A Look at Blended Worship - a presentation for NOBTS Worship Leadership

What is "Blended Worship"?

Blended worship is essentially a blending of the two major ways of thinking about worship: aesthetic and kinesthetic. Aesthetic worship emphasizes beauty and order, while kinesthetic worship emphasizes the experience and participation of the worshiper. When these are blended, it can take many forms, yet these foundations remain the same. In this presentation, we will examine some of the foundations and motivations of blended worship designs, along with challenges and examples of these designs.

An Overview of Worship Renewals of the 21st Century

Blended worship is linked to the major events of both the liturgical and contemporary worship renewal movements in the 21st century (Exploring the Worship Spectrum, pg. 175).

The Renewal of Liturgical Worship
  • In the 21st century liturgical worship can be characterized as:
    • Tied into a print form of communication
    • Service structure is predictable and executed based on a pattern.
    • Worship is isolationist in nature.
  • These three principles drove the worship structure until the 1960's during Vatican II and the Roman Catholic reforms. Reforms that came from this include:
    • Worship is put into the language of the people and simplified.
    • Focused on the renewal of theology, architecture, style, and environment.
  • These reforms took root in the Protestant denomination in 6 different ways:
    • There is new concern to restore the theology of worship.
    • There is new attention to the historic pattern of worship.
    • The Lord's Supper of reexamined.
    • The Christian year is restored.
    • New discussion and questions about the role of music and the arts of worship appear.
    • The desire to include the entirety of the congregation in the worship experience.
The Renewal of Contemporary Worship
  • Three movements lead into the renewal of contemporary worship:
    • Azusa Street and the Pentecostal Movement beginning in 1906.
    • Latter Rain Movement, known of it's spontaneous worship.
    • The rise of the chorus tradition which lead to the more current rock band style popularized by the Vineyard movement.
The Blending of Worship

"Blended worship brought the content of the liturgical movement and the experience of the contemporary movement together." (Exploring the Worship Spectrum, pp. 177-178)

This blending began in 1987, where national worship was led by Maranatha! to explore what the blending of these two worship forms could bring.

"Blended worship at its best is substance and relevance, truth and experience, divine and human." (Exploring the Worship Spectrum, p. 179)

Blended worship is a combination of the strengths of the other forms of worship. (Exploring The Worship Spectrum, p. 176)

• Liturgical tradition—emphasis on beauty • Reformed tradition—emphasis on the centrality of the Word • Anabaptist tradition—concern for community and discipleship within worship • Restorationist tradition—commitment to weekly Communion • Revivalist tradition (Baptists, Methodists, evangelicals)—concern to move toward the invitation and call sinners to repentance • Holiness tradition—emphasis on the need to break through and achieve sanctification in worship • African-American tradition—emphasis on soul worship

Motivations of Blended Worship

Blended worship ultimately comes from a heart to unite the Church, rather than to segment it because of preferences in worship. In joining elements of both the aesthetic and the kinesthetic together into one worship service, generations can be drawn together. Also, the best of each worship tradition can be valued and shared with the other. Those of the traditional or aesthetic tradition have the opportunity to learn from and value the fervency and passion of the kinesthetic tradition. Those of the contemporary or kinesthetic tradition have the opportunity to learn from and value the love of truth and beauty of the aesthetic tradition. Multiple generations can learn from one another, and legacy can be shared in this context, which would not be possible if the different generations and traditions were segregated from one another based on their respective preferences.

Difficulties of Blended Worship

Blended worship can easily fall into the trap of seeking to please everyone, rather than leading a congregation toward a God-given vision for the church. A worship leader considering blended worship must be careful to not simply use it because it is the best "compromise," but rather because it follows the leading it makes the most sense in the current worship environment for their particular congregation.

Blended worship is not meant to be a "catering" to needs or wants, but rather a leading the church into unity and leading one generation toward the other. The target is not the pleasure of the congregation (making everyone happy) but on unity. If blended worship devolves into a means to please people, then it misses the mark, and settles for far less than it can be. This is a common issue in blended worship environments. In order for blended worship to work, everyone in the congregation will have to make some sort of sacrifice and give something up, in order to serve one another.

Another difficulty of blended worship is in forming a team that can confidently and skillfully lead a congregation in multiple styles of music from multiple generations. The music of one generation or another can easily be done poorly, and the people can smell a fake. It then seems disengenuous, and it disengages the congregation, rather than engaging them together. Care must be given to the presentation of the various styles within a service, to ensure that each is an authentic and skillful representation of the media.

