Leading Gently Forward

The Spirit of God is blowing worship in a new direction.  “Newness”  is commanded in Scripture (Ps 98:1) and is a natural part of life (Eccle. 3:1-8).  Why, then, is newness so difficult and divisive, especially for the older people in our congregations?

When considering this question, I realized that no generation in the history of mankind has undergone the change that our older people have gone through.  They have gone from horse travel to space travel; kerosene to atomic energy; Farmer’s Almanac  to the home computer.  Their world has changed from rural to urban, and from agricultural to mechanized.

The values of a past generation have deteriorated from a Victorian morality and code of conduct to an “anything goes” mentality where tolerance is the sole and ultimate virtue.  Since these folks are living longer than any in the past, they are experiencing the prolonged deterioration of their bodies, and with it a diminished sphere of control and influence.  Coupled with this is the breakdown of the family unit, and the value placed on production rather than wisdom.

Like all of us, these people need some stability in life.  So they grab their same Bible and come to the same church to hear an unchanging message about an unchanging God.  But wait!  The preacher has a new translation of the Bible, and the music director is singing new songs (with drums no less!).  How frustrating this must be!

A good shepherd knows his flock.  He leads forward at a gentle pace that the vast majority can maintain.  As he leads, he should continually check on the progress of the flock.  He must stop periodically to rescue those who have fallen behind.  Inevitably, he must make the tough decision to leave behind some who refuse to be rescued, so that the flock can move on to “greener pastures and stiller waters.”

The “flock” is really the Body of Christ, meaning that each part has value and function.  To worship next to someone who has known God for sixty years is an experience that cannot be had in a specific age-group ministry.  Still, a worship leader must lead forward and must ask the hard questions: “Do young people feel like they are at a strictly adult function when attending the worship service?  Do older people feel like they are at a pep rally?”  One must consider all parts in the planning when designing worship for the Body of Christ .

The acceptance and appreciation of the best of many styles is appropriate and necessary in the Body of Christ.  Teaching people about worship is one way to soften the sting of change and to prepare them for the addition of new things.  This means teaching people the concepts of worship; mixing the styles of music; and including different learning styles.  If a people’s appreciation of change grows stale, they will soon only appreciate stale things.

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