Church Growth: Trouble Within and Without

Posted: August 9, 2011 in Church Praise and Worship
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Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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When we think of “Holy Wars” we generally are drawn to the medieval Crusades or contemplate terrorism as being forwarded by Osama Bin Laden in our own age. But there is a Holy War raging within the church itself that is proving to be of far more consequence than the Islamic dread that breathes its horror into the heart of every American today. This conflict is a spiritual battle of immense proportions that threatens the peace and security offered by the Christian way of life. And because this war is engaged within the worship life of the people of God, the outcome could seriously undermine Christian orthodoxy for generations to come. Hence, congregations throughout America are contending over ideas and philosophies that will determine the shape and influence of the church over the next century. This is not a trivial engagement. Even as a civilization invariably follows the dictates of its religion, the decisions that Christians make with regard to their worship life at this juncture will determine the future of our society.

This seemingly unending worship controversy began way back in the ‘60s when a band of ex-hippies assembled under a tent in Costa Mesa to lift their hands in praise to God in a sincere and emotional way. Ever since, worship has been one of the most discussed subjects in the church. Virtually every congregation inAmericahas been impacted one way or another by the simple praise choruses that came out of this heart-rending movement. And no pastor today believes he can make it without the new contemporary music that this generation of believers advanced.

As a result of this interest in everything new, enough books have been written on the subject of worship to fill a library. Multitudes of production companies and churches have distributed recordings of “worship songs” throughout the world. Everywhere you look contemporary musicians are busily writing songs in the hopes of catching the attention of those who can make their music known. The buzz of worship can be heard everywhere you go these days.

The church is inundated with more information about worship than any one person could digest in a lifetime. The matter of worship should be settled by now. Yet why is there still so much controversy about the whole issue? What is it with all the upheaval?

The independents appear to be doing just fine. They exert all of their energy into New Worship repertoire while generally omitting the vast praise liturgy that has been passed unto us from the church’s two thousand year history. That works for them well enough. They minister to a specific group of people who only like the new stuff.

In contrast, those who have worshipped in more traditional church venues don’t seem to be faring well at all. Pastors in most of those churches have become completely convinced that their churches will not survive in the 21st century unless they adopt more contemporary styles. Though their discernment appears to be true in that regard, in the traditional church there also seems to be a concerted effort to relegate praise hymns to token appearances that fail to appease the older saints. For this reason, all throughout the country denominational churches have been torn in half by disputes as the Holy War between the old and the new rages on.

Most pastors have apparently resigned themselves to the notion that fighting is a necessary evil that must be endured in order for the church to survive. I disagree with this notion. In my ministry experience I have participated as a praise leader in everything from planting a successful storefront church to spiritual renewal in traditional churches. In those instances I have not witnessed the contentious results that appear to have become so acceptable these days.

There is a way to avoid the dissention that seems to have become so tolerable in many church venues. There is a way to forge into the future without discarding the heritage of the past in a manner that will keep the church contemporary while keeping our flocks at peace and the church on target. This comes through a biblical understanding of the nature of worship and praise, the dynamics of music and how churches ought to run.

It is not beneficial for the church to unnecessarily continue on in the direction of strife. Most pastors acknowledge this, but are relinquished to the prospect of enduring the Holy Wars for the sake of success. While casting the blame on others they have become convinced that the disturbance permeating the body of Christ today emanates from poor congregational attitudes. With that in mind, pastors all over the nation have been attacking the praise song/hymn controversy from their pulpits. However, the source of most congregational warring comes from the attitudes and agendas held by these very shepherds who are busily accusing their flocks rather than feeding them.

Too few are willing to acknowledge that as the leader goes, so does the congregation. And many of our church leaders today have given up on common sense simply because they are listening to the wrong people. In this current age of Church Growth at all cost, consultants are roaming the country while drawing impulsive pastors into manipulative schemes that have left them confused and misdirected. Congregations that have historically been shepherded are now seen as a means to an end as the body life in many churches has degenerated into factions. Meanwhile the wheel of ambition continues to roll on the path laid out by the peddlers of false hopes who guarantee affluence and the fulfillment of personal desire. And true biblical worship has become the victim of this mad rush into success.

Because it is all about selling books, too much of what you see out there written for church body life has been designed to make pastors and congregational members feel good about themselves. In the name of profits, our current church leadership is largely being catered to with promises of greatness that sidestep the greater worship issues that the church faces today. In the mean time the pagan roots of the church’s worship controversy and even the controversy itself remains widely ignored. As a host of Christian writers feign from stepping up to the plate to reveal the truth of the situation, it is the truth that will set the church free. Therefore it is time to face the Holy War that resides within our church walls with honesty and integrity to arrive at a sure foundation upon which to build God’s Church of the 21st Century.

This book has been written primarily for the benefit of Christians who are seeking after truth. They are the ones who have finally conceded that there is more to church life than getting bigger and have concluded that unity within the context of historical Christianity is the only biblical course to go from here. Yet these principles of worship hold true for daily Christian living as well. Any Christian who desires a challenge will find this book a life-changing work.

If you are happy with where you are at in your personal and church worship life experience, then this book will be of little value to you. If you are interested in getting to the bottom of the problem, please read on.

However, I have to issue a word of caution. This book does not cut any slack. It is not a treatise on how to feel good about yourself and your worship life. It gets to the heart of the worship matter, which leaves all of us a bit exposed.

Yet if you want your worship to be truly alive, it is imperative to become a true worshipper. Everyone today has an opinion regarding what true worship is all about. But only the Scriptures describe it for what it really is. This is what we look into in this book in our quest to discover what living worship encompasses.

In unmasking the phantoms that haunt us today, we will find that there are numerous players and errant philosophies that need to be considered. This will take us on a long and perhaps difficult journey at times. Many tend to embrace challenges while others shy away from them. Yet I would encourage everyone who seeks after truth to read on. For though the nature of the Holy Wars will take some time to unveil, an understanding of the causes of the turmoil that we witness in our churches today will ultimately produce healing.

The subject matter of this book is specifically about separating truth from error. This requires an honest look at all the facts. None of us enjoys it when our belief systems are challenged and this journey has not been an easy one for me to pursue as well. But after years of ministry I eventually came to a point in life where I had to take an honest look at where I was heading. This resulted in an arduous task that involved over 25 years of extensive research.

At times this exhausting quest for truth became so disheartening that I wanted to give it up. Uncovering falsity is an arduous task for everyone as the truth of Scripture hits us all right between the eyes, as it did me. But we can be certain that God will reward those who have undertaken the goal of seeking after that truth.

I have undertaken this project in the hopes that others may share in the benefits of this research into biblical truths as they have played out in history and in the writings of the great leaders of the church over the last 2000 years. I am convinced that a candid look into our situation today as it relates to the church in history is imperative if the church is to rise out of the mire of falsehood to learn to worship in spirit and truth. So as you continue on, it is my prayer that you will ultimately arrive at conclusions that aim to build up rather than tear down. It is my hope that together we can uncover exactly what is at the bottom of our Holy Wars today in order to ascertain what can be done to arrive at a lasting peace.

This is not a book about secrets. There aren’t any mysteries to uncover. There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc 1:9) The answers that we seek are in the tried and true. Living worship is not about what we don’t know. It is about what we have been commanded to do.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good and acceptable and the perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:1-2 MKJV)

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

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