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Our Saviour Lutheran 56 Cleveland Dr. Croton on Hudson, NY 10520 

The Life of a Disciple Part 3

Working our way around the diagram above, we come to weekly worship as an aspect of discipleship.

I have been a pastor for 19 years as of July and have had the same conversation about worship for all 19 of those years- attendance is down in worship! Then the blame game begins- it is parents, it is sports, it is work, vacation, etc. The ironic aspect of it all is usually the loudest voices complaining that worship attendance is down are coming from the people who do not attend regularly.

I have often asked, much to the chagrin of those complaining, has worship become more of a product to be consumed than a time to connect with God?

I have heard some pastors complain that lack of weekly worship is a faith issue over and above anything else, but I think it is more of a product issue. What I mean by that is slowly the church has become the product of a consumer based mentality. I’ll share what I mean recognizing I am speeding through a few decades.

In the 50s individuals began attending less and less. I used to think it was the 60s with the counter cultural revolution, but facts point it toward an earlier time, a time right after WWII individuals began leaving the church and making it less of a center of life. Churches began to respond by creating programs to attract individuals- youth groups, fellowship type programs, singles groups, etc. The more programs a church had the more the attraction it was to the consumer. There were still division lines around denominations, but as time went forward it became less and less of that. 

Worship also began to change in that churches began to offer a wide variety of worship styles- traditional, contemporary, mixed, worship for families, worship for seniors, etc. The idea was to offer something for everyone and they could pick which one they liked.

Church life started to become more about which church had the best offerings which suited what I enjoyed the most. The church turned parishioners into something akin to customers. It became about bigger and better tailoring to individual needs and wants while lifting up Jesus in the midst of it all.

I will also write there is a deep denial this happened, but if we are true to ourselves as church, we will admit this is what we became.  Do we offer songs people like? Does the pastor say things people want to hear? Are our facilities attractive? Does our coffee taste good?

As an aside, I read an article on the three things people look for most in a church. The top 3 were- parking, good preaching, and good coffee.

Each church I have served, I have tried to get us away from the consumer mentality of church and have pushed to make churches authentic to who they were. I tried the offer contemporary worship to attract the young thing and let me tell you it doesn’t work because it is inauthentic most of the time to the congregation. 

For me, worship first and foremost should be about ushering individuals to see God working in their lives and the lives of others. Worship is about connecting to the holy, here on Earth and in our neighbor. I do this by preaching about God working in the past and the present, allowing people to see grace working, and show the need for confession and communion. I encourage churches to be who they are without fear of what others will think of them and use the term DNA for this. Music is designed for meditation and reflecting on the world and Scripture- some songs will connect to us personally, but some won’t and that is ok. It isn’t about whether or not I liked all the songs this week, but do I recognize their goal is to lift up and praise Christ within worship.

When churches are authentic and offer, not a show to be consumed, but a place where personal growth can happen, I think the church has done what it needs to do. It doesn’t matter how many are sitting in the pews (another sign of consumerism), but rather did we 
Pastor Justin Johnson

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Our Saviour Lutheran Church · 56 Cleveland Dr · Croton on Hudson, NY 10520-2751 · USA

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