Mimicking trends could turn musician into worship ‘barista,’ leader warns

WACO (ABP)—Trying to adapt to every trend in worship can become disruptive and distracting to a church, said Tim Studstill, director of music and worship for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Serving in a trend-driven congregation, Studstill said, can turn a worship leader ?into a “barista”—someone who prepares coffee drinks—“blending a heritage of hymns with a collection of ... choruses, serving a perfectly satisfying selection of worship to discriminating worshipers.”

Churches that focus too much on ever-changing worship trends can get distracted from the real issues of the heart, Studstill said. Likewise, defining congregations by their worship styles is dangerous.

Sometimes churches get caught up in definitions like traditional, contemporary, postmodern, emerging and western-heritage that define churches.

“Denominations are identified according to (worship), and congregations split over it, and ministers resign over it,” Studstill told a gathering of worship leaders.

Music ministers from across the nation came together recently for the “Alleluia!” conference at Baylor University to examine worship trends and where they may be leading. “All ideas of worship are here,” said Randall Bradley, director of Baylor’s Center for Christian Music Studies. “It’s a place were people can come together and dialogue about ideas.”

Studstill described several trends that are influencing worship—relaxing the dress code, embracing a more contemporary approach to music and using more technology. Churches also have begun to throw out printed materials such as the church bulletin and the order of worship.

Gary Chevalier, pastor of worship arts at The Avenue Church in Waxahachie, said his church has done away with the order of worship.

“It just becomes a checklist,” he said. 

Terry York, associate professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary, helped conference participants look to the future of the church and what it might look like.

Participants predicted denominations no longer will have significant meaning, worship might become less performance-oriented and more participatory, and churches may offer music therapy to individual members, in the same way they offer counseling now.


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