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Monday, August 8, 2011

Older People and Church

A couple of things have been said to me in the last few months that truly sadden me. They are related, in that they grow out of the same kind of thinking that is infecting our churches. Here are two examples.

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.



Reformation said...

1. While attending an AMiA Church, they switched and went to CCM and the slaughtering of dignity, order and decorum. Who can abide an electric guitar, bongos, an electric piano, and drums to "Holy, Holy, Holy." There were other disorders too.

2. Several families left, mine included. We've been forced back to a TEC Church where the hapless but happy liberal Rector accepts us.

3. They've pushed us out. What else can a Prayer Book man do? AMiA is not the answer, including the Arminianism.

Nuff said.

Thanks, Deus Misereatur.

Joel Fregia said...

I wish churches didn't feel the need to adopt contemporary Christian music (CCM) rock band styles. I also wish older or traditionalist members weren't so averse to different and new types of music. Unfortunately, people like my mother will never embrace new music genres, and church leadership will continue to adapt new worship styles against the wishes of so many members. One of the biggest problems with the CCM adaptation movement is the wedge that widens the growing generation gap.

A conservative 28 year old, I tend to prefer hymns in worship services to CCM, but I also enjoy much of the new stuff. I like traditional hymns' old tunes, meter, poetry, and depth. CCM tends to be simpler in message and prone to repetition, but that can also lend a meditative quality to worship. The baptist church I attend in West Virginia (still a PCA member of Providence Presbyterian in Midland, TX) incorporates CCM and traditional music into worship. I cringe every once in a while when we sing a particular CCM song I don't care for, but I have grown to enjoy the music selection.

Many long time members left when the guitars and drums joined the piano and organ, and many stuck around continue to grumble about it. A majority of members are over the age of 50, and you can hear the difference in volume and enthusiasm when we transition from "I am a Friend of God" to "Great is Thy Faithfulness."

It's possible that the CCM has helped keep or attract a handful of younger folk who wouldn't attend otherwise, but most of the church would happily return to the classics.