I have been the senior pastor of a church. I have seen the struggles of maintaining and worshipping the Almighty God in this time period. I have been challenged, broken and downhearted. Today I saw someone who got it right.
I am not saying his church service was perfect because if it was it was messed up after I got there but I saw a worship service that works looks like. It was different. It was modern. I don’t think it will work for everyone but I want to share my observations.
It was not 1960’s ushers. It was not 1940’s style music. It was not stuffy or pretentious. It was not all twenty somethings just praising the Lord and not much else. It was organized.
I’ve been going to church for fifty years. Up until my twenties it was predominately traditional African American southern Baptist style worship. It’s stereotypical. People make fun of it in movies, and cartoons. I still like it but I am wondering if we are in need of a revival. I am talking a revival of our way of thinking, worshipping, being a “church.”
I’ve seen and been a part of many different types of worship experiences and denominations. I pastored a small Baptist congregation in Washington, DC that was exactly like the one I grew up in more or less. This type of church is dying. It is the church where the old ask “what can we do to bring in younger people.” But at the same time not wanting to change anything. Generally speaking, young people do not join these churches. What is it about them that is different?
Last Sunday I got the opportunity to compare what I thought was an excellent modern church. The senior pastor was a guy a few years younger than I that used to be in my young men’s Sunday school class. The senior pastor, Keith Battle, did not wear a tie or a robe but was finely dressed for the times. He used a prayer and scripture for an outline to better understand our assignment from God. His Message was created to help us discern what to do and what not to do. It was one of the best messages I have heard in a long time. It was entitled:
Lord, What Should i Do?
The first thing I noticed was the building we were in. It could have been anywhere. It didn’t have the stained glass windows, and no bench pews. The next things that stuck out to me was the proliferation of monitors. It was similar to most family style restaurants or sport bars where there are TV’s everywhere. It is the norm today where the same audience (young people) are. There had to be at least ten of them hanging from the ceiling so that no matter where you sat in the sanctuary you could see a screen. They all mirrored the large one on stage. The monitors cycled through announcements, FAQ’s and ways to contact and join the church through social media pretty close to what you would see at a movie theater before waiting for the featured presentation.
There were no “ushers” dressed in white or with a dark suit and gloves. The ushers I saw looked like event security personnel you might see at a sporting event with tee shirts with the church logo on it. At the five minute mark, the announcements on the monitors ceased and a countdown timer began showing us how much time we had left before it started. At two minutes to go, the musicians and the choir walked on stage. When the timer stopped the head of the choir took the microphone and opened in prayer. The choir began and words of the lyrics appeared on the screens as well as television like cameramen videoing the entire show for the internet. After two songs, a minister came on and gave more announcements, and transitioned from the praise and worship to the time of offering. We were reminded that you can pay online or use the buckets that were passed around. After another selection the pastor got on stage and preached to a crowd of maybe two hundred people. The same ushers walked the crowd and delivered Kleenex to anyone overcome by joy during the worship.
It was orderly. It was timely. It was effective. It was different than I was used to. There was no “whoop.” There was no cliché Bible quotes. The Message did not end with the reminder that Jesus Christ
“died and was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day got up with all power in His hands.”
There was no “invitation to discipleship” at the end. There was no long reading of the church announcements or paper bulletins. Most information was online, and presented before the service started on the monitors.
The music was modern. The lyrics where placed on the monitors even with the acknowledgement of the artist and copyrighter.
I don’t think the traditional church can be this church. The audiences are different. The preferences are different. I don’t see 60+ people wanting “their” church to change.
It is apples to oranges. It’s oil and water. Now that I saw this –I am just sharing. I’m not saying this is the way it has to be. I am not saying that this was heaven on earth. I am not saying I agree with everything I witnessed but I wonder…
Have you been to a modern church lately and seen the differences I spoke of? If so, what did you think?
If in the Washington DC area check it out in person or visit Zion Church online at