I happen to be a fan of corporate worship, the kind that represents a broad spectrum of people. I love to see grandparents in their sunday best sitting next to the teenager wearing the same oufit he wore the night before. I am moved by the person that knows each song and scripture by heart. I am equally moved by the person who stares at everyone and everything with an inquisitive look on their face. The old, the young, the sinners, the saints and every other flavor, create a beautiful picture of God’s people.
So how does a minister reach such a crowd, especially adolescents with the message of Jesus Christ?
A) Theological Spectrum: knowing that the sanctuary represents a broad theological spectrum, my pastor and friend Jim Singleton has 2 great responses. First as we prepare our sermons, the one preaching must visualize having one foot in the church and one foot outside of the church. Each Sunday our churches have those that know the drill and those that are confused by the drill. While there can be great beauty in liturgy and theocentric traditions, we must continue to explain why we do what we do. The second response is similar to the first, we preach to the disciple knowing that the seeker is looking over their shoulder. It is possible for a sermon to have depth and richness without alienating seekers and peekers.
B) Generational Spectrum: My general response to multi-generational worship is that each generation gets a little and gives a little. However, Malan Nel is a South African veteran who has served students for 46 years who says that a congregation’s willingness to be relevant to the youths during worship services may have far more reaching consequences than any other mode of ministry. How does that sit with you?
Is the answer to integrating youth into worship for the pastor to preach a sermon series on Lady Gaga? Part of the answer lies in the willingness of preachers, music ministers and worship planners to intentionally think about the young, the old, the sinners and the saints who will sit in our churches week in and week out.
While knowing the stories of those who worship is important, the final analysis is that worship is for and about God. Arguments about style and preference generally lead down a path that pushes Christ aside. When discussing worship, may I always remember the words that so many teenagers have said to me over the years; “It’s not about you!”