Many churches have undergone the worship wars and lost. For every older member who leaves because he or she cannot seem to have a hymn sung once in awhile, Ive heard that it takes five new families to replace their income. Still, some are literally blasting the elderly out of their churches defiantly saying words to the effect, If you dont like the direction were going; theres the door. Heard about a pastor who said just that to his congregation this past week. At least six long-standing, faithful families walked out the door vowing never to return.
Is this what some brash, younger pastors think they must do to their churches in order to have a future as a viable movement of the Holy Spirit? I hope not. If you feel, in Willimons words, that your congregation has more history behind (it) than future before it, yours will likely be one of the third of Americas churches that will close in this decade (Small). Our friends to the north of us have closed 41 churches in 13 years.
Im told that the American church is keeping only 4% of its teens. The world changes dramatically every 18 months. Most churches are operating with information about how things were years ago. They dont need to come up to the 21st century when they havent come up to the 20th!
These statistics haunt pastors who want their ministry to be cutting edge. I think they think that the way to do so is to go contemporary which is open to some fairly broad interpretations. Ive worshiped in churches that sing 70s and 80s choruses and think they are being contemporary. Ive also been in churches that have taken old hymns and put them forward with new rhythm and a contemporary beat. The older I get the less I recognize the songs being sung.
The pastors who are successfully leading their churches through the enormous changes of our times are making rounded curves. They might give their people the choice of attending a traditional or contemporary service. My opinion (what blogs are all about) is that no leader has the right to throw grandma off the cliff or show her to the door. What is so wrong with singing an occasional hymn? In a perfect church, just maybe there is something for everyone.
Leonard Sweet in Summoned to Lead, talks about Surround Sound and everyone needs or has s song to sing. Everyone has a story to tell, a secret to import, a song to sing. The leaders job is to find the melody line and allow the diversity of people to fill in the harmony. How can the seniors sing their song if theyre thrown out the door or under the bus? Hence the title, How Dare You?
On the other side, how dare the older folks purposely sing in disharmony or off key so loudly that no one wants to sit near them? Or declare, Were taking our church back! as if the younger folks stole it away. Is it right to dis everything the pastor does or allow whatever he sings to go in one ear and out the other? How I pray that our effective leaders, who cannot tune out the noise and dissonance that surrounds and confounds them, will somehow listen to and through it. One church in which the Spirit moved people to seek the Lord; to repent and confess, had persons confessing, I just realized that I came to church looking for something to criticize; and when I found it I went and shared it with others. Signs of breakthrough to a new level of harmony.
Sweet says, The mark of a great leader is the ability to hear and honor those who would dethrone him. When you push for change that is precisely what it feels like. Listen while you can so that you can lead when you must. (Tom Peters).
So, modulate. Transcend selfhood and ego loss and enter the group experience of consonance and harmonic relationships. This is what the church should be. Sweet encourages readers to Learn to let go. Listen for the harmonious vibrations around you. Lean into life. When nothing is happening, something is happening.
Dr. David F. Nixon
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