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Entries in intergenerational worship (5)

Thursday
Jul242014

Worship Leading, Ageism, and the Fear of Getting Old (Repost)

Five years ago around this time, this blog started with the goal of encouraging theological reflection, biblical depth, historical engagement, and cultural relevance in worship and worship leading. It has gained a steady readership, especially in the last two years, and I want to re-introduce new readers to important old content that has the ability to get lost unless you happen upon it via Google or search posts by topic. Throughout this year, I will offer reposts of what I believe are the more significant articles written in the last five years.

This article was one of the first to grow some legs and elicit important responses and comments. It touched a nerve that a lot of worship leaders feel but few talk about.

*****

Talk show host Dennis Prager is well-known for saying that his generation—the boomer generation—is the stupidest generation in American history. This comment, perhaps extreme, summarizes the multitudinous errors of that generation of young people that grew up and ushered in the large cultural changes in the United States in the 1960s.  One of those errors is the worship of youth.  The phrase “youth culture” would have been unintelligible prior to the 60s, but now it is common speak.  The glamorization of youthfulness affects everything from marketing and entertainment to presidential elections and local church ministry.  And obsession with youth culture has affected the ministry of worship, as well.

I had a recent phone conversation with a worship leader friend of mine who leads music on the other side of the country.  In a candid moment, we were both expressing concerns about the longevity of our jobs as local church music leaders.  We wondered whether, in ten to fifteen years, we would be viewed as out-of-date, irrelevant, washed up, and cheesy—one of those old guys trying to look and act young.  Ultimately, we questioned whether we would be as effective in doing our task once we started “looking old.”

No worship leader really voices it.  No congregation overtly acknowledges it.  But many of us think there is something lacking in a worship leader who has gray hair or smile lines.  He or she must not be truly “with it” and up on trends (another value exposed which needs to be challenged).  He or she wouldn’t be capable of authentically crafting and leading a musical style that is current and fresh.  They might be just fine in a traditional or blended worship environment, but if we want to “reach young people,” a forty-something at the helm is no good.

This is lamentable.  And (to make up a word) repentable.  That we were even having such a discussion tells us that culture’s obsession with youth has invaded the heart of the church.  What does the Bible have to say about being old?

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? (Job 12:12)

I thought, “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” (Job 32:7)

At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house. (Proverbs 7:6-8)

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. (Proverbs 20:29)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.  Treat…older women as mothers. (1 Timothy 5:1, 2)

Prior to the 60s, the elderly were much more celebrated in culture.  Most native cultures—from Native Americans to native Hawaiians to native Africans—favor the aged as the source of knowledge and wisdom.  Such cultures actually look to the elderly for guidance for the future (imagine that!).  Nowadays in the West, the elderly are irrelevant cultural cast-offs.  They are the Dalit caste of modern America.  We quarantine them in homes.  In church meetings, we roll our eyes when old Mr. Jones stands up and wags his finger in the air.  And we worship leaders brush off their comments like dust on our feet.  And we move “forward.”

Though I’ve never heard it from a single one of them, I’d bet that every twenty-something who’s been a worship leader for more than a year has had the thought, “What happens when I get older?”  (Implication: I have to do something different, because this can’t work.)  I know a few forty- and fifty-something worship leaders who are currently looking for positions in churches, and I know that the market is tougher for them. 

This ageism is more than just bias and prejudice.  It’s sinful idolatry.  And I’m guilty myself of playing into the hands of these gods every time I entertain a fear of getting older or judge an “older” worship leader as irrelevant or out of touch.

The truth is: the more I’ve gotten to know the generations of worship leaders above me, the more I realize that the Bible is true.  With age comes wisdom.  Churches should desire older worship leaders.  Though youth should not be despised (1 Timothy 4:12), biblical wisdom reminds us that being young carries liabilities against which we need to be on guard.  I long for my generation of worship leaders to have open and honest conversation about this evil bubbling under the surface.  I long for us to confess it, to repent of it, and to seek its change.

Monday
Jun062011

Worship Leading, Ageism, and the Fear of Getting Old

Talk show host Dennis Prager is well-known for saying that his generation—the boomer generation—is the stupidest generation in American history. This comment, perhaps extreme, summarizes the multitudinous errors of that generation of young people that grew up and ushered in the large cultural changes in the United States in the 1960s.  One of those errors is the worship of youth.  The phrase “youth culture” would have been unintelligible prior to the 60s, but now it is common speak.  The glamorization of youthfulness affects everything from marketing and entertainment to presidential elections and local church ministry.  And obsession with youth culture has affected the ministry of worship, as well.

