When I first came to Pembroke Road in early 2009, it was clear that the traditional style of the existing gathering was consistently tripping up younger folks wanting to connect to a church. We needed to do something, and I considered seriously initiating a new, “contemporary” worship gathering alongside the existing more traditional one.
This would have been the easiest road: to separate the folks who didn’t want change from those who did. To give everyone exactly what they wanted (or at least as close as we could get).
But I soon heard a quote from Bob Kauflin, Worship Pastor at Covenant Life Church in Maryland. Kauflin said, basically (this is not a verbatim quote): “When a church separates the congregation into different services due to different preferences in music style, it implicitly communicates that music has more power to divide God’s people than the Gospel does to unite them.”
That shook my mind hard, and I knew I couldn’t endorse multiple worship services. Romans 1:16 says the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and I didn’t (and don’t) want to do anything in the name of the Gospel that explicitly or implicitly denies the power of that Gospel.
If the God of the Gospel is powerful enough to speak-out the stars and save the sinful, his Gospel is powerful enough to keep Pembroke Road Baptist Church united in one faith, despite different musical preferences.
We had to figure out another way.
In the last months, we have started making some needed changes; and instead of having one gathering with “newer” or “contemporary” music and another with “older” or “traditional” music, we are trying to blend the two styles together.
It’s hard work; it’s been messier and more frustrating than compartmentalizing. We have had some weeks that went wonderfully and others that felt disjointed. But it’s also been worth it; it’s been more like heaven than if we all got to sing our favorite songs every week.
It’s been a display of God’s love, as an older lady might think, “I don’t really like this song very much. It repeats the same words too many times and, honestly, I don’t like the guitar. But that young person over there seems like she really does. She’s singing to God. And in Christ I love her more than I love my own preference.” Or, as a young man might think, “This song is too slow and there are too many words. I don’t really like it. But that older man across the room has tears rolling down his cheeks as he sings. And I love him in Christ more than I love my own preference.”
The Gospel is powerful. God is showing us that. It’s slow and hard sometimes. But it’s worth it.