Music in Relation to Growth in the Church

Last week, I had a conversation with a good friend who goes to another church, one that is dying, and, as is typical with many dying churches, has only a traditional service. Some have left that church for the one just two buildings down, a church that worships together in a modern way. I told him this story that Jason Kemerly, the worship minister at Christ’s Church at Georgetown in Ft. Wayne, shared with me.
I can tell you that I have been at 3 churches now where we’ve done the Traditional and Contemporary service thing, and I have yet to see the Traditional service ever grow. I have never seen a baptism or a family join during one of these Traditional services. I’m not saying it’s impossible or doesn’t happen, I’m just saying that I haven’t experienced it yet.
As far as a Contemporary (or I prefer to call them “Modern”) services, we had 43 baptisms last year. I have seen great growth in all churches that I’ve been a part of. In the first church I was at, we went from 70 people to over 225 in the modern service. At my 2nd church, we went from 230 to over 400 in the Modern service. Here at Our current church, we’ve gone from 170ish to about 260ish. So I think it is kind of easy to see where the growth is coming.
Modern music is not a magical potion for growth, but it is a sign that a church is trying to be relevant to the culture they are in. A church that is not willing to be relevant to the culture is focused on what they like rather than what is good for the kingdom. And a church full of people focused on their own selfish likes and needs will never prosper.

But here is the persistent dilemma. What is modern today will be out of date in 15 years. If we are going to make a go at being a healthy church in the long run, a church that can pass the baton while still running, we have to be willing to regularly change. We have to create a culture of change.

So I told my friend, that if he wants his church to grow, then he might want to consider modernizing that traditional service. It isn’t that changing from traditional to a modern music style will automatically make churches grow. It’s the change that must happen in people’s hearts in order for them to allow a change of music style. Church must no longer be a ritual. It must not be about us, but about God who is great and about living out His kingdom! The doors must be flung wide open for the people in our community to come in while the church must be welcoming to them.

There is a lot that has to change in a churchgoer’s hearts so that they will allow a change in worship style from one they like to one they don’t like, but that change in heart is necessary for the church to fulfill its mission. If those hearts don’t change, no tweaking of music, no new ministry, nothing will improve that local body, and I fear more churches will die like many of the churches that have refused to change before them because they are focused on themselves rather than God’s design of them being a body built by Him to bring about His will.

Music is just one example, and I hope we don’t get hung up on that one issue. There are so many areas of our church life that God wants us to surrender to him so that he can build us into the body of believers he wants us to be. There are also many areas of our individual lives that we also must surrender to him. A healthy church is like a catch-22. Individuals will usually reach their true potential in God when the church is what God intends for it to be. And the church will only reach its true potential in God when the individuals that are part of it are who God intends them to be. We each have to allow him to change us individually if we want to the church to be what God intends it to be.

John Wesley, the man who the Methodists, Wesleyans, and Nazarenes have sprung out of, said, “Give me 100 men who love God and nothing else, who hate sin and nothing else, and I will change the world.” God is waiting for a people to say, I will do nothing else except what you want me to. I’m all in. Are we willing to be that group of people? Do we believe enough to go all in? Following God is like pregnancy, either you’re pregnant or you’re not. It’s like life; either you’re alive or you’re not. Are we ready to stop building sand castles and snow statues that will melt away and start allowing God to build us into the eternal place he wants us to be?