Last week I talked about how elder drama can ruin thriving churches. People asked “what about worship leaders who have affairs?” That’s another epidemic. In the roughly seven churches I’ve worked at or played at during my career, two of the worship leaders had affairs and two were on the verge. (I’ve often thought about writing an article entitled “Worship Leaders: Keep Your Pants On.”)
However, I personally haven’t seen a worship leader’s indiscretions do much to change a church’s attendance. Sure, a few people may leave and there may be a good bit of hurt, but a worship leader isn’t generally considered to be on the same level as the senior pastor (I’ve always heard the average tenure of a worship leader is 2 years.) A senior pastor’s affair is much more devastating.
Plus, the congregation may never even find out about the affair – in two of the churches I’ve mentioned the leadership brushed the worship leader scandals under the carpet – the staff knew but the congregation didn’t. Hiding the truth can be a recipe for disaster and cause more harm than the affair itself. Be open about staff problems – people will probably find out anyway and end up mistrusting the church leadership.
But back to another cause of dinosaur churches: megachurch battles. A megachurch that was hip and cutting edge 15 years ago stagnates and is usurped by a brand new hip and cutting edge church.
One megachurch battle example was the first Willow Creek model in a certain town – in the mid 90’s they were following the Hybels handbook of secular pop music, skits and topical sermons – and they were booming.
By the mid 2000’s their numbers were drastically dropping (down 2,000 in one year alone) as a new modern church franchise was planted down the road more in stylistic step with the times. This new church is now THE church in town, is growing like crazy and has blown past the original megachurch in attendance. Suddenly, the Willow Creekish church’s paid brass section (can you imagine paying for a brass section!) playing jazz riffs along with the 80’s guitar solos and skits felt dated, if not odd, to 21st century hipsters.
The Willow Creekish church had an identity tied closely to the culture of the 90’s. When they become out of step with that culture pride set in – they were once THE church and couldn’t understand why they should change. So they keep speaking the stylistic language of a previous generation and wondered why the congregation was aging (and shrinking.)
It’s all a cycle. The big churches of yesteryear with their pipe organs and performing choirs stood their stylistic ground and lost members to contemporary worshiping churches. And in fifteen years the new modern church drawing crowds today will find themselves in the same predicament if they don’t remain sensitive to the culture.
I really believe it’s all good and every style has its place. Some people still love pipe organ churches and dislike praise band churches – it’s just that those people were the majority thirty years ago and today they’re the minority (but they still need a church.)
Bottom Line: A variety of church styles reach as many people as possible. But if your style is closely tied to pop culture be willing and eager to change on a cultural dime or you’ll find yourself irrelevant.