Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A good essay on an important issue in the church


August 11, 2009
Dick Hardy

Donna Mae (our family name for our beloved mother) stood while the music blared on. She was 76 and loving it. She couldn’t hear well and she clapped a bit off beat but she was in the height of her glory.

I used to say to her, “Mom how is it that so many of your friends get worked up and leave the church over the young music but you seem to enjoy it.” Her response to me was, “It is not necessarily my style of music. I like hymns and the older choruses. However, I just love watching the young people get excited about the Lord. I find it thrilling to see them worshiping Jesus.”

Other folks of the older set seem to lose sight of what Mom had in focus. The mission of the church seems to take a back seat to personal preferences. So how does a pastor actually go about helping those good folks, older saints learn to like younger music?

Wrong question! But if you want an answer, here it is. “You don’t!” Nor do you make younger people like older music. Appreciate it, maybe. Like it and live for it, not likely. You need to reframe the question.

Hopefully by the end of the day both can have appreciation for the other, but this question needs to be reframed. It makes no difference what anyone’s preference is inside the church. The community of believers does not need to have music to suit them, young or old. Unfortunately, for decades we have been trained to believe that the church service is the place where we all come to be uplifted. With that comes “our” music.

Let’s set the record straight. The church service is for the proclamation of the Gospel. We have no reason to exist aside from this happening.
Therefore, all aspects of the church service should focus on that which draws non-believers.

So here is the correct question and answer.
  • Question: What music will draw the largest number of non-believers who will have the greatest likelihood of making a life-changing decision to follow Jesus?
  • Answer: Music which appeals to the younger set because the younger the person, the greater the likelihood of that decision. The older the person, the lesser the likelihood of that decision.
The fact is we entertain the idea of appealing to the older crowd because we have trained them and everyone else for that matter that the worship service is for them. It is not or at least it should not be our focus. When it becomes more about our (the believers) music and not about them (the non-believers), we are in trouble. The philosophy of the church must shift not only in word but also in action to a focus on non-believers. We must fundamentally begin to teach that shift in thinking. This may take a long time for this shift to occur.

A related question is, “What kind of a culture do we need to create for all people to be Kingdom-minded in their entire approach to ministry?” At the end of the day, that one makes you or breaks you.

Think about it. This age-old issue in the church has done more to polarize the body than virtually anything else. Frequently the young have little appreciation for the beauty and heritage of the past. Far too often the old dig their heels in on the stylistically sinful sounding music of days gone by finding itself right at the center of today’s praise and worship.

So what to do about it. Keep in mind, remaking a culture that has been in place for decades will not be easy or quick. This process will likely take years to completely be part of the church’s DNA. Here are four things to consider.
  • Determine who you the church are. Know if you are young or old at-heart. Know your capacity. Do not fight who you are regardless of the templates people in the church try to create for you. Know yourself and know the church.
  • One of the worst things you can do is to try to be all things to all people all of the time. Few ever succeed at that. Besides, trying to be that runs contrary to the concept of the Kingdom. Yes, God wants all people to be part of the Kingdom, but you are finite in your ability to culturally reach and draw all people with any measure of success.
  • When you can define who you are and who the church is, you can then begin to redirect culture as necessary to reach lost people. Too many churches learn who they are, like it and stay that way. Don’t do that!

    If you are middle-of-the-road, desiring to appeal to the 35 to 55 year-old, you will be the safest, although who says safe is good. But you will be the safe. The older crowd will not get too worked up because there will be musical bones thrown their way at the upper end of your target demographic. The lower end of that age group will not go so far off the charts that hysteria becomes the mantra of the Prime Timers. The younger crowd may tolerate the sedation of the older end but will be drawn to the young end at least to a minimal extent. Safe.

    If you are going to satisfy the older crowd, by and large you will not grow, certainly not with new believers. You may grow by older folks coming from other churches who don't like the younger music at their place. You will be beyond safe and few will ever come to know the Lord. It is not that their music is bad. It is the fact that few people ever turn their lives over to Christ after age 50 and almost no one after ages 60 and 70. The retirement crowd are wonderful people. I’m 55 for goodness sakes. I love those folks. We need them from a cross-generational standpoint.

    However, they cannot drive the music of the church if you expect to grow. I recommend for the future you must begin now to change the way the retired folks of 2019 and 2029 and beyond view the church and the Kingdom. Work now to get ahead of the curve then.
  • If you are going to grow and reach the most people who will make decisions to follow Christ, you will reach the crowd under age 35. When you can reach into the teens and children you reach the highest demographic of people that will likely make decisions for Christ.
Here is the crux of the matter. Do we in the church truly want to reach people for Christ? Unfortunately, the masses of those in the middle and older demographic have settled into a form of church that does not reach lost people but does provide for a comfortable “church” experience for them. The younger set is just as susceptible to “comfortable.” It’s just that for them, the praise and worship of today does not grate on them. Other things do. I’ll cover that in another writing.

This is where developing a Kingdom culture is critical. Do the following eight things and you will make good progress to that end. Remember, this will take A LOT of time! Months and years!
  1. Preach to mission. Teach on the highest value of the church, that of souls for the Kingdom.
  2. Call on the people, young and old, to pray for lost people. Then call again and again and again.
  3. In one way or another, wrap everything you do around that value.
  4. Talk regularly of the church’s desire to reach lost people and to minister to young families.
  5. Coach the older people in understanding which groups of people from an age standpoint will most likely give their hearts to the Lord. Then tie that back to your highest value, that of souls.
  6. Ask older people to think in terms of their grandchildren, many of whom sadly are not serving the Lord.
  7. Ask older people to think of what kind of music their grandchild would like. Is it grandma/grandpa music or is it something different?
  8. Ask older people to set the example to the younger in modeling deference to “one another” in accepting the music of the young. When challenged with why the younger should not do the same, indicate that they should be. But remember, none of this is about the musical preferences of younger believers and older believers. It is about the musical preferences of those vastly more likely to give their hearts to Jesus, the younger crowd.
In short, your job is not to try talking older people into loving younger music. That is not going to happen. Your job is to create a culture where older people and younger people want to see the largest number of people give their lives to Christ. It is to help the older crowd celebrate music that is not their own while understanding its ability to draw lost young people. It is to help those same folks face the facts that their generation has in large measure either been reached or not reached by this station in their lives. We give up on no one, but we reach to the largest of the masses.
There is no magical formula. Plain and simple, preach and teach to mission, that of reaching lost people for the Kingdom. Realize it will take time but you’ll know when the message gets through. You might be surprised to see your greatest cheerleaders coming from the gray hair in your congregation!

Dick Hardy is the Founder and President of The Hardy Group, a Pastoral Leadership Consulting firm for lead pastors. The Hardy Group believes that church does not always have to be what it has always been and that pastors can lead at entirely new levels. Dick’s tag line is, “Everything But Preaching.” He notes that pastors love to preach. It’s all the other stuff that eats their lunch.
Dick has served as an Administrative Pastor, Chief Operating Officer, Non-Profit Executive Director and College Vice-President. He consults personally with pastors who are tired of the status quo and want to see substantive change and growth in the ministries they serve.

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