Moving OVER, but not OUT

I wish we sang something in my church that I know.
I don’t know any of the new songs and no one around me does either.
I wish we would sing some/more hymns…you know, something with lyrics that don’t repeat 700 times?
We want the young people to participate, but we don’t want them to play too loudly.
We want the young people to participate, but we don’t want them to take our solos, spots on instruments, etc. 

Have you ever heard phrases like this? I’m sure I could fill much space with comments from our older generations. I’m not deceived, even as a Gen Xer, I’m officially an “older generation!” Let’s face it; we’re all prone to preferences. We all long for the music and worship atmosphere that feels safe/holy/familiar. Certainly, none of us “older” saints wants to feel irrelevant, either! I’d probably still think I was cool except my teenage sons remind me daily that I’m not. Truthfully, I never was, but I digress…

From a worship setting standpoint, I believe worship settings should err to the “younger look” while still maintaining an older presence. Here’s what I mean: I’m not advocating a particularly musical style. I’ll say it again, the local church musical style should reflect the context and demographics of the church and surrounding area more so than just what’s popular. That’s why we do old and new, because that’s who we are as a suburban, intergenerational church. BUT, the platform should include YOUNG and OLD worship leaders. There should be intentional opportunities for the young to learn from the older worship leaders (vocal and instrumental). Further, this intentionality goes beyond just platform presence, it should reflect the musical interests of our emerging generations, as well as tried and true. Sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 96) AND The great hymnody of the faith.

Scripture is clear; it is the responsibility of the older generation to teach the younger generations, but doesn’t mention anything about music style, right? Nevertheless, the opening of Psalm 78 paints a beautiful picture of the what it DOES mean to investing in the young:

2I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
    the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
    which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
    and arise and tell them to their children…

The other day, I read an interesting portion of a book that really brought this home to me. The author referenced Numbers 8:25 as he reminded the reader than the Levites were to stop working at age fifty, but should switch their role as “leader” to assisting, empowering, inspiring, etc. While I hope I’m still “working in the service of the Lord at age 50,” it does bring home an interesting point…once we’ve reach a certain age, hopefully wiser as well, we need to mentor the next generation(s) to do the work of the Lord. Will their work be different than our work? Absolutely! But, we aren’t trying to create musical clones of ourselves, we are to teach/invest in their lives spiritually and, if you’re a worship leader like me, perhaps incredible musicianship rather than a particular style. At some point, my friends, each of us will realize that it’s time for us to move over and hand the “baton” to someone else. Don’t lose heart, you aren’t washed up, you’re role has just shifted to being a helper to the next generations.

One Body with Many Parts

Sometimes I like to read through familar passages of scripture using different translations than I normally use. Recently, I’ve been using the CEV version while reading through some of Paul’s letters. When I got to 1 Corinthians 12, I was particularly moved by the syntax used to describe the function of the Body of Christ. While I’ve read this passage numerous times, the words seemed to take on deeper meaning for me this time.  Here some of the passages from 1 Cor. 12 (CEV):

14 Our bodies don’t have just one part. They have many parts. 15 Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the foot still belong to the body? 16 Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the ear still belong to the body? 17 If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing. 18 But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best. 19 A body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. 20 It takes many parts to make a single body. 21 That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. 22 In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest…. 24 put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. 25 He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. 26 If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy. 27 Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body.

My heartbeat is helping every person in my sphere of influence find where they fit in the body of Christ, particularly as it relates to music. No matter what age one is, there’s a place for serving. It pains me to see music ministries in churches that underutilize the gifts and talents giving to church members by relegating music leadership to only a few. I’ve heard many fine singers and players wax nostalgic of the days when they could play and/or sing in their church music ministry. Nowadays, they sit in their seats because they are no longer valued. Paul thinks differently…just because you aren’t a rock star singer doesn’t been you are not a part of the body (v. 14 my paraphrase). I couldn’t agree more. Furthermore, the personalities, timbres, musicality, etc. of the WHOLE body may not be a perfect musical offering, but it’s an authentic one for sure. Paul speaks to this in verse 22 when he says, “in fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.” WOW! Then I love what he follows with, “He [God] did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others.” Anyone else hear what I heard? Love your neighbor as yourself…consider the interests of others other than yourself…live in mutual submission to one another. Hurt when others hurt…live in unity together. Folks, we need to get serious about truly caring about others in the body. I’m ALL for evangelism and reaching out, but when we focus entirely on reaching out and not loving/caring for our own people, the unbeliever will not see the love of Christ being displayed. Scripture reminds us that the “world” will see Jesus in our love for one another. We MUST be unified before we are able to reach others for Christ

