A Worship Style That Connects With Millennials

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Lyman Beecher Stowe, in “Saints, Sinners, and Beechers,” tells of one occasion when Thomas K. Beecher substituted for his famous brother, Henry Ward Beecher, at Plymouth Church, Brooklyn. Many curiosity seekers came to see and hear Henry Ward Beecher. Upon Thomas K. Beecher’s appearance in the pulpit, the sightseers started for the doors. Thomas K. raised his hand for attention, and made this announcement: “All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church; all who came to worship God may remain.”

In this blog post, we want to examine what Millennials are seeking in the area of spirituality.  I am avoiding the term worship because first it is a loaded word these days and Millennials are finding ways to grow in their faith outside of the Sunday Morning worship experience.  There is a paradigm shift among Millennials, they have very little interest in the worship wars Baby Boomers have waged for decades.  For Millennials, their focus has centered on new areas of importance in their spiritual formation.  Thom Rainer, who researches church life and effectiveness for an organization called LifeWay, recently commented in a blog post, “What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials,” on the three things that matter most to Millennials with regard to worship. Rainer points out that “style” of worship is not their focus.

Millennials desire music that has rich content and reflects deep biblical and theological truths.

Consider what Leadership Journal Managing Editor Drew Dyck identifies as the potential point of connection:

“Millennials have a dim view of the church. They are highly skeptical of religion. Yet they are still thirsty for transcendence. But when we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them (they have enough friends). When we tell them that God will give them a better marriage and family, it’s white noise (they’re delaying marriage and kids or forgoing them altogether). When we tell them they’re special, we’re merely echoing what educators, coaches, and parents have told them their whole lives. But when we present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God, it just might get their attention and capture their hearts as well” (from the blog post “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God”).

In our attempts to attract Millennials we often water down the music.  It has at times become repetitive and shallow.  For Millennials, this is not hip, it’s not trendy, and it is not working.  They want music that stands on a foundation of deep biblical truth.   Millennials want music that stood the test of time, that has deep theological roots. For the historic church, this is good news, we already have that.

Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service.

We don’t need to “gen up” emotions. The power of God’s word and his presence in worship is all we need.

Millennial blogger Ben Irwin wrote: “When a church tells me how I should feel (‘Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!’), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion — not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.”

This large generation wants a quality worship service.

Blogger Amy Peterson puts it this way: “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”

Quality is a reflection of the authenticity noted above, as is adequate preparation by the worship leaders both spiritually and in the amount of time they use to prepare. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.

To further explain, Millennials are particularly sensitive when the people worshipping on Sunday mornings and the pastors leading worship are just going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.  A major challenge we face with a liturgical format is that it is very easy to get complacent and take for granted proper preparation.  The love we have for serving God in the historic liturgy should be evident in the manner in which we lead God’s people into His presence through that worship experience.

It is apparent that a church that preaches the Word of God with depth and substance should connect with this generation.  They are seeking a bigger God, a deeper faith, they are looking for strength in the risen and reigning Christ. That is the Church’s foundation, preach that with boldness and confidence that salvation is found in Christ alone.  We have that truth, we have the Means of Grace we don’t need to try to be hip and flashy.

An interesting article from a Millennial: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jesus-doesnt-tweet/2015/04/30/fb07ef1a-ed01-11e4-8666-a1d756d0218e_story.html

 

 

Here is an example of music that is connecting with Millennials:

 

Bless The Lord

How To Develop A Sending Culture?

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One of my greatest joys in life is being a husband and father. It is also one of the toughest jobs in life. As the leader of my family, I am responsible for the culture I develop. The same is true for anyone leading an organization. Whether it is in a Church, a non-profit or a corporation, you are developing a culture. You develop that culture through the decisions you make, the example you set, and the integrity in which you lead.

Making the Shift To Sending

Before a congregation considers shifting their ministries and mindset from their current way of doing ministry to become a church that sends people out to start new ministries they need to be prepared for the strong emotions that may be stirred up.  This made me think about similar emotions generated when my pastor brought up the issue of commitment Sunday for our yearly budget cycle.  “Give ‘til it hurts, the church needs your help.”  Well, I had a very low pain threshold.  When you tell people to give ‘til it hurts, you will lose some people.  Sending people away, also hurts.  It creates all kinds of questions in our mind.  If we start sending people away: Won’t we have voids in our ministry?  They were good givers, how can we replace those dollars? Do you know how hard is it to develop good leaders?  This post is relevant because I am convinced developing a sending culture could radically change the direction of your ministry.

I discovered as we started an African Immigrant congregation that there are three tension points to work through in order to develop a sending culture.

Tension of Motives: “Here or There”

At the core of our culture is a tension deeply rooted in our definition of success.   When our ministry is over, sitting in our easy chair, Bruce Springsteen reminds us in the song, “Glory Days.”  “Glory days, well they’ll pass you by. Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye” The legacy of ministry, we have left behind hinges on the DNA we left the poor fellow who followed us.  Was our vision limited to accumulating and growing a larger local congregation (not a bad thing mind you), or was it balanced with an equal focus and passion for sending key leaders out there?  Notice I mentioned key leaders.  In my ministry, there were members I would have gladly shared, but I am not sure that is the DNA I wanted to bless a new ministry with. I am talking about sending your best, your first fruits, “giving even if it hurts.”  This tension is rooted in the values embedded in a church’s DNA. To move through this tension, we must embrace and become passionate about the value of multiplication. We must balance here and there.

Tension of Measures: “Grow or Send”

Another critical tension is rooted in our priority of focus.  We are all busy in ministry.  Our desire is to get the biggest bang for our buck.  To accomplish this, we need to focus our ministry efforts. Yet, there is an on-going struggle as to where we focus our time, talent and treasure.  Do we invest all of our resources growing where we are planted (here) or invest a portion of the resources in sending others out to develop new mission fields (there)? The same staff and finances that can help us grow here are the ones needed to send there.  I learned the hard way that most churches adopt a “we will send after we grow a little larger and have the extra resources” approach.  How is that working for your financial stewardship?  Do you have a good balance between growing and sending?

Tension of Methods: “Safety or Risk”

Boy, do I love making the tough decisions NOT! However, in order to do what God calls us to do those decisions are always before us.  What hard decisions will you have to make to become a sending church? Good intentions will not get you there. Where is that place God has placed on your heart to start a new ministry?  If God placed that in your heart there may be others in your congregation feeling that same tug of God.  It is so easy to play it safe in ministry.  There is a certain comfort in taking it safe, but the mission God gave to the church was not a safe one.  Jerusalem can get very comfortable, but to take the message to the ends of the earth we need to develop a sending mindset.

Whether or not you realize it, you are creating and cultivating a culture in your church. There is no stopping it, but the culture can be molded, shaped, even changed as you examine closely the tensions, rationale even fears that drive those tensions.  Your ministry is not just for this generation, it is the foundation for generations to come. How you lead and maneuver through the tensions you experience might be the most significant blessing you have to shape your church’s culture and DNA.

A Great Love Story

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The Bible is a book of love stories: the love of Jacob for Rachel, of Boaz for Ruth, and of Joseph for Mary. But the greatest story is not one of these; rather, it is the story of God’s love for ordinary people!

It is the story of an unreasonable love.‘For God so loved the world . . .’’

Unreasonable because God’s love is not requested, respected and is seldom reflected. When things go wrong in the world like war, terrorism, homelessness, disease, drug addiction, or political campaigns, people tend to blame God. The world’s response to trouble is to seek diplomatic, judicial, economic, and social solutions. God’s love is not respected (valued) because it is viewed as old-fashioned, rigid, and restrictive. God’s love is seldom reflected in a world that worships at the altars of success, popularity, and power. In the midst of all of that, God’s love breaks through and He freely loves the world, with what is an irrational and unreasonable love!

It is the story of an unreserved love. ‘‘. . . that He gave His only Son . . .’’

William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice in the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!” Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord.

Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost. The Bible says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” Unreserved is God’s gift given freely. Without hesitation, no debates, committees, conferences, or deliberations, what He gave was the only one—unique, incomparable, unmatched, and without equal –His Son! What an unreserved love!

It is the story of an unrestricted love. ‘‘. . . that whoever believes in Him . . .’’

A certain medieval monk announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing else to say. How beautiful is the power of the cross? The cross proclaims loudly that Christ’s work on our behalf is a story of unrestricted love in that there are no qualifications to measure up to, achievements to master, or requirements to maintain. The gift of salvation is universal and offered as a free gift to the world.

It is the story of an unrestrained love. ‘‘. . . should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’

Unrestrained in that God’s love for you has no limits (there is nothing it cannot do), knows no bounds (there is no place where it is hindered or ineffective), and it will never end. As the writer of Hebrews describes it, “Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5. What an unrestrained love!

 Sadly, it is also a story of an unrealized love.

There are many who have yet to respond or even hear of God’s love. ‘‘For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God’’ (vv. 17, 18).

At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholars were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. One person suggested that what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone else quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about the resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Another participant slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate.

Finally, during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?” 
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” 

The room fell silent.  Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached.  No other religion makes that claim.

After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions. Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements. But the beauty of Christianity is that God’s grace is completely and totally free. We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it. It was not given to us because we were better than others, because we gave more than someone else, we worked harder than another, were more talented, better looking, or more fit. None of that matters to God.

Hear the text again from the Message Bible: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one, and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”

So our mission is clear, those who know God’s love have the privilege to take it to those who have yet to hear, so that they may not only hear the greatest Love Story ever told, but receive the full benefits of that love first hand through faith in Christ Jesus.  Through that faith in Christ you receive a life of eternity with God who made your salvation possible.

