A guest recently remarked that he enjoyed worshiping in our church since he’d had trouble finding a congregation that sang hymns. I was surprised at this comment, though I’m aware worship trends continue to evolve. Or do they? I remember as a teenager we sang choruses in our traditional church — choruses like “Thank You, Lord” and “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Granted these weren’t as upbeat as some modern choruses, but we had them as supplements to classic hymns.
And my boyhood church did a great job preparing us for worship leadership. Music ministers allowed two of my friends to direct and to sing, and our pastors let the two of us young preachers have his pulpit occasionally. How patient these kind saints were to tolerate us youngsters! I cringe when I think of some of the theology I had and the people skills I didn’t have.
Of course the system I grew up in is different from other denominations. Some churches have a waiting period and a licensing procedure for young ministers. In my church when a young man announces he’s called, the pastor often says, “Fine. Preach next Sunday.” A friend jokingly told about the three main points in his first sermon: “Read the Bible, go to church and be good.”
“That’s all I had,” he said.
My first sermon was 11 minutes, and I can’t remember my main points. Perhaps this is a blessing. We live in an era in which what people said 20, 30 or more years ago comes back to bite them. I find myself quoting George W. Bush who famously described his youthful life, “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.”
Our church had an annual youth week and allowed us teens to teach adult Sunday school classes. I remember one of these weeks when my adult men’s class was in the choir loft since we were cramped for space. How tolerant these men were. And Sunday nights were a special time when youth read scripture, sang and shared testimonies of God’s work in our lives.
Again, we live in an era of change. The majority of Sunday night services in our area have been discontinued. Sociologists tell us Sunday night has become an “at home” night — a time to get children ready for school the next day. Accordingly, restaurants and theaters have their smallest patronage on Sunday nights. So the church looks for other venues for teaching.
Many things have changed, but the mission of the local church hasn’t. We gather to praise God, to hear his word, to grow in relationship with one another and to focus on the needs of hurting people in our communities.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.