Now I'll be the first to admit that people under 40 need Jesus. I am also cognizant of the fact that the 20-30 something crowd is a significant missing segment of many existing churches. I applaud the efforts to reach younger folks for Jesus in new and different ways. Without a doubt, we will never win the world to Christ unless we can present the Gospel to people in a way that is relevant to their culture - whether it be here at home or abroad.
My questions began to multiply regarding "The Church Downtown". Would I be welcome to worship there? I was well past 40 years of age at the time. Would I be turned away at the door? I would assume that the Gospel message was being proclaimed there. What part of that would be alien to me? Was it just because of the music they employed in their worship service? Isn't it possible that someone like me, who's teenage years were spent in the 60's might enjoy some of that lively music? Was it the way they dressed? I have certainly worn my share of bell bottom jeans, sandals and tie died shirts back in the day. After all, we were the original "anti-establishment generation". And of course there was the big question - when members reached their 40th birthday would they ceremoniously be shown the door?
As far as I can tell, "The Church Downtown" is no more. I have no doubt it was a sincere effort by a Godly young person to try to reach young folks in Huntington for Jesus. Certainly a noble cause. What then, made the concept so distasteful to me?
The exclusivity of it.
Just as exclusive as the heavy starched, button down, three piece black suit, patent leather shoes, KJV only crowd that often makes younger people feel so unwanted in their church services.
Same animal - different package - just as wrong.
When are we going to learn that the Church is the Body of Christ? Jesus died for all. Old and young. Rich and poor. Beautiful and ugly. Learned and illiterate. Religious or pagan. Asians, Europeans, Africans, Islanders, and Americans (north and south). Red, pink, brown, yellow, and any other hue - these are the folks He came to seek and save.
Why is it then that we must categorize our local congregations? "Please visit our church" the invitations say. We are (choose any of the following): traditional, contemporary, mainline, emergent, tolerant, fundamental, charismatic, purpose driven, kingdom focused or seeker sensitive. We're a church (chose from the following): for bikers, cowboys, skateboarders, blue collar, white collar, no collar, singles, couples, hip, dweebs, professionals, yuppies, hillbillies, street people, goths, or elitists. Our music is (choose from the following): electric, acoustic, percussive, syncopated, southern gospel, bluegrass, high church, classical, exciting, dull, rap, headbanging, contemporary, Christian rock. We baptize in a (choose one): baptistry, river, creek, swimming pool, or whirlpool bath.
"So all that is what makes us better". "We're different". "We do church the right way"
To coin an ancient Hebrew expression - "Hogwash!"
It is time that we, as the church, be reminded of the main thing. The main thing is Jesus. Knowing Him and making Him known. Not how our little group "does church". It's not my church or your church; it's HIS church. As a friend and fellow pastor recently wrote, "When did worship come to be about us? It has always been about God".
Here is my challenge for the congregtation of Westmoreland Baptist Church - and for anybody else from any other church that may be reading this blog. Let's keep it simple. Let's keep it true. Here is a formula used by my son's church in the New Orleans area. They're focusing on three areas:
- Magnifying God
- Making Disciples
- Ministering to Others.
Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 9: 19-23 - "I am not anyone’s slave. But I have become a slave to everyone, so that I can win as many people as possible. When I am with the Jews, I live like a Jew to win Jews. They are ruled by the Law of Moses, and I am not. But I live by the Law to win them. And when I am with people who are not ruled by the Law, I forget about the Law to win them. Of course, I never really forget about the law of God. In fact, I am ruled by the law of Christ. When I am with people whose faith is weak, I live as they do to win them. I do everything I can to win everyone I possibly can. I do all this for the good news, because I want to share in its blessings." (CEV)
Let's minister to every group we can. Let's reach people as they are, and where they are in the various sub-cultures around us. Let's have church services, cell groups, home Bible studies and outreach efforts and seek to bring others to Jesus. Let's spend more effort at being "Savior Sensitive" than "Seeker Sensitive" - magnifing Jesus, not marketing our church. And then on Sunday morning, let's all come together in our house of worship for celebration, adoration, contemplation, and consecration, and look like the Body of Christ.
(People over AND under 40 - welcome!)