Eph. 3:20 ¶ Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul’s prayer in the middle of his letter to the church in Ephesus is a blessing to us all. Not only does he speak to those who were living in and around Ephesus, but he speaks to us today as well. He recognized that there was a power that would come to us through the working of the Holy Spirit that could accomplish much more than we could ever imagine. Human limitations would be broken through the infilling and overpowering work of the Holy Spirit and in this way it is God who would be glorified and praised.
At the same time the prayer was for the presence of God (his glory) to be revealed in the church, which is the body of Christ. The role of the church in the revelation of Christ’s presence here on earth is vitally important and within this prayer we receive clues as to what this is to look like. Within the church God’s presence is to be experienced in a very real way and God’s presence is witnessed in the actions of the body. The body (the church) is to be the reflection of Jesus Christ to the world. When you have a united body who is focused on reflecting Christ, the reflection is, obviously, magnified, and this is to include the entire body of Christ — all generations that may worship together now, and forever and ever.
What are the implications for the church today regarding this statement of “all generations?” A number of years ago the church growth movement adopted a number of principles from the world of marketing and sales. These concepts included focus on a particular demographic group. It is my contention that we moved worship away from being God - focused to being consumer-focused. Why not make church the way that people want to have church! Therefore we began to divide up and create multiple personalities when it came to worship. We also began to divide up the church generationally.
Not only has style of worship divided the church but some of our practices have as well. The little children were making too much noise and disturbing the service so we started numerous programs for them where they could go and learn about Jesus (or maybe be entertained and have nice child care). We segregated the children from the whole family and while there are churches who are trying to invite the children into the sanctuary for family worship, we find that there are many adults (parents included) who are resistant. They don’t like the effort that it takes to have the children present.
What about our teens? We provide special youth groups where our teens can fellowship and study the word together. This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. However, we have created a sub-culture of young people who worship in their own way that often has nothing to do with what is happening in the sanctuary. Later we wonder why they don’t transition into “big church.”
And then there are the senior adults who like to sing their hymns (using the books!). They are a growing demographic within the population. The recent Pew Study in the United States shows a huge change within the population and the way we have always viewed things. While older people have typically been a small and shrinking part of the population they will become a large and significant part of the US population in the years ahead with an equal number of older adults and children. This must change the way we think about doing church.
God is glorified in the church when the whole body of Christ is represented, from the youngest to the oldest and the Pew study shows that we will have the greatest possibility of glorifying God in this way in the days ahead. However, to do so we will need to be intentional. How do we bring together every generation to worship God and allow this combined reflection of Christ to make a tangible difference in the world?
We must be intentional about ways in which we do bring every generation together, learning to appreciate one another, and giving deference and honor to each other. The focus of our worship must be on God and what he desires from all of us, not about what we want. When the focal point of worship is the one who is receiving the praise then I believe that our attitudes will change. The ways in which we plan services will change and God will be glorified.
May we, together with Paul, stop and pray for God’s leading and guidance in the family of God so that the glory will be in the church for all generations, those living and those yet to come.
Lord, thank you for the diversity of age and that we may, together, glorify you. Amen.