Jim Bradford, Ph.D., is the senior pastor of Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri.
When we experience times of tension, I may say to the seniors, “I probably cannot give you all you want in a primary service—hymns and older choruses from beginning to end. The worship service may not completely satisfy you, but don’t you want a church where your kids and grandkids want to come and worship?” In this way I talk to seniors about worship in a language they understand. Seniors want their children and grandchildren—the younger generation—to enjoy coming to their church and worshipping the Lord. So I ask them for tolerance, encouraging them to grow with us in this. At Central Assembly, we have a large number of senior adults, so we have hymn-sing nights and encourage the singing of hymns in our Sunday School classes.
But if music is a language for each generation, we cannot build a church using only one language. When I talk to the younger generation, I tell them we need the hymns. I might do a message where I intertwine [music] with the preaching of the Word. I will illustrate with hymns or talk about the Scripture behind certain hymns, and then sing them. But more importantly, I instruct them and walk them through what worship really is.
We need to have our own kind of worship. We need to be able to worship in our own musical language. But we also need tolerance, living with generosity toward one another. In my opinion, the older generations have a greater responsibility to defer to the younger generation than vice versa. As those who are more mature, they should be quicker to default to the needs of the younger, much like a parent to the child.