I had a recent phone conversation with a worship leader friend of mine who leads music on the other side of the country.  In a candid moment, we were both expressing concerns about the longevity of our jobs as local church music leaders.  We wondered whether, in ten to fifteen years, we would be viewed as out-of-date, irrelevant, washed up, and cheesy—one of those old guys trying to look and act young.  Ultimately, we questioned whether we would be as effective in doing our task once we started “looking old.”

No worship leader really voices it.  No congregation overtly acknowledges it.  But many of us think there is something lacking in a worship leader who has gray hair or smile lines.  He or she must not be truly “with it” and up on trends (another value exposed which needs to be challenged).  He or she wouldn’t be capable of authentically crafting and leading a musical style that is current and fresh.  They might be just fine in a traditional or blended worship environment, but if we want to “reach young people,” a forty-something at the helm is no good.

This is lamentable.  And (to make up a word) repentable.  That we were even having such a discussion tells us that culture’s obsession with youth has invaded the heart of the church.  What does the Bible have to say about being old?

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? (Job 12:12)

I thought, “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” (Job 32:7)

At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house. (Proverbs 7:6-8)

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. (Proverbs 20:29)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.  Treat…older women as mothers. (1 Timothy 5:1, 2)

Prior to the 60s, the elderly were much more celebrated in culture.  Most native cultures—from Native Americans to native Hawaiians to native Africans—favor the aged as the source of knowledge and wisdom.  Such cultures actually look to the elderly for guidance for the future (imagine that!).  Nowadays in the West, the elderly are irrelevant cultural cast-offs.  They are the Dalit caste of modern America.  We quarantine them in homes.  In church meetings, we roll our eyes when old Mr. Jones stands up and wags his finger in the air.  And we worship leaders brush off their comments like dust on our feet.  And we move “forward.”

Though I’ve never heard it from a single one of them, I’d bet that every twenty-something who’s been a worship leader for more than a year has had the thought, “What happens when I get older?”  (Implication: I have to do something different, because this can’t work.)  I know a few forty- and fifty-something worship leaders who are currently looking for positions in churches, and I know that the market is tougher for them. 

This ageism is more than just bias and prejudice.  It’s sinful idolatry.  And I’m guilty myself of playing into the hands of these gods every time I entertain a fear of getting older or judge an “older” worship leader as irrelevant or out of touch.

The truth is: the more I’ve gotten to know the generations of worship leaders above me, the more I realize that the Bible is true.  With age comes wisdom.  Churches should desire older worship leaders.  Though youth should not be despised (1 Timothy 4:12), biblical wisdom reminds us that being young carries liabilities against which we need to be on guard.  I long for my generation of worship leaders to have open and honest conversation about this evil bubbling under the surface.  I long for us to confess it, to repent of it, and to seek its change.

Tuesday
May312011

Worship and Patriotism on the Heels of Memorial Day

If you're part of a monolithic congregation primarily comprised of young people, this is probably not an issue (or not as big of an issue).  If you're part of a multi-generational congregation which includes folks from the World War II generation, then, chances are, this issue is alive and well.  Because I witness it in my own fairly large church, I believe it's a fair generalization to say that, by and large, the older generation cares deeply about the wedding of patriotism and worship.  On Sundays around Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, and the Fourth of July, they want to sing "My Country Tis of Thee," "God of our Fathers," and even the Battle Hymn.  They want the stars and stripes prominent every Sunday, but especially on these days.  Generations beneath this one, by and large, do not share the same vigorous passion.

At our church, we have a long tradition of asking our service men and women to wear their uniforms, and we often pray for our troops explicitly on such Sundays.  We often put together stirring brass ensembles and sprinkle our services with patriotic "elements" like these, especially in our first (more traditional) service.  If I'm honest, this has always itched me, and as I've examined that itch, I've tried to be aware of idolatries of my own heart which would bias me.  Such sinful tendencies in my own heart which might affect my bias include: (a) worship of youth culture; (b) denial of God's sovereignty over history and previous generations; (c) lack of understanding of and true appreciation for human life, sacrificed for the preservation of my freedom; (d) disobedience of a God who calls me to support my country through prayer (1 Tim 2:1-2), civil action (Jeremiah 29:7), and taxes (Matt 17:24-27; 22:15-22).

