There are few things I hate more than action songs. You know what I’m talking about, right? That excruciating moment where the worship leader encourages the whole congregation to participate in ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower,’ to which we hesitantly and awkwardly (if not whole-heartedly) oblige. Painful.
And yet, I go to a church where we usually begin with two of them. And I’m happy about it. Perhaps that sounds like something of a dichotomy: I hate action songs, but I’m glad we do them.
And indeed it is! So how can I be happy that we do them in spite of the fact that I personally hate them? Because the children in our church love it.
They gather at the front, they jump and dance and, yes, they do the actions. It is a wonderful thing to see children who love going to church. In fact, my own son (age 5) recently wept because he wasn’t able to go due to a sickness bug!
In her blog, ‘The Church gets in wrong when it focuses on youth’, Sarah Hall encourages the church to be family. “There is no upper or lower age limit to a family” she writes. And with this I wholeheartedly agree! But here’s something I understand about how a family works: In a family the older generations are always willing to forgo their preferences for the sake of the younger generations.
Or to put it another way, I hate action songs, but I’m glad we do them. And yet, in my experience of most church services, they are tailored towards the adults at the expense of the children and young people.
Old songs and hymns in an unfamiliar musical style. Forty minute messages with little in the way of media or relevant application. For younger generations this is boring and irrelevant. How is that family?
Just imagine for a moment if on a Saturday my children had to do everything that I, as the adult, wanted to do. Perhaps a lie-in to start, followed by a leisurely coffee with a book, maybe a walk in the countryside and an afternoon in front of the TV watching the football.
But of course, my Saturday’s don’t look anything like that. They involve early mornings, swimming lessons and playing out – none of which would be on my personal agenda! But I’m happy to do all those things.
Why? Because we are family, and in a family the older generations are always willing to forgo their preferences for the sake of the younger generations.
According to research conducted by Peter Brierley, 72 per cent of churches have no children or young people in them. 72 percent! Evidently what we’re doing isn’t working. And when what we are doing isn’t working there are two things we cannot do:
1. Do what we’ve always done.
2. Do nothing.
In Meet Generation Z, James Emery White warns us: “Times have changed. Culture has shifted dramatically. Unless [we] reach the next generation, the church will simply get older and smaller, year by year, until it is a shell of what it once was.”
We must reach the next generation, it is our missional imperative. Perhaps, therefore it would help us to engage in a missionary mind-set for a moment. I think we can all agree on what a good missionary to an unreached people group would do: They would learn the language of the people and try to understand their customs and rituals. They would work to translate the scriptures, particularly the message of the gospel, into a language they understand. When it came to worship, they would undoubtedly incorporate the musical styles and instruments of the people into their songs.
In short, they would try to build every cultural bridge possible to most effectively communicate Christ to these yet unreached people.
Make no mistake, we are in a missionary situation our own land and the unreached people group is Generation Z. We therefore do not “get it wrong when we focus on youth,” on the contrary, in doing so we fulfil the missionary and family objective of the Church.
So yes, Church, let’s be family. But in doing so let’s remember that in a family the older generations are always willing to forgo their preferences for the sake of the younger generations. It is my conviction that the future of the Church depends on this: Will the Church continue to simply say we are a family, or will we actually act like one?
So all together now, “the name of the Lord is….”