Bringing the Church Back Together- Part 1- Biblical Foundations

Over the last few years, I’ve had people contact me and ask questions about serving an intergenerational church and leading an intergenerational music ministry. I’ve really enjoyed discussing how we do what we do here. One of the more difficult questions that is asked of me is, “how do we go from having multiple services with different types of music to one type of service?” Honestly, I must confess, I’ve never had to do that so my personal experience is not applicable to my answer. However, I’ve talked with several who have brought their churches back together and their experiences are very helpful to the conversation. As a side note, I have, in all other churches I’ve served but my current church, started new services with different music styles. Let me tell you, it is generally not sustainable for the long term for many faith communities—especially those established churches. I’ll speak about that issue another time.

The purpose of this series of post is to delineate a few of the many ways leaders can navigate the transition from multiple worship styles back to one style. Because of the length of the material, I will break this into several posts. This first post centers on why we need to be together anyway. Click here for a few other blog posts I’ve written that deal with the importance of intergenerational philosophy:
Why Leaders Value an Intergenerational Choral Ministry,

Why should we educate ourselves in importance of Intergenerational Ministry/worship?

What does it mean to be Intergenerational?

Varying Music Types that are Biblically-rich Promote Unity

I begin with the MAIN reason I believe church worship should be unified in purpose…the biblical foundation of mutual submission. Sometimes being unified means not always getting your way. Many intergenerational churches strive to use a variety of music in their services because of the variety of people present. However, this is a common misconception. I know many intergenerational churches that are mostly traditional or modern in their musical approach. Find out the DNA of the church culture and be that first. Let the context drive the music selection. Be unified in purpose first.

Generally referenced as the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus included these words:  “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:21-23).

There are also many verses about preferring one another in love and striving for unity. For instance the well known passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 2-5: So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

There isn’t a biblical worship model that supports divided worship styles that I can find. Realistically, our churches couldn’t launch enough style-based venues to satisfy each church member’s musical preference. Have you ever notice that stylistically divided worship only exists almost entirely in the US evangelical church? I haven’t seen or heard of anyone who’s encountered churches with multiple style venues outside our country.

All Spirit-filled believers long for a healthy, growing church. I believe our worship structures should be guided by the words found at the end of Acts 2:  They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe…all those who had believed were together…Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple…taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Over the years I’ve discovered one thing…most churches with multiple types of services truly only have one prominent thing different—the music. Outside of musical differences, there are few changes worth noting: some “relaxed” atmosphere and casual dress. Maybe a lack of traditional liturgies in those churches that use creeds, responsive readings, etc. But, music and the teams that lead the music, are often the focal point of the style-based service.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are convicted that an intergenerational approach is necessary for the continued longevity of your church body, take heart. If you are weary from the strain having multiple smaller churches under one roof, then you’ll want to read the next few blog posts about some practical ways to bring your people back together.

I’m praying for the “few” who might read this and their spirits are crying out for their church to become unified in purpose and mission. You can be the catalyst for the Spirit to use you to inspire the needed change in your community of faith.

 

 

Minority-Dominate Congregations are More Likely to be Intergenerational.

The other day I was rereading an article written by Michael Hawn “Singing Across the Generations: is there Hope?”and I came across this statement on page 20, “congregations that are virtually all African American or Latino most often worship together as multigenerational families.” He goes on to say that Anglo-dominated, middle-class congregations from 200-400 in attendance were more likely to offer two or three different patterns of worship (based on musical style). According to Hawn, minority-dominant congregations tend to worship intergenerationally. Hawn does not aim to explain why this data exists, but focuses on strategies for how churches can find unity in their musical worship.

I’m curious as to why. Why are Anglo-dominated congregations more likely to have multiple types of styles of services? The argument that a new, improved, more energetic contemporary service is going to bring the young families in doesn’t necessarily apply if the church isn’t an Anglo-dominated church. Many of our minority-dominated churches are thriving. The African American and Hispanic dominated congregations I’m familiar with aren’t dying…in fact they are growing! I’ve been to several Latin American churches (all intergenerational) that are THRIVING and the gospel is proclaimed and received.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking, praying, strategizing about how to bring musical elements that transcend generations into our worship context. I’m very interested how minority-dominated congregations have managed to avoid the “worship wars.” This post is not designed to find ways to bring multi-ethnic elements into a content. Anyone with Google can find hundred of articles and books on the subject. However, to begin the conversation, I want to discuss some traits I’ve found in minority-dominated churches that might give a few clues as to why these types of churches have chosen to worship intergerationally. I have a few ideas I’d like to share–all anecdotal although observed many times. As always, there are doubtless others. I’d appreciate feedback so the conversation may continue.

  1. Minority-dominated congregations are made of families that VALUE being together. Go to any Latin American country and you’ll see multiple generations living together. They value all; church is no different. Most non-Anglo cultures are ultra family-centric. The “it takes a village” mentality is evident. My observation is women in minority-dominate churches are taking care of many generations of children and raising in a “pack-mentality.” It’s not uncommon to find many Hispanic and African American grandmothers helping raise their own grandchildren.
  2. Minority-dominated congregations are not afraid of emotionally-driven, passionate times of worship. One of the reasons many Anglo-dominate churches have decided to add “contemporary” services alongside their “traditional” services has been that some feel that traditional worship is stuffy, uninspired, boring, and lacking passion. Those who find comfortable in the predictable liturgy of a traditional service find contemporary services irreverent. Minority-dominate churches just don’t have (my opinion) boring or dispassionate music. It’s always been passionate and will continue to be. Ergo, there is no need to separate services based on style.
  3. Minority-dominate churches cling to their ethnicity while embracing new.  The musical worship in these churches is rooted in who they are historically. While they aren’t afraid to embrace new styles of music, they would never create a worship service that excluded one musical style over another.
  4.  Participation comes from all generations in minority-dominate churches. Some of this is due to the size of the church. Many are small churches that need everyone to work together. However, my experience has been that even as these churches have gotten larger, (some of our largest churches in America are African- American dominated) they have not lost their intergenerational nature. All have a role in worship leadership.
  5. Choir participation in minority-dominate churches is still HIGH. I can’t think of an African-American dominate church today that doesn’t use a choir. This could be said for many other non-Anglo ethnic groups as well. While authors of the “National Congregations Study” (Chavez and Anderson 1998 and 2008) reported that choirs in churches has decreased from 72.3% in ’98 to 58% in ’08, I do not see evidence of decreased participation in minority-dominated congregations. In fact not only does it remain common, it is intentionality intergenerational (not just choirs of members with with white hair)! These churches have figured out how important a choir can still be relevant.  In fact many leaders of these churches depend on the energy that the choir brings to musical worship, an energy that cannot be replicated by any other means.

I’m positive I’ve only scratched the surface and there are always exceptions to these comments, but I can’t help but notice that it seems to me that only Anglo-dominated churches (and generally in America) think creating separate worship events which contains only one style of music and liturgy is ultimately healthy for the church. This can lead to generational separation, but more importantly, separate services also prevents the fusion of multi-ethnic musical variety. It is only through cooperation and inclusion of multiple styles that we may paint of picture of how heaven will truly be—all peoples worshiping together in many different ways, but worshiping…together

1Liturgy, 24 (3), 2009: 19-28.