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Bridging the Worship Divide - An Unlikely Partnership

Are the trends of church music in worship services shifting? For many years churches have designed worship services with a target demographics in mind. Often driven by style preference, and sometimes by stage of life or language, many churches find themselves with the need to have more than one worship leader to meet the demands of their generationally and culturally diverse churches. Possessing skills in different genres and styles, these leaders often work separately, planning their own worship experiences for a specific group of people who choose based on their preferences. But what if, instead of separating and training our people to divide, we are called to unity? And could worship be one of the most important ways we can express that unity?

A few years ago our church took the step to appoint two people—each from different ends of a common church music divide—to work alongside one another as worship and arts leaders. One of us has years of experience leading contemporary worship—singing and playing guitar; while the other has years of experience leading more traditional worship—writing, arranging and directing choral and orchestral music.

There was a time in recent church history when dividing by age group and affinity was the thought to be the best way (or perhaps the most comfortable way) to impact more lives. But we found that we developed into a church that didn't know how to be a family; division simply begat division and fostered criticism. In order to break this pattern we have come to believe and act on the reality that we are better when we're together. This is the journey we are taking with our church family as we work to unite as much as possible in the act of worship.

Here are some rules we’ve tried to live by as we work together on this task:

1) Don’t neglect prayer
As leaders in one of the more divisive arenas of the church, our reliance on God and dependence on his guidance is critical. We constantly seek him to lead us and ask for his blessing. We pray that his care for the church would be evident in the decisions we make.

2) Value the entire family of God
There is something rich and beautiful that happens when everyone worships together—when both our young and our seasoned church members can stand beside one another and sing with equal fervor and conviction the great hymns of our faith and modern songs of worship.

3) Work side-by-side
We do most things together. Standing side-by-side, leading worship together, and supporting one another makes a huge difference. At our church, the leaders who represent traditional and contemporary worship play a significant role in its ability to either unite or divide. If we aren’t unified as worship leaders we can’t expect that our church family will understand the importance of being together or learning to care for the interests of others. We are a part of each other’s world as much as possible – for example, our contemporary leader participates in the choir and our traditional leader with the band.

4) Embrace input from your congregation.
Every word of encouragement or critique is important, even the ones we don’t particularly want to hear. There’s something to learn, and sometimes something to teach, in every comment. We seek as much input as possible.

5) Value the people you work with
Partners in ministry—pastors, leaders, musicians, assistants, the tech team, board members, spiritual advisors, volunteer or otherwise—are a precious gift. We spend time getting into each other's lives, giving support and showing how much they mean to us.

6) Hold your own preferences loosely
Plainly speaking, we need a willingness to lay aside our own preferences for the sake of the worshiping church. Surrounding ourselves with those who are willing to do the same models the humility Paul writes about in Philippians 2:1-4, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (NIV). Honestly, you can quote this scripture repeatedly to those you lead, but it is a very slow process to see this happen. This is our most challenging area. It goes against our human nature. We have to walk right beside our people on a daily basis, being willing to change right along with them.

7) Whatever you do, do it well
We try to do everything to the best of our ability, including being as organized as possible. We treat every piece of art, every score, every chord chart, every meeting, with equal precision and excellence. Much like a godly friendship, excellence has a way of sharpening everyone involved. We challenge and inspire each other to be better at our own individual musicianship and leadership skills.

8) Submit to one another
Working together is a constant process of mutual submission. This means realizing that no one has all the answers. No matter how much experience we have, there is always something to be learned from others. This is the only way partnerships can thrive.

Culture shifts do not happen quickly, they happen over the long haul. There is so much yet to be done. We sense that God is working as we follow His leading. We are seeing the hearts of our people opening up toward one another. We are seeing unity and selflessness find new meaning in the DNA of our church family. We have faith that God is at work and believe that seeing God’s people being the church “together” is important for the times we live in now, as well as for what God has in store for his church in the days to come.