A harmful battle is being waged in many churches today that is violently destructive to our present situation, as well as disruptive to our future effectiveness. I address the generational front of the war on worship. It is the battle that pits the senior saint against the millennial “Jesus follower.” It is the conflict that unnecessarily partitions the local body into age-divided worship styles and preferences. Its stated goal is to overwhelm the orthodox system with a series of new ideas, emergent principles, and music that resembles the bar stool more than the piano bench.
Within the last week we were made aware of a local church heart-deep in the middle of this said conflict. The church of which I speak used to be independent Baptist but was moved to a non-denominational identity. Their music has been drifting liberal for many years. The organ is gone, and the piano has been sold. Their replacements are a series of electric guitars. The emphasis is changing from the choir to the praise team. Why would a once-dynamic ministry be in such transition?
The assistant pastor reported, “We looked across the congregation one day and saw too many senior citizens.” In other words, “We took a census of our ministry and decided to get younger. Sure, we understand that we will lose many seniors, and we are okay with that. We are moving younger, and if you do not like it, leave.” That is the prevailing spirit!
Consider another conversation this author had in which he was told by a millennial that the seniors in her church were so obstinate, stubborn, and resolute against change. She said, “It’s just their way or the highway! Compromise won’t work! We tried to have blended services, and they still complain! It is the new way or the highway! If they don’t like it, they just need to leave!” Sadly, the old church downtown was just torn down! The generation that paid the price lost the farm!
It it saddening that this generational war has been waged in the first place. Consider seven reasons as to why the battle is unnecessary, unbiblical, impractical, and ominous to the future spirituality of our local churches.
1- If the local church is a family it will have people of all ages
The local, New Testament church is a family…a family of faith! In every healthy assembly there are people from all walks of life. Only in Christ do rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and young and old seamlessly blend into a family for the glory of God! That is the great message of the cross! It does not matter who you are, where you are from, or what you have. The unifying truth is this: have you been washed in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Healthy families have a diversity of ages, too. There are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins! It would make for terrible family life is everyone was young! In like fashion it would be tragic if everyone were old! Our family is diverse!
We need new blood as to encourage the elderly about the future, yet we need the maturity which often resides in the aged. If your local church is a healthy family, it will have people of all ages!
2- Catering to only one generation is not found in the Bible
Each generation has responsibilities, but the purpose of starting churches and winning souls is not to cater to only one age group. Jesus Christ Himself said, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
How can you look at an entire age-bracket within your own nation and not be moved with compassion on them! How can you as an emergent church leader say within your heart, “We are not interested in you for your age! We want the young!”
The needs of the elderly ought to move us to compassion. They are nearer eternity than many of the young! Additionally, the needs of the young ought to move us to compassion! They have been fed a toxic soup of humanism from birth! They are told that they evolved from the natural world and have been force-fed an atheistic approach to life and eternity! They need Jesus, too!
May we seek to reach all people for the glory of God!
3- Church is timeless, not of the times
Our music connects us to our sacred heritage and gives us an identity to the ages past. In an ever-evolving world, people need something permanent. Believers need to be tethered to the holy heritage of God’s family! We are not a modern experiment! Our Bible is not the latest best-seller! Our body of doctrine is not a cultic constitution, adrift through time! When the local, New Testament church gets together on a Sunday, they connect powerfully to the works of our God in the past and His precious prophecies yet to unfold!
4- Generational Warfare is a Dangerous and Faulty Assumption
It is the assumption that all young people want contemporary music and that all senior citizens want their music old-fashioned. That simply is not true!
I have encountered numerous young families who seek to rear their children in a church that still uses sacred, heritage music. I have also interviewed numerous young families who have left contemporary churches due to the lack of spiritual depth and worldliness they have discovered in modern churches. Let us not assume all young families want progressive music!
Let us also not assume that all senior citizens like it sacred. Using only my pastoral experience as an example, I have had more elderly prospects leave our church over music than younger families. It is silly to lump generations together!
5- Generational Warfare is a Diabolical Lie and Distraction
You can still build a church on conservative, sacred music! You do not have to compromise to be used of God! Hymns filled with the Spirit still work! Sacred gospel songs still work! Choirs still work! Pianos and organs still work! Congregational song leading done in the Holy Spirit power still works!
You will even find that to many millennials, congregational singing, hymns, and choirs are intriguing because to them they are new! They have had their fill of two-bit praise bands! They have been exposed to the sensuality of the stage singer in the modern church! Their lives are filled with entertainment! Many are looking for something real!
There is also the lie that you will be successful if you compromise. Wrong! If attendance numbers, buildings, and cash be the criteria of success, which are not (see Joshua 1:8), there is no guarantee that compromise will guarantee any of those things! Satan is still a liar!
6- Church is Not All About the Music Anyway
The true business of the church is the Great Commission and the keeping of the ordinances. Music is preparatory to those ends. When we forsake our entire purpose to condone the presence of new music and methodologies, our true purpose fails and our perspective is faulty.
If you incorporate some traditional music in order to appease the older crowd you identify exactly where your heart is— the offering plate! How many churches do you know that use only as much conservatism as is necessary to financially fund the change to liberalism?
It is dishonest for a missionary or church planter to be conservative while he needs other churches money to build his work, only to change to contemporary music and emergent principles once their resources are no longer needed!
It is dishonest for a pastor to serve the Living Water out of two fountains— the sacred and the one borrowed from the world!
It is dishonest for church leaders to misrepresent their worship intentions when interviewing for positions of leadership, while having a new direction in mind before employment.
It is intellectually, spiritually, and biblically dishonest to have a traditional, contemporary, rock, and blended schedule of services on any given Sunday. If you are a liberal, at least be a consistent one! If you are conservative, do not flirt with the world! How pedestrian and mercenary is it to provide just enough of one music style with the sole motive of mammon in mind!
Every real pastor carries the burdens of each segment of his congregation. He is as interested in the nursery care as he is the hospice care! May you and I never seek to build a church that caters to young or old alike. May we truly care for all of those souls for which our blessed Savior died! Selah!