Just the other day someone very close to me was telling me that her church has begun to cater to the young folks, in worship songs specifically. She bemoaned the fact that her church almost never sings hymns any longer, but primarily the more contemporary songs. Then she sadly said, “Well, I guess that’s ok, because the younger folks are the church’s future.”
A second event was a phone call about 2 months ago. An elderly man (80ish) called after reading the article in the paper about our recent purchase of the church building. He asked several questions about our church, and then toward the end of our phone conversation he asked, apprehensively, mournfully, “You accept old people, don’t you?” I almost cried. After the shock wore off, I did tell him "Yes."
Though both of these situations are anecdotal, they show (it seems to me) an unlooked for consequence to the trend of “targeted” churches. We are tribalizing the Church of Jesus Christ based on niche marketing strategies (segregating churches centered around cultural-preferences). And we’re doing it all in the name of Jesus/evangelism/growth. This is a crying shame!!!
God’s Church, and the worship of Almighty God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, is for all - younger, older; middle class, filthy rich, beggarly poor; Anglo, Hispanic, African, Asian; Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks! The Lord’s Church should never clamber after niche marketing categories!
“Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (Ps. 148.11-13).
One of the unintended consequences of catering to the younger, hip-hop crowd, is to alienate the older believers, and send the message: “If you’re not our kind, you are not welcome here. If you are over (put here any age) then you will only be tolerated. You will be tolerated on our terms. But you better conform to our culturally-dictated preferences. So either shut up, or just leave all together.” And I have seen an increasing number of older believers catch the message and pull out.
To be sure, the knife cuts both ways, and in another post I will address the other side of this. But for now, let us check the unintended messages we’re sending. While your congregation is seeking to bring the Gospel to younger people, to minister the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, to the 20 and 30 somethings, seek to bridge the gap to the older people. They also need Jesus; they also need care and mercy; they also need the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.