Style or substance

The church has been going through a difficult chapter in her history in America.  Much of the difficulty has revolved around styles of worship.  Transitions in form and music have been occuring throughout the history of the church.  Believe it or not, some Baptist pastors in early America strongly resisted missions and mission offerings.  Some other pastors strongly resisted Sunday School programs.  Musical styles have gone through transitions also.  Many of our more popular hymns were built out of melodies that were familiar tunes from folk songs and other types of popular music.  Some are based on classical music.  The Gaithers, Andre Crouch, Jack Hayford, and countless others have contributed to songs that are so well known that they have been adopted into hymnals.  Each of these transitions have met some resistance.  There is one factor that is quite different.  It has become entirely too easy to force personal preferences on others.  The skill of loving persuasion has been replaced with authoritarian decisions or simple majority votes.  Unity is not valued in environments such as these.  Other realities that exist are niche churches who really don’t want anyone except those who will accept a certain form or style of worship.  I want to share a couple of important core convictions of my own in regards to this.

1. The attitude of “my way or the highway” is not a Christian attitude.  Authoritarian decisions push people away from God and away from one another.  Simple majorities may work in a democracy, but unity should be the goal of a church.

2. Every church needs to be a meeting ground for all kinds of people.  If we cannot share life in the church, how can we share it in the neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.  All generations need to value and encourage other generations.  Intergenerational families who live in one town or county have become very rare.  Culturally we are suffering from the fractured family and the highly mobile society in which we now live.  In such a climate, an intergenerational church allows families to experience a more thorough sense of community that strengthens and encourages them for daily life.  Whatever we do to reach people, we must not do at the expense of alienating an entire generation be they young, old, or in between.  It is hard work, but it is good for us.

Dan Wooldridge

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