gather, it’s our intent to express adoration to Jesus with music that is beautiful, engaging, and done with excellence.
My expectation is that we will experience moments of growth, learning, and even awkwardness along the way. That would likely be true in every life transition. There will be times when we find ourselves leaning into our value of “Give grace relentlessly.”
A Quick Note About Volume
Reasons and Timing for the Transition
If you’d like a refresher on why our church adopted this direction to begin with, these two resources will help.
What makes now the right time? In a word, sustainability. How do we measure sustainability? The two primary indicators we’ve monitored are seating capacity and quality. Seating capacity is not currently an issue of concern. That was resolved when we changed service times. Sustainable quality is an issue of concern. Believe it or not, this can be tricky to evaluate as it is less quantitative.
We are blessed to have highly skilled staff and volunteers on the worship team. The concern about quality that I want to share with you isn't about the musical excellence they contribute. There is more to quality than what we experience in the weekend services. This is where I’m asking you to look behind the curtain with me.
When a church has multiple worship styles, it divides resources and multiplies workloads. There are costs that come with that. The highest cost is the well-being of those who lead us in worship. It begins with fatigue. Fatigue erodes our capacity to lead from our strengths. Fatigue erodes our capacity to healthily engage stress. A diminished capacity to manage compounding stress results in burnout. I’ve learned the hard way that our bodies keep the score. Maybe you’ve learned that lesson as well.
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty (Proverbs 22:3).
We are on a path of predictable burnout for some of our staff and volunteers. If we wait for that to happen before making this transition, we are not being wise or loving. This was a hard yet inescapable realization for us. I am grieving this reality for those that are leading us. I am grieving this reality for those who cherish a different worship style.
Reasons for Encouragement
Many churches who have gone before us in a transition like this one report that their congregations experienced even greater unity. The reason those churches experienced even greater unity wasn’t that they all agreed about music styles. It’s actually much better than that. They celebrated their unity in Jesus and took their next steps into gospel community, which the Holy Spirit uses to transform us into a gentle, mutually submissive, bound-together-in-love kind of people—one in Christ! Shouldn’t it be the same for us?
It’s easy for us to find unity in who and what we celebrate. Further, we have much to be thankful for. We have the privilege of being a church in which people are being baptized. People are being loved and served generously, and the gospel is being proclaimed locally and globally. More and more people are joining small groups, classes, and ministry teams. Our student ministry is growing. We continually move forward in being a church of all cultures, where curious, skeptical, and hurting people love to attend.
What Might Jesus Be Up To
The prophet Jeremiah assured the Israelites in exile that God was actively working for their good, inspiring them to confidently participate in God’s plan (Jeremiah 29:11). The Apostle Paul reminds us of an almost identical promise (Romans 8:28). Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) and he is weaving together a movement that almost defies description (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Days ago, Mayo announced a $5 billion expansion plan. Last month, our city approved a $65 million sports complex. These ventures will draw thousands of more people to our city! I believe Jesus wants churches in Rochester to be well-positioned for the expanding ministry opportunities that come with growth. I believe this transition will contribute to us being ready. Why is our church, and so many other churches, experiencing transitions? Is it possible that Jesus is up to something good, ensuring we are well-positioned for the mission entrusted to us?
It’s not my intent to imply that every, or any, leadership decision we make is divinely inspired. At the end of the day, we’re simply trying to be as loving, wise, and Jesus-honoring as we can be. Let’s meditate on those verses I shared at the top of this section. We don’t just hold on through transitions. We are held by Jesus and rest in his promise to work good in all things for those who love him and are called according to his purposes.
I believe this transition is ultimately good for us and that God is actively working for our good. Let’s link arms together. Let’s ground our confidence in Christ and the certainty of his promises. Let’s walk forward together in unity and joy. May that be true of us now and in every step along the path that God has for us.