On Facebook last week I posted Mike Slaughter’s tweet (wow, that was a fun sentence) which said, “How many grandparents would give their lives 2 save grandchildren but won’t give up their style of worship to reach them?” One of my parishioners asked me, “Hmmm, fascinating. What do you mean “style of worship” – audiovisual, etc.?” This got me thinking.
I am not sure how Slaughter would answer this question but here is my response. I am not of the opinion that contemporary worship, heavy on AV, bands or however ‘contemporary’ worship is described, is necessarily going to speak to the younger generation automatically. What I see the challenge for many ‘grandparents’ of the church is to let go of what was and is in order to make room for what could be.
Would this lead to contemporary worship, maybe, although I hate that word. Maybe Praise & Worship is better, but still not good enough. Worship is worship but only when it is authentic. If we expect the younger generations to come into our sanctuaries and be active participants in worship then we need to listen to their needs and desires. We should not forget the ‘grandparents’ either.
It is in my opinion that a ‘blended’ worship style works best. One that keeps you on your toes and does things people don’t expect. What would happen if one week we had a guest praise band but then the following week we sung only Charles Wesley’s hymns? We cannot please 100% of the people 100% of the time. What we can do is not get caught up in trying to be something we are not. Sorry for the rabbit trail, now back to the main point.
Example: A congregation suddenly finds themselves without any 20-30 year-olds and no children. They pray hard for them to come into their church once again. Slowly, over years of praying, they do. They are attracted to the wisdom and caring of the congregation members. The elders of the church are excited about the newcomers but when they make suggestions on things they would like to see in worship, like a children’s moment, or children participating in worship, they are turned off and dismissed. The service itself has been the same since the 1960s. This was how the ‘grandparents’ always did worship and they weren’t willing to let the golden calf go. Soon the young families may not feel welcomed in this place of worship anymore.
For me the heart of Slaughter’s quote is the willingness to give up what you feel is yours in order to bring others to God. If it is music style, children’s moment, or whatever the golden calf is one has to weigh the options. Is the golden calf something to die over?
Worship, when authentic, comes in many different forms, styles, and means. What a congregation is the willingness to let go of control and turn that control over to God. When this happens genuine acts of worship happen and people are transformed because of it. Doing it the way it has always been done because it has always been done that way only leads to no one doing it that way. Wiggle room has to exist. The realization that worship (and all of church life) is not about us but it is about God can transform a congregation and in turn, people’s lives.