Have you ever thought something has gone away and will never return?  I have thought that on a number of occasions and been wrong.  Vinyl Records were overtaken by first 8-Track tapes, then cassette tapes took over.  Cassette tapes gave way to CD’s, and CD’s eventually were supplanted by digital music files.  And then…vinyl came back.  WHAT?!

Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s the ‘worship wars’ were all the rage.  Churches debated endlessly whether it was better to stick with the old hymns, use more modern music, instrumentation and choruses-heavy worship or maybe do a little of both.  The debates were often billed as being ‘seeker sensitive’ versus ‘maintenance mode’ worship orientations. The discussions often had more heat associated with them than light.  Since I was just starting ministry during this time period I remember having many discussions with other pastors about the best way to proceed.

Last week I found this was one of the ‘old becomes new’ discussions.  A very animated discussion took place on a pastor’s forum I am involved in, and it generated a heavy sense of Deja Vu in me.

So, what is the real answer here?  Is there one?  Well, as a matter of fact, there is an answer. The answer is that it depends on your context.  The problem herein is that this is not a nice, clean answer for pastors.  We want someone to tell us that if we use a particular worship pattern that our churches will grow, we will reach new people, that the church will be healthy and will fit the Biblical patterns established in Acts.  It is akin to the statement often heard when people from various faith traditions get together and they start having ecclesiology debates.  The statement invariably comes out, “Our church follows the New Testament form and pattern better than any other church”.  To which my comment is, “WHICH New Testament church are you talking about?  Acts 2?  The Church at Ephesus?  The Church in Jerusalem?  The Church at Rome?  Galatia?  Philippi?  Corinth?”  Each of these churches was unique in some way, and fit the context of their region.  In the same way, we need to fit our church and it’s worship to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves.

In my own circumstances we have a  number of people who have been in the church for many years, and who really appreciate the old hymns.  We also have a number of younger people who prefer the newer choruses.  So, we host a blended worship service.  Almost a year ago we tried moving to a much more contemporary format, and frankly it was a disaster.  No one, not even the younger people, liked the format.  For us the blended format is what works.  Some churches in our area find that the contemporary format is more appreciated, and some find that a strictly traditional and even liturgical format is best.

The lesson from this is simple.  Don’t get caught up in these kind of debates which attempt to fix one form or format to everyone.   There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ church.  God has made a wonderfully diverse church which has many appearances, and consequently many differing needs.  Pray about it, ask your people, and do an honest evaluation. Then, and only then, decide if a change is needed.


Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Cor 12:27 (NIV)

Fourth of JulyMy ministry context happens to be in the United States, and one thing we truly love in the USA are our holidays.  Especially the big, flashy ones.  And even more, the patriotic ones.  It was not always so; I remember growing up on a military base during the Vietnam era that Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day were holidays many did not celebrate quite so vehemently because of the anti-war environment at the time.  But today’s highly nationalistic climate has engendered the exact opposite.  How do we in the church deal with these holidays?  Is it right to have an American flag on the front stage of the church?  Is it right to sing songs that are strictly patriotic during the service?  How about the congregation saying the Pledge of Allegiance during worship?  This can be a heated topic among preachers, and with laypersons as well.

First, it is important for us to remember a worship service is there to enable us to get closer to God in a corporate setting.  Period. <drop mic>.  Anything that takes away from that purpose should be closely scrutinized and potentially discarded.

Second, we should remember that our citizenship is not of this earth, first and foremost.  We have dual citizenship; we are are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, and citizens of the USA.  this is what got so many people in trouble in the early church.  They refused to give allegiance to Caesar as a God, recognizing him as an earthly ruler and therefore subject to Jehovah.  Many people died while expressing that simple thought.

Third, not all people we will be hosting in our services may be US citizens.  I recently sat in a worship service on Memorial Day and the veterans were asked to stand, and then we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  Right next to me was a man who was indeed a military veteran, but of the Canadian armed forces.  As pastors we need to recognize this possibility.

Is it possible to reconcile these facts and incorporate expressions of patriotism in our services?  I think it is, as long as we put some thought into it.  We might, for instance, have a section of the service either before or after the worship that we dedicate to this purpose.  I usually use the first moments up front to do greetings and announcements, then a call to worship.  The announcement time is ideal for recognizing the holiday.  Sermons can use themes such as “Freedom in Christ”, ‘Faith of our Fathers”, “Courage in the face of adversity” and “Reliance on God” to dovetail with the holiday celebration.  Decorations in the sanctuary can be a problem area, but a little thought can help these as well.  Some congregations will only allow the Christian flag on the stage, and that is a choice the congregation must make; while not allowing national displays the church should note that this is not a sign denigrating veterans, but rather looking to God first.

The important thing here is to make a well thought out decision regarding your stance on the issues involved.  Let God provide the direction and work out the details.  He is King, and He will never steer you wrong if you listen to Him.


“But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”

Phil 3:20 NIV