Breaking the paradigm of age-segregated services, navigating a “post-worship war culture” and fostering multicultural praise gatherings are among the topics addressed in a book by Frank S. Page and Lavon Gray on worship challenges for 21st-century churches.
Worship “has become a big claim in the twenty-first century church; but, based on the reality of people’s lives, the worship that we claim to be experiencing is not truly affecting the quality of our lives, our families, and our witness,” Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, writes in the introduction of “Hungry for Worship: Challenges and Solutions for Today’s Church.”
The book, published by the Woman’s Missionary Union’s New Hope imprint, is intended as “a challenge to all of us,” Page writes. “It is a challenge to our churches, to our entities and to our educational institutions. It is a challenge to every believer to look seriously at how he or she worships.”
Gray, minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., writes of “the enormous challenges for churches in the area of worship.”
“Decades of ‘worship wars’ have left many congregations shell-shocked and uncertain of their core identities,” Gray writes. “Church music and worship education continues to lag years behind actual church practice, leaving many worship pastors with minimal theological training. These with other factors including church consumerism, performance-driven worship, and the changing demographic landscape of our communities raise important issues for church leaders that must be addressed.”
The book’s recommendations to church leaders include:
— Replace “age-segregated worship” with a “multigenerational worship approach.”
For decades, some churches have separated youth, college students and adults into separate worship services, Page and Gray write. Based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and other Scripture passages, they recommend involving multiple generations of believers in the same worship service as a means of passing down the Christian faith.
“Creatively presented hymns” and avoiding labels like “contemporary,” “traditional” and “blended” can help congregations begin “worshipping together, learning from and teaching one another,” Page and Gray write.
— Don’t be satisfied with the present “truce” in worship wars between proponents of traditional and contemporary music; work to achieve God-focused unity.
Weariness from fighting, a natural affinity between the boomer and millennial generations and a proliferation of contemporary songs that reflect solid theology all have contributed to a lull in worship wars, Page and Gray write. Worship leaders must “rise to the occasion and lead people in authentic worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords … something that never should have divided us in the first place.”
— Build a multicultural worship experience by diversifying leadership, planting new churches and breaking down walls of racial prejudice.
While noting numerous challenges associated with diversifying local congregations, Page and Gray write, “There should be no confusion concerning God’s mandate to reach our communities with the message of Christ: the requirement is clear. When churches acknowledge the changing identities of their communities, reaching across cultural barriers becomes a question of obedience.”
Other topics addressed in the book include using technology effectively, educating worship pastors based on the needs of modern churches, affirming the lifelong calling of worship pastors and ensuring that songs used in worship have robust theological content.
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, labeled “Hungry for Worship” “not just another worship book.”
“It is an important answer to the questions about worship on the hearts and minds of the modern church,” Harland writes in a foreword. “And it’s not just a book with another set of opinions on the subject. It is a serious attempt to gain a biblical perspective on these issues from two students of the Word and servants of the church.”