I was looking at the website of a United Methodist Church in Ohio (it will remain nameless) and I saw its list of Sunday morning services:
Worship at [Big Methodist Church] is offered in a variety of formats knowing that we all experience God in different ways.
- The 8:15am worship is a quiet & reflective experience with communion offered weekly.
- The 10am worship is a classic service with organ, choirs and favorite hymns.
- The 11:21am is a high energy worship experience designed to take the message of God's hope, mercy & forgiveness deep into your life to impact the world.
Then comes the invitation that blows my little theological mind:
Regardless of the style, all our services are rooted in the Biblical lectionary and offer encouraging words for your life. . . Stop by for a visit to see which one best fits your worship style.This is rampant consumerism matched with an ultra-Protestant notion of church. Clearly for the author of this website, all the elements of a worship service (other than the sermon) are a matter of personal preference not a corporate practice. Clearly behind the suggestion "see which [service] best fits your worship style" is the idea that a church design multiple services to cater to the preexisting personal preferences of its members and anyone who might wander in.
Why? Because "we all experience God in different ways."
What ever happened to the idea that the worship of the Church shapes us? That from our different experiences of life and God we come together to worship God who has made us one in Christ Jesus?
When we gather together we are shaped by corporate prayer, hymnody, the Eucharist, Baptism and, yes, the reading and preaching of God's Word.
To be the Church of Christ--the community of dissimilar people, the gathering of reconciled sinners--we are going to have to do a whole lot better than internally segregating our congregations based on the paltry and ultimately spurious categories of "worship style." After all. . .
Who we are is who we love NOT what music we like to listen to.