  • Achieving cohesiveness with varying styles
  • Many congregants remain unsatisfied with the mixed style offering
  • Invites criticism of the unpreferred style
  • Presenting multiple styles with one, unified team
  • Team talent limitations
  • Sacrifice of team members to play other styles which are less desirable to them
  • Some songs/styles are more difficult to lead than others
  • Requires adaptability and flexibility on team

Examples of Blended Worship

The description "blended worship" covers a broad sweep of churches and worship services, which can range from mostly traditional to mostly contemporary, while including aspects of both. The flow of blended worship environments also depends on the tradition from which they are born. Some spring out of very liturgical, aesthetic tradition, while others spring from more of a revivalist tradition, all of which influences the look and feel of how they design and lead a blended worship offering. Below are some examples of blended worship.

General Blended Worship Outline from Exploring The Worship Spectrum

- Preservice music - First set of music - Prayer/Welcome - Second set of music - Sermon - Invitation - Offering - Decisions affirmed by church - Benediction

Another example from the text

- Gathering Songs - Entrance Hymn with Procession (The experience of coming before God) - Greeting, Call to Worship, and Invocation - Songs of Praise and Worship (The experience of God's transcendence) - Confession and Forgiveness (The experience of God's forgiveness and relationship) - Opening Prayer (Transition to the Word)

Other Examples of Blended Worship Service Designs
Design by Brandon Cullum

Prelude - Great is Thy Faithfulness Special Music - The Heart of Worship Welcome and Greeting - led by Pastor Worship through Music - From the Inside Out How Great is our God Great is Thy Faithfulness Scripture Reading  - Psalms 48:10 - led by Elder Offertory - instrumental Worship through Music -  Awesome is the Lord Most High Sermon - Pastor Invitation - Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus Benediction - led by Pastor

Design by Bill Horn 

Pre-service - Video Countdown Call to Worship - Ps. 96:1-4 Worship Through Singing - Sing to the King - On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand Prayer/Welcome/ Time of Greeting - Lead Pastor Worship Through Singing - You Never Let Go - It Is Well Worship Through the Word – James 1 - “Faithful” - Lead Pastor Response - ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus Worship Through Giving - In Christ Alone Benediction - Lead Pastor

Design by Adam Gillespie

Pre-Service Music - The Family of God (Instrumental) Welcome / Prayer - Deacon of the Week Expressions of Praise - Music Minister - We are God's People (Hymn 383) - Oh, How I Love Jesus Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine (Hymn 334) Special Music / Testimony - Praise Band - Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) Proclamation of God's Word - Eph. 1:7-10 - "How Great Is Our God!" - Lead Pastor Invitation to Respond - Just a Closer Walk With Thee Worship Through Giving - Take My Life Presentation of Decisions and Closing Prayer Closing Song - The Family of God (instrumental)

Resources and References for learning more about Blended Worship

Referenced in this presentation:

Exploring the Worship Spectrum. Paul A. Basden, ed.  Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2004.

Other Resources:

Books

Holy Gatherings by Michael Sharp and Argile Smith

Unceasing Worship, by Harold M. Best

Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell

Engaging With God by David Peterson

Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin

Worship By The Book, edited by D.A. Carson

Planning Blended Worship: The Creative Mixture of Old and New by Robert Webber

Articles

Gary Hollingsworth - Moving from traditional to blended worship In this article Gary outlines 10 steps when making the transition from traditional to blended:

  1. Take Your Time
  2. Do Your Homework
  3. Know Where You are Headed
  4. Work to Earn Trust
  5. Expect Challenge
  6. Transition Is a Prcoess, Not an Event
  7. Call the Right Personnel
  8. Don't Compromise Quality
  9. Understand Techincal issues
  10. Be Prayerful and Careful

David Burroughs - The Brouhaha About Blended Worship In this article from beliefnet.com gives a great overview of the current trends, benefits and concerns over blended worship.  There is a great emphasis on unity between the older and younger generation and how Blended worship seek to bridge the gap that exists between generations as well as between typical service times.

Presentation created by Bill Horn, Brandon Cullum, and Adam Gillespie for Dr. Gregory Woodward and Dr. Gary Dennis, for the course Worship Leadership of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary