Worshipping Generations

I shared the following thoughts with the band of which I am a part at Faith Community Church on 20 October 2012. We call ourselves “Fantastic Team 3”. Below I reproduce my sharing almost verbatim (with a few edits).

Lisa (the worship leader of our band) has asked me to do a 10 minute sharing with you and I asked what she wanted me to share. She said I could share anything I wanted – which actually is a bit dangerous.

But I think it’s important for us to every now and then get back to the roots of why we do what we do because worship is so much more than what we do here on stage once a month. It’s so much more than singing songs, playing music, dancing, even about getting into God’s presence, although all those things are important.

John Maxwell said this (quoted from Darlene Zschech’s The Great Generational Transition):

Unless the WHY behind the WHAT is taught consistently, that unless we preach a standard and not just a method, then clarity, precision and most importantly the original WHY becomes distorted in all the DOING.

This is why for me, even though I love to be involved in worship, I am always trying to understand more about what the Bible teaches about worship, the foundational things.

In fact, I said to Lisa a few weeks ago, that it’d be a really awesome exercise to go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and study all the texts about worship.  That’s probably going to take a few years to get through!

Anyway, as I was thinking about what to share today, I thought about this team and the fact that you are all so young and vibrant.  I’ve been in Faith Community Church for about 7 months now and one of the things that drew me to this church was its worship and the sense of God’s presence when I first step foot into the auditorium.

When I joined the worship team, I was wondering which team I’d be put into and I was actually really really glad that I got put into the so-called Fantastic Team 3.  As I said, you guys are so young and vibrant and there’s always a great sense of excitement, but also a sense of unity.

So the thought came to me to share about worshipping generations.

Have a look at Psalm 145:3-7:

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The psalmist says that because God is great and worthy of praise (or in the Message, it says He can never be praised enough, there are no boundaries to his greatness”),  one generation praises His works to another.

There is a powerful principle of worship here: worship is never confined to any one generation.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with say Hillsong United, grungy, guitar driven worship. That’s something you may enjoy.  Nor is there anything wrong with Gaither Homecoming and old-style country gospel. These are really matters of personal preference (and things you’re used to as you are growing up!)

But if your worship is confined to one generation only, then it is incomplete.

Because of the greatness and transcendence of God, a God whose greatness has no boundaries, it takes the crossing of generational boundaries to fully express worship to Him.

So one generation commends God’s works to another.

Notice that there is no “chronology” to this.  We often read this and think: well the older people must pass on the baton and teach the next generation how to worship; to leave the right principles and to blaze a trail for the next generation to follow.

I used to think this.  In fact, at one time, I was so proud as to think that there had been a “degeneration” in our worship.

When I was growing up in the church, we used to have break out in spontaneous worship for extended periods; people would shout prophecies and tongues and interpretation of tongues, people would fall over in worship.  And the songs… Well the songs were so much more Word-based, theologically robust and yes, simpler to sing. None of this syncopation stuff and “fluffy” words with very little biblical references.  And I used to think “man, as I’ve seen how the worship of the church has developed in the last 20 years; it’s just not the same as the good ‘ol days”.

What the psalmist is saying that one generation will commend God’s works to another generation. There’s no sequence.  The old teach the youth, the youth will teach the old, the children will teach the youth, the youth will teach the children, the old will teach the children and the children will teach the old. One generation will commend God’s works to another.

And as far my worries about “degeneration” are concerned, once I began to understand this principle of generations standing side I side,  I realised that the next generation wasn’t degenerating; they were simply different and they ways they expressed their worship were different.

And in fact, sometimes when we reminisce, we often give our memories a good deal more force and gravity than they actually deserve. As an aside, music is particularly good at carrying memory. Recently, I was at a Chinese restaurant when (as they do) an old theme song from a Hong Kong television series was playing. I remember watching that serial when I was a kid and how wonderful it was; the great storylines; the intricate plot; the great acting. I suggested to my parents (with whom I was eating dinner) that it’d be quite fun to take out the DVDs of the old serials and watch them again. They categorically told me that it wasn’t worth it – those old serials aren’t as good as I remember them to be.

I think sometimes we need to recognise that our memories play tricks on us. Yes, the events of the past were great. But they were great for that time. What was great for then may not necessarily be great for now.

Anyway, back to our main thought. We must embrace the different generations and their different expressions, because it is when we can be united in our diversity that we can fully express a worship that’s due God and His unbounded greatness.

Lastly, notice the echoes of the Psalmist in verses 5 to 7.  They (the generations) speak of God’s glorious splendour, so I (personally) will meditate on His wonderful works.

They (the generations) tell of God’s power, and I (personally) will proclaim His great deeds.

Worship is at once an individual pursuit, but it is also a corporate one. And an intergenerational one at that!  Our collective worship inspires our private devotion.

So, that’s why I’m really glad to be in Fantastic Team 3. I’m glad that older ones like me can work side by side with some of you younger folks. And I’m glad that our songs reflect that intergenerational-ness.

Let’s continue to strive to be excellent worshippers in our generation, but also inclusive of the generations before and after us. Let’s be a generation of worshippers, but also generators of worship across the generations!