7 Reasons to Consider Different Worship Styles in Multiple Services

Yesterday, I posted7 Reasons the Worship Style Should be the Same in All Services.” Today, I offer a counter position to consider. There may well be good reasons to utilize different worship styles, including the following:

  1. Having a worship preference is not automatically a sinful attitude. A preference is just that: a preference. It’s when we make those preferences divisive and idolatrous that they become a problem. It’s possible to have a preference and still please God, however.
  2. Offering different worship styles may encourage more unchurched people to respond to the gospel. I’m aware that worship is for believers, but even Paul assumed that non-believers might be present in worship (1 Cor. 14:16-17). I admit my own bias here, but I suspect I better show my joy to believers and non-believers alike when I worship in a style I prefer.
  3. Such a choice doesn’t inevitably create self-centered, consumeristic believers. It could, but it’s not an automatic result. If people like the worship style, they may, in fact, be more open to hearing the words of both the songs and the Scriptures.
  4. Multiple worship styles create opportunities for service. Some musicians and vocalists have their own preferences – and some are better at one style than another. Having more than one style typically means having more slots to fill; thus, more members can be involved.
  5. Having multiple worship styles forces most of us out of our comfort zone to consider others. Many churches dealing with this issue have been traditional churches seeking to add a contemporary service. Churches in the opposite position, though, need to consider the same issue: contemporary churches must at least ask if their demographics might necessitate utilizing a more traditional service as well.
  6. Genuine contextualization sometimes encourages multiple styles. It’s interesting that many folks have no problem adding a Spanish-speaking, different-style service to reach Hispanics in their area; yet, the same folks would balk at using a different style to reach anybody who looks like them and speaks their same language. Others would conclude that kind of thinking often reflects a weak missiological approach to contextualization.
  7. It’s possible to use multiple worship styles but still be a united church. Sure, you have to work at it—but that’s the case with only one worship style as well. Unless we work at building and protecting unity, the number of worship styles is irrelevant. Some of the most contentious, divided churches I’ve ever known have had only one worship style.

Okay, what are your thoughts today?     


  • Paul R says:

    Thank you for these.
    These are very insightful and useful points related to what I have been thinking about in catechesis, formation, and spiritual maturity. So, I suppose I see them related more to the “objective”, addressing the narcissistic, MTD, dimension of so many congregations today.

    I find myself replacing the phrase “worship styles” with “different styles of church life” as a challenge to those in our congregations who think they have the silver bullet for the perfect church and so think if only everyone became like themselves – in my image and likeness – the church would grow and flourish, but mistaking homogeneity and uniformity with unity, when they’re distinctively different. In that context, those points really scratch an itch.

  • Robin G. Jordan says:

    Over the past 30 odd years I have been involved in a number of churches that use different styles of worship at their services and several churches that use the same style of worship at their services. The churches in the first category did not take a consumerist approach. Rather they were attuned to the differences of spirituality and temperament that characterize us as human beings. Rather than adopting an unwelcoming “take or leave it” Hobson’s choice attitude, they offered a range of worship experiences that might resonate with attendees, as well as a variety of entry points into the life and ministry of the church. If you are not familiar with Hobson, he owned a stable and rented horses. His customers were not able to choose what horse they rented from him. He chose the horse for them. It was either accept his choice or nothing. While churches in the second category may not intended to adopt this attitude, their offering of only one choice in worship experience conveys this attitude. The way we worship can help non-believer move from unbelief to belief. It can also be a barrier to non-believers hearing the gospel. Offering a range of worship experiences is one way of reducing this barrier. Some churches try to eliminate this barrier by getting rid of everything associated in the minds of the church leadership with traditional churches on the assumption that lack of familiarity or negative associations with these elements pose a substantial barrier for the unchurched. In doing so, they ignore segments of the unchurched population for whom some traditional elements may actually help them become more receptive to the gospel. They fail to recognize that the unchurched population is not homogeneous. In one of the church plants that I was involved in southeast Louisiana, we introduced a number of traditional elements into our worship because one of our ministry target groups consisted of lapsed Roman Catholics. These elements,rather than erecting a barrier to hearing the gospel reduced a barrier by affirming a number of positive elements of the ecclesiastical tradition in which they had spent part of their life. As a result the church enjoyed a measure of success in reaching this ministry target group.

  • Mark says:

    You also have to remember that Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican churches have been around a lot longer than the others. They have their somber occasions, e.g. Good Friday, and joyful occasions, e.g. Easter, etc. They also had special prayers for when times got bad during the Plague, wars, etc. Different styles of worship are a good thing especially when people are hurting, even if it is a special monthly service for healing. Some churches forget that on any given Sunday there can be quite a few people who are hurting and some might even be wondering where G-d is. Maybe they just want to attend a quiet service. (I have been in a situation where a death in the family was imminent and the best I could do was try to say the Nicene Creed and go to the rail for communion.)

  • Gary from Southern NH, USA says:

    Hi everyone

    Great post and comments.

    This is a very interesting topic.


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