 

Hitting the Wall

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Maybe the following scenario sounds familiar. Christ Lutheran Church saw significant growth in the late 1970’s. The older members remember those glory days and often dream of recapturing that glory. It was the time in their congregation’s history that every single program and event seemed to work. Whether is was the Ladies’ Aid sewing circle or the men’s work day. They were never at a loss for volunteers and the building was abuzz with activity. Now things are different. The Ladies sewing circle is down to a faithful few and younger women are too occupied with work, their careers and trying to keep up with busy sports schedules to have time to sew. You schedule a work day and only Hank and Fred, who are in their late 70’s show up with their trusty hammer and toolbox. The church is struggling now.

They have survived many changes over the years, including watching as visitors, friends, members and pastors have come and gone. Now your ministry has hit a wall. The growth has stopped the good ole days are so far in the rear view mirror only the really seasoned members can recall  them. Now the pastor who helped usher in those glory days is closer to glory himself and has announced is retirement. Now the faithful remnant is looking for a new hero to ride in on his white horse and save the day.

This group has exhausted all their ministry ideas and unfortunately nothing has seem  reverse the trends. You have had your pastor scrap the robes and abandoned the traditional service and replaced it with a contemporary service. The problem is your praise band is closer to retirement age than the K-Love age bands you see on television and only knows music their youth, the ones you sang at summer camp. The nearly retired pastor is now wearing Dockers and a stripped shirt with Penney loafers. However, young people still are not coming and you are starting to lose hope. Now as the pastor who was there during your heyday has announced his retirement date you are putting all your hopes, dreams, and resources on finding a new pastor who you pray will come in and bring new life to your struggling congregation. Most of the members believe that if they can get some young Phenom he will attract young people in droves to join their congregation that will save their church.

There usually is not a realistic plan in place to make that happen. There has been no real time for prayer and reflection. All that you have to work with is this vague dream of becoming that fresh, young, happening church, which is unrealistic. Not, to mention the older, wiser members really don’t want the noise associated with young families and a hard rock worship experience that many believe the community is seeking. The real issue is not worship styles or forms it has much more to do with is the vision and ministry plan of the congregation one that is focused on building relationships with those in the community. It is not what this congregation needs is a fresh vision that fits the unique gifts and talents God has already blessed this group of believers with.

What is Vision?

“What is a vision? Where do they come from? Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone who is emotionally involved – frustrated, brokenhearted, and maybe even angry – about the way things are in light of the way they believe things could be, is a candidate for a vision. Visions form in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo…Vision carries with it a sense of conviction. Anyone with a vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done.” (Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision, By Andy Stanley)

Visions that are given to us by God are always bigger than us and can only be accomplished with His strength and direction. Will Mancini, in his book, “Church Unique”, makes this critical point about vision, “God is the chief visionary who leads us to push forward, not with arrogance but with confidence, because we know we are a part of His divine chain reaction.” We must be clear about this point; vision is from God. Vision may seem far beyond our reach and, if so, that may be an indicator that we are heading in the right direction. If the vision is comfortably within our capabilities, God does not receive the glory. But if the vision is “God-sized” in scope, meaning impossible without God’s intervention, then God receives the Glory and Him alone!

Why Does Vision Matter?

“But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many acts out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible…”– T.E. Lawrence. When our vision is clearly from God, it reflects God’s passionate love for people. It aligns our hearts with the heart of God and refreshes our desire to reach the community in which God has placed us. It is compelling and motivates us to action. Things get done because the vision is integrated into the life of the congregation. It becomes the driving force in all decisions. We will take all of our resources of money, people, time, and talents and focus on this one thing God would have us do. Leaders and laity have a clear picture of what role they can play in carrying out God’s mission. This becomes the first item discussed at the council meeting or voter’s meeting even before we get to the news about the finances. The vision becomes the thing that must be done!

Christ Church, Anywhere, USA needed to discover God’s vision to give energy to a congregation that had become stagnant and aimless. Maybe you can relate to their situation. Maybe you are looking for answers. It is possible you look around you and you see the writing on the wall. Like a line in my favorite Christmas novel by Charles Dickens, “I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.” So many congregations see the very grim reminder every Sunday of the fate that awaits if the images remain unchanged. Continue dwindling attendance, shrinking income, and eventual death.

So what do you need to do? You need to start with asking the right questions. Do you have a good vision statement that points you clearly to your reason for existence? Who are the people God has called you to connect within your community? Once you figure out if your vision statement is pointing toward those outside your walls as is this vision and from God? These are the key questions a compelling and inspiring vision statement will answer:
What are the end results you seeing when this vision is accomplished?
• Who in the community is being impacted by this vision?
• How are you developing a discipleship culture? That is a culture of equipping the saints, multiplying and sending the saints of God into the mission field.
• How are the members living out the vision and what impact is it having on them and the community we are called to serve?

The power of a “God-sized” vision is that it gives energy and direction to the church. It unites and inspires people around God’s plan. As we hear from the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people perish,” Proverbs 29:18. If you need help with that process, let me know and I can point you in the right direction. Blessings.

Vision

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