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.