So I’ve been reading up a bit about youth culture in a book called “Engaging the Teenage Soul” by Walt Mueller and he makes a statement that says if the church is not willing to listen to the questions our young people are asking then they will go to people and places where they will be listened to. Often where they go comes as a surprise to the church. To make matters worse when we do answer them, often the answers we respond with, which we believe are biblical and evangelical, and are well-intentioned, many times misses the mark. Why? Because we have cookie-cut answers, a one-size-fits-all response to questions being asked and often these answers are not even applicable to the questions being asked. The questions being asked are changing, as a matter of fact it has already changed, so how can we have answers for questions that we don’t know are being asked?
What I often wonder is, “what is more important? Is creating a platform, a space, for them to ask questions more important than the answers themselves?” Is by allowing them to ask questions enough to show that they are taken seriously?
Is Christianity not revelation? A process, sometimes even immediate, where Jesus Christ reveals himself to us through the written word, the spoken word and creation, through a life-long process where we work out our salvation in relation to this revelation of God. Should youth ministry not be more than just wanting to give our young people answers, answers we think they should know but a journey, a life-long one of learning and experience the God who was always actively involved in the lives of his people?
I am not purporting that we base our understanding of God merely on experiential knowledge but I think often times this learning experienced is removed and only factual and head knowledge is sought after by those who seem to posses the answers.
So how do we engage young people with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- Create a platform, a place, that is free of judgement so that they would have the liberty to ask questions and to speak their hearts and minds;
- Listen to their questions without wanting to give them the answers which we believe are the correct ones, instead allow God to speak into their lives;
- Walk with them through this enigma called life and allow them to experience what God has done in your life in theirs.
While at The Baptist Union Assembly of churches this year, I heard a saying that goes something like this, “there won’t be any drums in heaven, but I will have drums in church so that my child will get to heaven.” At first it was quite hilarious but upon some pondering it became more puzzling and disturbing to me.
While I know the whole tension in church between contemporary worship and traditional or orthodox worship has been in debate and tension for quite some time in the life of the church, it is quite concerning that this debate continues to this day and that this challenge is more wide-spread than just my local setting and that we are willing to admit.
The focus has been for a while now on how do we not upset the apple cart or challenge the status-quo but to keep things as peaceful and functional as possible by ministering to each generation and creating the platform for appropriate worship. Do we have two services running simultaneously, one for the older generation in the main church auditorium while the younger generation either gets a different location or a different time slot? The other part of the question is how do we get the different generations in the same sanctuary at the same time worshiping the same God?
Jesus said it doesn’t matter where you worship me but how you worship me (John 4:23ff), I cannot but think that we have lost the plot somewhere. If the challenge is the type of worship service we have, the type of music we play, the volume of the music, the length of the songs and singing then it seems we are catering for our own whims and fancy! Should our attention and concern not be for the one whom we are worshiping? If our worship is so fragile because we need to please our congregations and keep each one “happy” then I wonder what God may be thinking?? Have we become so legalistic in our ways that we begin to think that God cannot be glorified with our without drums or any genre that excludes an organ?
I do not want to minimize the challenges in corporate worship, on the tension in meeting the needs of the congregation but if it is the congregations needs we are trying to meet then I fail to see how this is worship! Yes, while we are to build and edify the church (1 Cor 14:12), the primary purpose of the church is to praise God. Old Testament Worship, the keeping with the law was through various liturgical processes, instruments, dress code, location, sacrifices, etc… but Jesus said a time will come when all that will be futile because worship should be in spirit and in truth because the Father is spirit.
So, how should we approach such a sensitive topic?
- Know whom we worship. When we gather on any day of the week, we gather to worship God and God will build His church.
- When the One whom we worship is priority, then we will learn to respect each other in corporate worship and learn to edify and build the church with all those who have been called the Church through the salvation of Jesus Christ and allow us to express our gifts or talents or passions received from Christ for Christ.
- Liturgical process are important but unnecessary. Know the difference between means and function (thanks Dr Ronnie Davis – for this explanation). A function (instruments or genre) is only to express the meaning and does not become the meaning in itself.
- Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves if we really understand what is worship? What is your theology of worship?
So then… where shall we place the drums?