Six Reasons Some Churches Are Moving Back to One Worship Style

Six Reasons Some Churches Are Moving Back to One Worship Style

guitar-man-music-1221By Thom Rainer

You could not help but notice the trend of the past two decades. Numerous churches began offering worship services with different worship styles. It is not unusual to see a church post its times of worship for a contemporary worship service, a traditional worship service, and an occasional blended worship service.

The trend was fueled by two major factors. First, many churches were fighting worship wars. The great compromise was creating a worship service for each faction. Unfortunately, that created divisiveness in some churches as each faction fought for its preferred time slot. Second, some churches had a genuine outreach motivation. Their leaders saw the opportunity to reach people in the community more effectively with a more indigenous worship style.

Though I am not ready to declare a clear reversal of the trend, I do see signs of a major shift. It is most noticeable among those congregations that have moved from multiple worship styles back to one worship style.

So I spoke to a number of pastors whose churches had made the shift back to a singular worship style. I asked about their motivations for leading their congregations in such a direction. I heard six recurring themes, though no one leader mentioned more than three for a particular church.

  1. Multiple worship styles created an “us versus them” mentality. Worship wars did not really end with multiple approaches. In some churches the conflicts were exacerbated because those of different preferences did not interact with each other.
  2. The church did not have the resources to do multiple styles with quality. In many churches, inadequate resources meant one or all of the services suffered. It was deemed better to put all the resources toward one style of worship.
  3. The church moved from multiple services to one service. I heard from a number of pastors who have led their churches back to just one service, a move that naturally necessitates one style. Some did so to engender a greater sense of community; others did so due to excessive space in the worship center.
  4. The Millennial generation has influenced many churches. This generation is much more flexible in its preferences of worship style. They are questioning the need of multiple styles.
  5. Worship wars are waning. Many congregations with multiple worship styles created them as a response to worship wars. Now that the conflicts are waning in many churches, the need to segregate by worship preferences is no longer necessary.
  6. Multiple generations are becoming more accustomed to different types of church music and worship style. Contemporary music, in some form, has been around a while. It is not this strange aberration it once was to many congregants. And many church members who did not grow up on traditional worship are hearing those hymns in new and meaningful ways. Simply stated, there is a much greater appreciation for different forms of church music than in the past.

Again, I am reticent to declare a major trend to be taking place. But, anecdotally, I am seeing more congregations move to the singular worship style approach.

I would love to hear your perspectives. If you have any specific information about this trend, please bring it to this community so we can all benefit.

This article was originally published at on August 30, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at


  • There is an elephant in the room with this article. Dying, long established churches with traditional worship simple aren’t surviving today. So they either have two styles or they go to contemporary worship. But the vast majority of thriving churches in the U.S. are contemporary – some form if rock. But not to avoid worship wars or to have one style. They do indigenous worship because they want to reach people.

  • Steve Phifer

    To me this was all totally foreseeable. I have never understood how so many leaders could go the route of style-based worship services when the clear teaching of Scripture calls for the church to be a holy counter-culture with its own artistic and worship culture. Unity and consensus is the essence of New Covenant life. The presence of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit is the source of the church’s impact on the world, not the style of the music.

    • Bob Hudson

      Dave Wilkerson published a great sermon entitled “Strange Fire on the Altar”. I think that is the title. My fear is that we will not achieve a “balance” in ministering to different generations.

  • Bob Hudson

    Putting together a worship service that is meaningful to two generations has never been easy. The easy way is to go to one extreme or the other. However, a meaningful service can created that will minister to multi-generations. My worry is that this current generation will never experience the depth of a worship experience that is based on sound doctrine and is Christ centered. Superficiality seems to be an accurate description of most worship services today.

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