I understand that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ will disagree with me, especially on point d (exegetically and pragmatically), but in the event that my heart deceives me (Jeremiah 17:9) and that I am prone to try to find support for actions and behaviors which favor that heart's inclinations, I want to be honest about my potential rebellion and aware of what crouches at my door to lead me astray.

Now that those cards are on the table, I feel freed up to acknowledge two recent posts, one from a pastor and author I respect (Kevin DeYoung), and another from a prominent thinker on worship in evangelicalism who has recently gone on to be with the Lord (Chip Stam).  Here are their points, but please read their posts.

Kevin DeYoung, "Thinking Theologically About Memorial Day":

  1. Being a Christian does not remove ethnic and national boundaries.
  2. Patriotism, like other earthly "prides," can be a virtue or vice.
  3. Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country are not inherently incompatible.
  4. God's people are not tied to any one nation.
  5. All this leads to one final point: While patriotism can be good, the church is not a good place for patriotism.

Read DeYoung's whole post here.

Chip Stam, "Letter from a Minister about Patriotism in Corporate Worship":

  1. It is too easy to confuse what it means to follow Christ and what it means to be a loyal US Citizen.
  2. We have many internationals in our congregations, many of whom are experiencing American culture for the first time, and some of whom are considering the Christian faith for the first time.
  3. When a mood of patriotic celebration is present, it seems to be about two clicks away from partisan politics.

Read Stam's whole post here.

 

I'm inclined to agree with them.  At the same time, I'm processing these "ideals" with the reality of my local congregation, filled with many, many folks who will have a very different (well-meaning) take and perspective.  This is the point at which systematic and biblical theology meet pastoral and practical theology.  Folks in my shoes basically have three options before us.

  1. Do nothing.  Because of the amount of dissention and disunity it would cause in the body, it might not be prudent to engage this issue pastorally at this time.
  2. Do everything. Immediately do away with all offending elements in worship in one, swift, prophetic swoop.
  3. Initiate a trajectory, over time and as God allows.  Open up a dialogue, and move from there as the Holy Spirit provides openness.  Provide contexts (personal and corporate) for open and honest dialogue.  Attempt, on your end, to educate honestly and to expose your own sinful tendencies and idolatries (like those mentioned above) openly.  Remind all parties to first search and understand the revealed will of God in His Word, and acknowledge that discussions like these are incredibly emotionally charged because of personal investment and the sacrifice of human life.  Belittle no one, and realize that deep wounds abound here.  Even so, tackle pride and idolatry head-on, in appropriate times and in appropriate ways.  And soak the entire enterprise in prayer.

It's obvious that I'm an advocate for #3, but I certainly welcome comments and challenges.  I'd love to hear, especially from other worship leaders, worship planners, and pastors about their own conclusions and processes surrounding this issue.

Monday
Oct112010

Worship: Exchanging Hip for Intergenerational

Our church has been on an ongoing quest to integrate ministries and capitalize on one of the things many congregations don’t have—an age spread.  We’ve come to the conclusion that ministry to one another and to the world will only be as effective as we move to a ministry/mission model which is: (1) less program-driven and more people-centered; (2) less segregated and more integrated and intergenerational.

In a recent post, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian pointed out that their church opted for two blended services as opposed to a “traditional” and a “contemporary” service.  The reasoning (which I support 100%) was that the Gospel beckons us to both unity and self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

Yesterday, we sang the following songs in our worship service:

“How Firm a Foundation” (a new melody to a classic hymn, due out on our next album)
“O Worship the King” (traditional hymn-tune)
“Holy, Holy, Holy” (traditional hymn)
“Holy is the Lord” (Tomlin)
“I Surrender All” (traditional hymn...really got the Baptists going among us)
“From the Inside Out” (Hillsong…just a few years old)

So yesterday was actually weighted more toward the “traditional” than the “contemporary.”  In my worship philosophy, I don’t necessarily believe that one can achieve a perfect balance of old and new in every service (and whenever I’ve tried I’ve ended up pulling my hair out).  More often, I’m seeking a balance of old and new over weeks or even months. 

Seeking balance in worship is not necessarily the hip thing to do.  If you want to be hip, you’ll be more homogeneous in style and song-selection, and you’ll weight your selections toward that which resonates with the younger folk.

