Commentary: Love the next gen, but don’t forget the builders and boomers


A recent article in The Christian Index explained that if churches have a desire to grow, they need to make reaching the next generation a priority. It would be unwise and impractical to disagree with that astute observation. And yet there are countless churches across America that are agonizing over the fact that there are no children and youth in their fellowship.

Lamentations 1 describes the sorrow and distress of the people of Israel over the desolation of Jerusalem. The city, once a busy commercial hub, is now empty. One commentary describes her as being “like a woman who has lost her husband or a princess who has become a slave.” However, the real cause of the Israelites’ lamentation is described in verse 5 where Jeremiah declares that “the children are gone into captivity before the enemy.”

To ensure that the enemy does not capture our children we must deliberately, conscientiously, and aggressively do all in our power to reach them. There is a myriad of things that can be done to make “church” an attractive and spiritually nurturing place for the next generation, and one of those things is having the kind of Christian music they prefer.

However, senior adults must not be forgotten. They are primarily the builders who initially made thousands of our churches strong and viable. At the same time, there are millions of senior adults in our nation who are lost. They have never heard the Gospel, never had the plan of salvation explained to them, or never been invited to church. Some of them may have had a church experience that was disappointing or hurtful. Since they are, by virtue of their age, closer to their eternal home, whether heaven or hell, they must not be overlooked.

Their preference in church architecture, form of worship, style of preaching, and kind of music may be different, but they must not be disregarded in our plans, programs, and promotions.

Macland Baptist Church recently hosted a “red back book hymn sing” in a spacious worship center that was packed from top to bottom with chairs in the aisles. The congregation was admittedly not generationally diverse, but the saints of God who were there enjoyed a spirited and fulfilling evening of worship.

Gerald Wolfe, who planned and orchestrated the event, has expressed his desire to preserve the art form of congregational hymn singing and ensure that it is kept alive and designed to thrive. From all appearances and reports he succeeded in his goal on this past Thursday night.

What we sing is important. A Scottish patriot, Andrew Fletcher reportedly said, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”

On an occasion I had the opportunity of interviewing John Ashcroft, when he was attorney general of the United States, about his view of hymns. I knew that he was an admitted lover of hymns and the theology of the hymns. He explained, “The hymn ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ is an example of the theology that characterizes many of our hymns.”

“Consider the words of the third verse of that hymn”, he explained, "Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”

Ashcroft explained, “In this one verse you have the pardon of God, the peace of God, the presence of God, the power of God, and the promise of God.”

Indeed, the Bible tells us that we are to “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

Gerald Wolfe had Greater Vision, the Mylon Hayes family, the Whisnants, the Mark Trammel Quartet and other musical artists to enhance his program of worship, but from all reports it was a glorious time of praise and celebration.

The congregation joined in singing hymns like “Love Lifted Me,” “At Calvary,” “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” When We All Get to Heaven," “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Since Jesus Came into My Heart” and others.

Pastor Michael Boatfield gave a brief, but powerful invitation for those who needed salvation in Christ Jesus. The worship experience was marked by tears of joy and gratitude, heart-felt singing, an undeniable sense of God’s presence, and a nostalgic reminder that God is at home in the hearts of those who sing hymns with a joyful and surrendered life.


J. Gerald Harris is a retired pastor and journalist who served as editor of The Christian Index for nearly two decades.