FORT WORTH, TX. –What makes church worship effective? Popular songs and a good band?
“Relationships are the foundation,” said Bible teacher Swindoll at the 2004 Church Music Workshop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Feb. 17-19.
Swindoll, who serves as senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and host on radio program “Insight for Living,” says the relationships between the worship leaders and the church leaders are what determine the quality of worship the church receives. That’s why at the workshop, Swindoll joined executive pastor of worship and music at Stonebriar, Bruce Stevenson, to share their experience of how the church can keep healthy relationships.
“Just beyond the relationship with Christ is the [importance of] relationship with one another. “... We don’t tolerate lingering offenses or difficulties among individuals,” he said. “If there is such, I’m not aware of it, and as soon as I’m aware of it, we talk it through. If we can’t, somebody has got to go.
“We embrace worship as a major reason we are on the planet,” Swindoll said, “and Sunday provides us with the opportunity to do it corporately.”
Stevenson taught about the five pillars of worship: education, balance, excellence, creativity and character.
Both Stevenson and Swindoll agreed that education was important because it allows continuity between the history of the church and future generations. One common battle in the church may include different tastes in worship styles.
“We have centuries of history, which is one of the treasures of the church,” he said. “It just fries me to think that everything is now about 1990 on. How dumb can you get? Nothing I preach is from 1990, but now it’s all about 2004,” said Swindoll, who tries to make each worship service unique, combining contemporary music and classic hymns to reach wide range of audiences.
“Chuck has often told me that people come up to him and say, ‘I didn’t like what you did this Sunday morning,’ and his response is, ‘Well, come back next week because it will be different,’” Stevenson said. “We will seek to use every means that we can to bring the Word of God to life and to bring worship to life as well.”
A vocal minority should not shape how the church plans worship services, according to Swindoll. If someone consistently and uncharitably complains about the church’s worship style, it may be in the church’s and that person’s best interest for him or her to worship elsewhere, Swindoll said.
“You cannot let a carping critic or two shape your philosophy,” Swindoll said. “We are not here to give you what you want; we are here to provide what you need.” Part of what churches need is a dynamic creativity not closed minds.
“Many churches have become business meetings with music and words thrown in, and that angers me,” Swindoll said. “God gets the leftovers.”
However, Swindoll said his transparent relationship with Stevenson has allowed this extensive worship style to be implemented.
“Whenever I disagree with him, I tell him. Whenever I think we may have gotten a little too extreme, I tell him. When I think we need to lighten up on something, I say it, and he is just as free to say to me whatever he needs to say,” Swindoll said. “It is all about that relationship. If you are sitting on pins and needles, you cannot talk like that. You cannot even think like that.”
According to Swindoll, Stevenson never forces him to smile or tries to manipulate his mood. The honesty the two have given each other is reflected through the authentic worship experience they try to offer the congregants.
“Some folks do not come to smile. Their hearts are broken. Their husband left last week or their kid walked out, or they found out she is pregnant or the boy is on drugs,” said Swindoll. “They didn’t come to play games -– they came to meet with God.”