It’s certainly a lamentable travesty that our culture has so conditioned us to have preferences for the songs that we sing in worship.  (Our brothers and sisters in Ghana, with whom our church has an ongoing missional connection, know very little of being able to choose what one eats, much less what worship songs one gets to sing on Sunday.) It’s equally sad that preferences are often segregated along generational lines.  We certainly need the Gospel to massage these selfish tendencies out of us.  But in the meantime, when people often connect in worship with only a certain subset of material, I believe we need to choose the road less traveled and plan our worship in ways that connect to the hearts of multiple generations.  This means that we’ll be willing to not have every song be our “heart song.”  Even more than that, this means that we’ll still choose to participate in such songs, because the call of the Gospel and the glory of Christ are far more weighty to us than our own preferences.

Because of these realities, I believe that hip and intergenerational are at odds.  The above set didn’t win any hip awards.  I even received one comment yesterday (friendly, yet still a bit critical) that “worship was old school.”  But if the bottom line isn’t “attracting young people” but expressing physically how the Gospel brings very different types of people together around the cross, then our worship should look quite different from hip.

Personally, I think many churches—including my own—have a long way to go in this.   More grace for the journey, please. 

Monday
Aug092010

Family Worship and the Southern Baptist Convention

I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition of Christianity, and I am perpetually thankful for and appreciative of the heritage of evangelical faith passed on to me there.  Matt Boswell, a Texas worship leader I respect and admire, pointed me to this beautiful statement on family worship presented at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in 2010.  It certainly challenges me to up my game of worship leading in my own home.  Here it is in complete form, but you can also download a one-page PDF.

(The surprising thing to me is that "family worship" is a discussion I usually see take place in Christian traditions where covenant theology is more at the fore [e.g. Reformed and Presbyterian traditions].  This, to me, is evidence of increased conversations happening across denominations for the mutual benefit of the body of Christ. Rock.)

******

RESOLUTION ON FAMILY WORSHIP
Adopted by the Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in annual session on June 16, 2010 in Orlando, FL

WHEREAS, The Bible teaches the spiritual discipline of family worship for the glory of God, the strengthening of the church, and the spiritual nourishment of the family (Deuteronomy 6:1-18; Psalm 78:1-8; Ephesians 4-6); and

WHEREAS, Scripture pictures the Christian home as a place in which parents are instructed to teach and disciple their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:1-18; Ephesians 6:1-4); and

WHEREAS, Family worship has been a cherished Southern Baptist principle reflected in church covenants which have called believers “to maintain family and secret devotions” and “to religiously educate” their children; and

WHEREAS, In recent years, family worship has been emphasized in The Baptist Faith and Message, which states that “Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth”; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have launched major initiatives which have brought to the forefront the need for families to pray, read from the Bible, memorize scripture, and give praise to the Lord within their homes; and

WHEREAS, In 2009, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention included family worship as a key catalyst for a Great Commission resurgence calling on Southern Baptists “to build gospel-saturated homes that see children as a gift from God and as our first and primary mission field”; and

WHEREAS, Family worship is integral to laying a foundation for multi-generational faithfulness to the gospel (Psalm 145:4) and a necessary complement for the strengthening of the local church to fulfill its commission (Matthew 28:18-20); and

WHEREAS, Family worship serves as an important preparation for the corporate worship of the local church on the Lord’s Day (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:25); and

WHEREAS, In recent generations, the act of family worship has been neglected, evidenced by the breakdown of the family in our time; and

WHEREAS, The embracing of the spiritual discipline of family worship in the Christian home has the capacity to nurture stronger families, a stronger church, and a stronger nation; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, encourage churches and families to rekindle the spiritual discipline of family worship; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we define family worship as the regular meeting together of a family for a time of prayer and Bible reading, which may include other activities such as scripture memorization, singing spiritual songs and hymns, and discussing biblical truth and Christian mission; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage families to cultivate not only structured times of worship together, but also ongoing intentional and informal conversations about the things of the Lord; and be it further

RESOLVED, That as we call families and churches to embrace family worship, we urge fathers particularly to fulfill their divinely mandated responsibility to lead their families toward spiritual maturity (Ephesians 5:22-6:4; Colossians 3:19-21); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage all parents to consider times of family worship to be an opportunity to introduce their children to the gospel, to train their children to seek the salvation of their friends and neighbors, and to pray for the nations; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage churches and families to make use of the many resources produced to aid in family worship; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their pastors to promote family worship and encourage the families of their congregations to place the highest priority on embracing this foundational spiritual discipline for the well-being of families, the spread of the gospel, the making of disciples, and the glory of God.