Church Growth: Coming to a Church Near You

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Church Praise and Worship
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Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Coming to a church near you

“A battle of immense proportions.”

Coming to a church near you

“Confusion, division and strife.”

Coming to a church near you

“A catastrophic struggle for its eternal soul.”

Many warriors are already engaged in the horrific tragedy. Others are left in
unawares only waiting for calamity’s arrival. Few have been able to resist the
call, for there is trouble in our midst and judgement in our future. It is a
Holy War and its conclusion will determine the very nature of Christendom for
decades to come.

The conflict begins simply enough with a new pastor in town. He has been very
busy filling his church with fresh visions and the latest ideas. Even as he stepped
before the congregation for the first time he looked around at the century-old pews
to see too many old faces. “Where are the young folks?” he wondered. Just down
the street the enthusiastic leader saw another church bursting at the seams with youthful and
exuberant families. In the electrified air he heard the sweet sounds of guitars
and drums accentuating simple melodies carrying intimate lyrics upward to the
heavens. He desperately wanted some of that in his church. So, while filled
with high hopes and good intentions, the resolute pastor decided to leave the
past and press on to the future.

In the blink of an eye this church renewal advocate relegated the organ along with
the choir to the back of the bus. He then dug up the faithful but inexperienced
guitarist who had been leading worship and praise in the youth group. As a
result of his promotion to the front of the congregation, the novice musician
put together a makeshift band that literally took over the Sunday morning music

Suddenly and without warning the congregation was exposed to music that was very foreign
to their ears. These were not the old hymns that they were raised under. They
were something else, more like simple camp songs. And to them they sounded
awful. After the service they staggered out of church confused and enraged at
the fact that the music they had known for decades had instantly been pushed
aside. The established music minister, who emerged from a formal background,
could not contend with this new stuff. He had no skills in contemporary music and,
like his organ, began to slip into the background. The Holy War had found its
way into another church body.

In the name of progress our congregations are now filled with bitterness as many
have been led to wonder, “What is happening in the music life of the church
today?” And the question looms, “What is contemporary praise music all about?”
and “What happened to the hymns?” Some see the new simplistic worship form as
an affront to traditional hymn singing and view it with contempt. Others
embrace it as the only music worth doing while viewing hymn singing as too
complex and old fashion to achieve their worship goals. Regardless of what
their congregation thinks, most pastors see the development of this new
contemporary worship style in their churches as the only possible manner in
which to survive in our society today. And yet the resultant push towards the
future is fueling war and tearing many traditional congregations in half.

Controversy regarding the introduction of new church music does not only reside within
church walls. There are also critics on the outside who look at this style of
music that can be found in many megachurches throughout the country with a
scathing eye. They see what is going on in these congregations with
contemporary music as nothing more than commercialization, producing overly
simplistic music that appeals to the masses and thus renders church music
middle of the road and never too daring. They suggest these mammoth churches
are marketing music, and religion, like Taco Bell markets food that tastes good
to everyone.

With this in mind Jeff Sharlet lambasted a successful megachurch in the May 2005
issue of the liberal Harper’s Magazine article, Soldiers of Christ when he
wrote: “(The musicians) were all young and pretty, dressed in the kind of
quality-cotton-punk clothing one buys at the Gap. Male singers. . . are almost
always tenors, their voices clean and indistinguishable, R&B inflected one
moment, New Country the next, with a little bit of early ‘90s grunge at the
beginning and the end . . .The worship style is . . .designed for total accessibility,
with the illusion of choice between strikingly similar brands
. . .The drummers all
stick to cymbals and beats anyone can handle; the guitarists deploy effects like artillery but
condense them, so the highs and lows never stretch too wide. Lyrics tend to be
rhythmic and pronunciation perfect, the better to sing along when the words are
projected onto movie screens. Breathy or wailing vocalists drench their lines
with emotion, but only within strict confines. There are no sad songs in the
megachurch, and there are no angry songs. There are songs about desperation,
but none about despair; songs convey longing only if it has already been

The point Sharlet sought to make in his critique is that the church of today is
busily applying market economics to its growth scheme in order to become
larger-and larger. And all of this is done at the expense of artistry, creativity and
honesty. In the example of music, according to Sharlet, only marketable
“worship and praise” styles suitsthe likes of the megachurch today. The inference
was that the church has sold out in order to become popular and music has taken
the biggest hit as it has been rendered middle of the road in order to appeal to all.
A lot of pastors do see contemporary music as a marketing tool, and it seems to be
a necessity to have it in churches these days. And many sincere pastors contend
that it has to be presented a certain way to get the growth results they are seeking after . .
. You have to have drums and guitars, etc. to be successful.

This growth philosophy leads many to wonder where this new marvel of religious
marketing is headed. Thus the question arises, “Could there be something important
in Sharlet’s article that the church needs to hear?” As we look into the background
of the Church Growth religious marketing movement, its history, its philosophies and how it has
expanded and has been implemented over the years, various answers to that
question become apparent.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase:

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to http//


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