Loving the Church to Death

by | Apr 11, 2019 | 4 comments

My colleague, Martha Taylor, recently reported a conversation with a parishioner in which said parishioner gushed, “Oh, I just love my church to death!”  Martha noted that she had a tight grip on the reins and leadership of the church and thought, “Yes, sadly, you probably do.”
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In a time when different factions are fighting over the future of the church, it’s important to consider how not to love the church to death.
These days biblical interpretation, the unique claims of Christianity, worship on Sunday mornings and even church itself are up for grabs.
What’s a church leader to do? How do you achieve peace in your congregation?   Is it even possible?One of the biggest spiritual challenges for people of every age and generation is learning how to let go. Click To Tweet
Letting go of power, control, possessions, preferences and life itself is tough stuff.  Yet, this is the call of faith and of spiritual maturity.  It is also the pathway to harmonious relationships.
How might this work?  For now, I’m going to skip over the obvious disagreement before United Methodists—norms of human sexuality and of biblical interpretation—in favor of something less charged: worship style.  When traditionally-minded worshipers are able to let go of the exclusive use of organ music played at a stately pace, in order to accommodate the addition of a band’s lively music or meditative Taizé chant, this move not only includes more worshiping preferences, it also enriches the spiritual life of the whole community.
The key word is exclusive.  It’s not that the organ can’t be incorporated into multi-generational worship.  It’s just that insisting on it can suffocate other options.  And ultimately the life of the church.
If we are to make way for new generations, new expressions of faith, and new leaders, we have to practice surrender. Click To Tweet
The current rate of change is more rapid than any previous generation has ever experienced. That means Postmoderns, Millennials, and Digitals are far more fluid and adaptable than Baby Boomers, Pioneers or GIs.  Futurist Ray Kurzweil noted, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”
So while the church is deciding if it’s okay to sing songs out of the new hymnal, use projection screens, or incorporate new musical instruments, the Confirmation Class of 2019 is learning how to navigate more change in a few months than we have previously encountered in our lifetimes! They don’t understand the church’s collective reluctance to embrace change. For them, change is a matter of course.
Before you love your church to death, ask yourself these questions:  What do I need to let go of to be faithful to younger generations?  To older generations?  A house divided against itself cannot stand.
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  1. Shelley Johnson

    Your articles are so spot on – thank you!

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Sounds like you have experienced some of what I’m writing about Shelley. Glad it hit the spot for you.

  2. Acie Whitlock, Jr.

    This article is quite challenging for the African American Baby Boomer that I am. I must say that I am a tremendous fan of hymns, hymnology and especially pipe organs with talented organist that play to full capacity and versatility. I do understand the fluidity of the younger generation’s paradigms with worship styles but there must be acceptance with younger as well as older parishioners. There are some United Methodist Churches that have accomplished great inclusiveness for all ages. I would suggest that you check out the worship ministry of Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta Georgia. The services incorporate an array of music, dance and lay participation that reaches all ages. Upon leaving the services all ages have experienced some aspect that speaks to them individually and collectively.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Acie, thanks for weighing in. I actually agree with you when it comes to worship. The example I gave was about organs which does highlights older generations. But younger generations need to practice give and take as well. My main point is that if we want younger generations to feel at home in our congregations, us GenX, Boomers and Pioneers will have to be the ones that model acquiescing some of our power and preferences to make room for younger folks.
      I have been familiar with Cascade’s amazing worship in the past; I trust that it is still vibrant, inclusive and awe-inspiring.


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