The Changing Church

I took my first official church ministry position in 1996 at my home church as the music director. Church was simple in those days. There was minimal need for technology, programs had been “tried and true”, but things began to shift as we entered the 21st century. Some changes were great; some were not so great. I am going to share some observations of pros and cons. For those who read my posts enough, you know that I welcome your input and observations also.


An emphasis on worship. When I was growing up, worship was what services were called. I can’t say that we did much of it, but we used the worship in bulletins and on church signs. We have become more expressive and gained a more multi-faceted, biblical understanding of what worship truly is. For that I am grateful.

An emphasis on discipleship. The church realized that we were not making disciples. We had Sunday School classes and even small groups, but many pastors had to face the fact that their preaching is not enough to disciple believers. They need individual, intentional discipleship. We discovered that 3 weekly sermons of either the basic gospel message or preaching against the sin of the day was not enough to teach them the deeper doctrines or Scripture.


A consumer-driven approach. We now are so focused on appealing to people that we often fail to please God. I am all about welcoming guests and making them feel welcome but not at the expense of the gospel. Programs are great as long as they are fulfilling the Great Commission. If they are just entertainment, church leadership should reconsider their validity.

A performance-driven approach. Worship leaders and bands work countless hours to provide an awesome show. The smoke, the lights, and all the media are cued to go off at the right time to “help the Holy Spirit” work (like He needs our manufacturing).

An emphasis on butts and buck$. The more butts, the more buck$…cha-ching! Roll them in, then roll them out. I visited a well-known megachurch several times. They rolled us in, told us where to sit, and rolled us out (that would go over like a lead balloon in the traditional church). People didn’t really talk to each other. The preaching and music were great, but it was totally impersonal. They say that small groups are intended to make up for this. That works great if the church returns your phone calls or emails about small groups.

Mass evangelism. It’s 1-2-3-pray-after-me, and they promise that you have a one-way ticket to Heaven. Am I saying that people do not genuinely given their life to Christ in the services? No! However, many people gain a false sense of security because the message has narcissistically presented with a “sinner’s prayer” tacked on at the end. Mass evangelism is nothing new. This is decades if not centuries old. May we not neglect personally sharing our faith and watching the Holy Spirit convict hearts as we build bridges and share the life-changing message that Jesus saves.

What would you add to this? What insights do you have? I would love to hear from you.

Author: Matthew Winters (The Comeback Pastor)

Born and raised in Portsmouth, VA, I eventually landed in upstate SC because when God calls I move. I gave my life to Christ in 1987 and surrendered to the call to ministry in 1997. I am a three-time graduate from Liberty University and Theological Seminary: BS in Religion (2003), the MA in Religion (Leadership concentration - 2006), and the Master of Divinity (Pastoral Ministries - 2013). I have served as a worship leader and senior pastor in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia since 1996. After experiencing a divorce, God graciously gave me my wife, Jennifer, whom I married in September 2015. Between the two of us, we have 6 children. I am the Lead/Founding Pastor of Overcomers Church in Walhalla, SC, a church plant that is helping those who have been overcome by life to become Overcomers in Christ. Jennifer and I both love people and long to see them enter into a relationship with Christ and walk in the power of His Spirit. I pray that these thoughts I share will challenge and inspire you to greater heights and deeper depths for the glory of Christ.

7 thoughts on “The Changing Church”

  1. Great list! I feel like the bible verses put on the big screen has given the younger generation the excuse they needed to leave the Bible at home. Don’t get me wrong, I get it…not everyone has a Bible. NOTHING takes the place of holding the word of God in your hand & having it speak to you!!! I guess I’m old school but if you go fishing & don’t take bait, are you really fishing???

  2. I like the second item on your list regarding discipleship and totally agree that weekly sermons alone do not produce disciples! Intentional small groups and one on one discipling is a must to grow people in their faith. I like your posts!

  3. Your list is great. I would only add that comparison is our enemy except for trying to look as close to Jesus as we can. Jesus said speak truth and thr Good News and He would draw men to Him. The goal is not earthly success but spiritual. In addition, I tire of narcissistic blather of preachers filling a 47.32 minute time period of space. Really? Was Jesus on a timer? Did He go on and on in narcissistic dribble with a few verses thrown in? No, He spoke Scripture and explained it. Period. Are we trying to draw men to preachers or Jesus?

      1. Yes. Pride so often gets in the way of just being Jesus to the world. People just want to glorify themselves too much and that is why it has fallen away instead of strengthened in force. All because of pride. Jesus is about humble. He alone has a right to be proud and chooses humble.

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