By Kenneth D. MacHarg
It’s interesting how what we take for granted may be an unknown to people from other locations or other generations.
Take a hootenanny—something that was an important cultural activity for my generation that is generally unknown to people several decades younger.
The last one I attended was part of a chapel service at the office of the Latin America Mission in Miami fifteen or more years ago. On that morning one person came in with a guitar, sat us in a circle and started to play familiar Christian music to which we all sang along. It went on for an hour, just great singing, strong praise and warm fellowship.
When it was all over a younger missionary said, “That was great.” I agreed, and replied that I had not been involved in a hootenanny in many years.
She looked at me with a blank stare and asked, “A what?”
Ah, such cultural deprivation.
(According to an online dictionary a hootenanny is “an informal gathering with folk music.” Indeed, in our generation we usually sang folk music with some protest songs mixed in as recorded by artists such as the Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Woody Guthrie among many others.)
Then there was the young woman who was asked to occasionally lead worship at one church we served. She agreed, but informed me that she had not started attending church until she was 17 when she committed herself to Christ. From there she attended a congregation that used only contemporary music. But, she said, if I wanted to use a more traditional hymn, she would do her best to learn it and lead it.
One week I requested that we use the great hymn “How Great Thou Art” in the worship. I sent her a link to You Tube where she could hear it. Her response was that it was a “nice song” and she would do her best.
However, on Sunday morning she approached me before the service with a worried look on her face and asked whether I thought people would know it.
I assured her that they would, and said, “Whenever we sing ‘How Great Thou Art’ everybody thinks they are George Beverly Shea and sings out loud and strong.”
She looked at me with a blank stare and asked, “George who?”
At that moment, I felt very old. (By the way, when I explained that Mr. Shea had accompanied Billy Graham in his crusades for many years, she said, “Billy Graham? I have heard of him.”)
Ah yes, the aging process isn’t just aching muscles, a slower gait and a fuzzy memory. It’s also a shift so great that there is, at worst, a divide which is sometimes difficult to cross and, at best, a totally different way of doing things that continue to glorify the Lord and bring people to Him even as they leave the older generation in the dust.
That being said, it is important and exciting to note that a younger generation is stepping in to pick up the leadership mantle and carry forth the work.
The older generation is leaving us (the next to last living professor from my days in seminary just died a month or two ago). With them they take their knowledge and experience, but also their own style of doing things and reaching out.
While I often miss the old ways, I am absolutely grateful for those who step forward and, in their own way, with the new technology and methodology, and address the need of a younger generation to know our Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t always understand their ways or their technology or even their vocabulary (hootenanny? What’s that?). But I want to cheer on their commitment and dedication.
I also want to encourage them to remain true to the Gospel; to focus worship on our Lord and not the worship leaders; and to preach the Word of God as revealed in the Bible rather than their own understandings or wise sayings or personal interpretations.
I am reminded of the eternal biblical truth:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. Psalm 136
We will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4: 17
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
The word of the Lord endures forever. 1 Peter 1:25
To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Jude 1:25
So, if you don’t know what a hootenanny is, don’t worry about it, just sing out praises to the Lord. If you don’t know who George Beverly Shea was, don’t worry about it; just keep witnessing to what Jesus Christ has done in your life.
As long as the methods are honest, the treatment of others just, and the proclamation of the Word is true to the Gospel, sing it out! Live it out!
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