Today’s post is from guest writer, Paul Clark. Paul is the Director of Worship and Music Ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Find out more about guest writing.
His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will declare Your works to the next
and will proclaim Your mighty acts.
-Psalm 145:3-4 (HCSB)
I am a product of a family steeped in Christian faith. My dad was a Tennessee Baptist pastor whose life and legacy speaks for itself. I have often testified to the richness of my heritage as a “P.K.” (preacher’s kid), who grew up in the church listening to Dad preach, and observing Mom play the organ for Sunday worship. The Clark household bore many evidences of the centrality of Christ. Many wall plaques included favorite scripture verses. Bookshelves were filled with Bible commentaries, Christian biographies, and devotional helps. The bulk of the music stacked on the piano was church music; hymn settings, Gospel solo accompaniments, and choir anthems. My sisters and brother and I caught the unmistakable influence of our parents. Coming to faith was something that had to take place within each of us individually, of course, but the pattern and spirit of honoring God in our home and church was a powerful means of receiving the commendation of God’s works. The life lived as a “reasonable act of worship” (Rom 12:1) is something we have sought to pass on to our three children, and pray daily will be passed on to our grandchildren and beyond. An important part of that life has been participation together in worship.
It has often been said that “Sunday morning at 11:00am is the most segregated day of the week.” The far too accurate statement is a reference, of course, to racial segregation evidenced in our churches. Of all times of the week, you would think Christians would find a way to come together in worship. Racial segregation is not the only way we are divided when it comes to worship. Many of our churches have participated in building an artificial wall that may best be described as ageism. Aspects of our acquiescence have come directly from cultural prejudice that values one age above another. Churches would do well to closely evaluate whether their programming, ministry, and “marketing” foster this prejudice and/or division. As evidenced by racial, theological, doctrinal, socio-economic, and educational level divisions, the church struggles with the hard task of wall demolition.
I am a strong proponent of intergenerational worship! I am convinced that our churches need to directly address the question, “How can we hold generations together in worship?” Some shutter at the thought of converging the music that speaks to teens with that which encourages senior saints. Very often I hear people speak of so-called “blended” worship as that which makes everyone angry, and satisfies no one. That sentiment conveys the real heart of the problem, which is that we still do not understand Who worship is either for or about. It is probably true that even the most noble among us cannot break down the walls of division, especially if we view worship’s purpose to be reaching people, or satisfying our need for weekly inspiration and instruction. The controlling point of these motivations remain centered in us, sinful and fallen as we are. For the walls of ageism to be brought down we need nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the work of Jesus Christ that tore the curtain and ended eternal separation between God and man. (2 Cor 3:14) Only He can smash the walls that divide us by preference or generational prejudice, and draw us into the one body intended for the community of faith. Jesus did not shrink from interacting with tax gatherers, prostitutes, lepers, and others marginalized by society. He welcomed women and children. He said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!” (Matt 19:14 NLT) The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.” (1 Tim 4:12 NLT) The writer of Proverbs offers the wisdom, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Prov 16:31 NIV) The Bible gives no evidence of age discrimination, but rather indicates its application of grace to all who believe. Paul wrote of wall demolition when he noted, “There is neither Jew nor gentile, slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28 NKJV) He cautions us how we should treat one another of different ages in 1 Timothy 5.
Respect for those different than ourselves does not just happen. This is true of those who are of a different generation than we are. There is an intentionality about the spirit and attitude needed to see others as “better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3) and to foster the kind of love that Jesus prayed for when He asked the Father “that all of them may be one, even as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21 NIV) It is the kind of attitude we would expect to see in corporate worship that yields self-control over to Spirit-control. Consider the bold witness of old and young joined by the Holy Spirit in unity that lifts up Christ and proclaims His salvation from one generation to another.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FOSTERING INTERGENERATIONAL WORSHIP
- Include various age groups in worship leadership by reading scripture, presenting music as ministry, or praying for specific needs
- Provide opportunities for different age groups to serve alongside one another – children and/or teens assist in taking the offering or passing out worship bulletins alongside adult ushers, mixed age music ensembles, music students turning pages for church instrumentalists
- Involve family groupings in providing special moments in worship – lighting candles at Advent, sharing music or readings, carrying banners, leading congregation in sentence prayers
- Plan a series of services celebrating the seasons of life
- Sing songs selected to reflect each age group
- Conduct a survey among all age groups as to what songs best help us to accomplish certain acts of worship – praising, confessing, listening, giving, responding. After receiving responses utilize selections during those actions in worship and encourage all to use the songs of the various age group selections as a means of serving one another as you worship together.
- Reinforce efforts to educate children to the meaning and value of worshiping with parents and grandparents
- Provide opportunities for different generations to serve one another in worship