To live in unity takes work. A few days ago I was saddened by a conversation I overheard from a small group of older adults (not at my church or by my church members) that basically trashed contemporary forms and expressions of musical worship. The argument was completely selfish. I was saddened because these folks, by estimation, were believers. They had no interest in working together with other parts of the body to seek to understand the musical expressions of many generations. Don’t think I’m pointing fingers at older adults solely; these types of behavior are found in people of all ages. Anytime someone(s) think they are/viewpoint or style is more important than someone else, the body is not in unity.  Even Paul reminds us that the parts of the body that seem insignificant are actually important.

It takes all parts of the body to live in unity. For those churches that are not thriving, my questions are: is your church unified in purpose? Are there folks like the ones I mentioned that are unwavering in their desire for anything in their worship service to change because they don’t LIKE it? Are the various generations in your church valued? Are the older generations investing in the younger generations…not just by giving leadership over younger members, but actually working together by valuing contributions from all? If not, then this lack of humility may be used by the enemy to destroy the body from within.

I don’t know about you, but I would imagine if I couldn’t smell, I may not realize the joy of fresh baked bread, flowers, and cookies in the oven. If I could hear, I would’nt hear the music that I such an intergral part of my life and ministry. Would I be alive? Yes, but I would not be WHOLE. If we miss the JOY of developing relationships across generational lines, we miss the wholeness of being a part of the body of Christ.

TOGETHER (not apart) we are the body of Christ. EACH of us is part of that body. EVERYONE. 

The Wonderful Grace of Jesus

“Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness…” John 1:16

I loved going to church as a child and youth. At the time, I didn’t realize this “holy habit” of regular church attendance would serve me well since God placed a call on my life to vocational music ministry. Naturally, I was drawn to the music, but I’ll be the first to admit I loved learning about God’s word through the teaching and preaching of some very Godly men also. But the Word of God that was hidden in heart (other than the scripture I memorized) came through the content of the songs we sang. Now I enjoyed the music on Sunday mornings with the choir leading (of course), but I LOVED Sunday night musical worship. Maybe it was because it was more informal, or that we used a second hymnal that had songs that were more fun to sing, but regardless, much of the hymnody that has become a part of my personal musical DNA was wrought on Sunday evenings.

One of my all-time favorites to sing on Sunday nights was “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” Perhaps it was the bouncy, catchiness of the tune or the fact that the men and the ladies got to do separate parts…nevertheless, I thought it was a lot of fun to sing. And I LOVED stretching my voice at the end of each chorus to sing the high G on “praise His name!”  While the song was fun to sing, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I fully understood why we were singing about how wonderful GRACE was. I didn’t realize that the text of that song, which is now firmly implanted in my heart and mind, would be my theme of God’s redemptive work in my life. We all need grace. In Ephesians 1:7, Paul reminds us that “in Him we have redemption through His blood, according to the RICHES of His grace.” This means it COSTS something and I soon realized God’s grace is not only rich in abundance, but it was BOUGHT on Calvary. The first line says it all, “wonderful grace of Jesus, GREATER than ALL my sin.” His grace is greater than our need, our failures, and our sin.

So today, as we journey in our various places, may the riches of grace  overwhelm us and remind us that we have the victory through Jesus Christ! Sing with me…

 

  1. Wonderful grace of Jesus,
    Greater than all my sin;
    How shall my tongue describe it,
    Where shall its praise begin?
    Taking away my burden,
    Setting my spirit free;
    For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Refrain:
Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All-sufficient grace for even me!
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
Oh, magnify the precious Name of Jesus,
Praise His Name!

  1. Wonderful grace of Jesus,
    Reaching to all the lost,
    By it I have been pardoned,
    Saved to the uttermost;
    Chains have been torn asunder,
    Giving me liberty;
    For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
  2. Wonderful grace of Jesus,
    Reaching the most defiled,
    By its transforming power,
    Making him God’s dear child,
    Purchasing peace and heaven
    For all eternity—
    And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.