Updated: Sep 5, 2019
By: Dr. Barry C. Johnson
This article represents our Part 2 conclusion on the subject of ministering to the hip-hop generation during times of bereavement. God calls us to minister to all mankind, and it is the pastor’s desire to do so. This text is rather presented to provoke thought and give cause toward our readers’ attention to this growing trend for today’s churches.
As previously discussed, why does it seem that the first choice of extended families that appear to be submerged in the hip-hop phenomenon choose church as their funeral venue?
Any building could serve as the location, and other choices might be less restrictive. Regrettably, modern culture often endorses memorial services (in church), in which church values, and even the pastor, are not needed or wanted! In the face of this, how do pastors proceed? Do we allow ourselves such an overwhelming desire to be popular with a non-believing family that we reduce the service to a disconcerting pep rally? Do we disregard the need for truthfulness (though stingingly convicting), that one must seek and embrace the Lord while he is alive? One mentor advised during a particularly frustrating service to “continue to preach to the living;” however, it is difficult when the pastor knows he is probably being “tuned out,” as some people actually leave the building to go outside and wait for the conclusion.
The basis of any form of public speaking or communication is that the audience hear the message and understand its tenets to be engaged. At the type of funeral described, do we pastors implore a questionable approach that someway convinces the family that the deceased person will be saved? Why do seasoned pastors intone that “if you want to see the deceased again, you have to give your life to the Lord”? Is this type of statement accurate? Or rather, should pastors follow the position of a former Cardinal of Chicago, who stated that “one should not seek the minions of the church in death if they did not seek the same in life”? Younger pastors that are more familiar with contemporary culture are generally able to navigate the intricacies of the “hip-hop” funeral and move with a sense of purpose by providing comfort and healing, regardless of the distractions of the assembled audience. On the other hand, have we not witnessed older pastors who, while skillfully moving through the service, display signs of frustration and discomfort? Should we revert back to ancestral times when pastors were all but crude in their assessment of a non-believer’s life, using scare tactics to shake the living into seeking the Lord, “while we still have time?” All things are possible with God, but will those that are saved actually see the deceased, who may not be saved?
All logic is lost in this paradigm. Even so, the church is the greatest place for comfort, especially in times of tragic events. Jesus was quoted: “I will build My Church, and the very gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” When families are faced with situations such as these, the lost (especially those in the hip-hop phenomenon) need the sanctuary of the Church, where the power and love of Jesus overcomes the “hell” they are experiencing. It is what we churchgoers advocate; but even greater, it is what we believe! In spite of personal preference and prejudices, pastors are called by the Lord to authentically preach Jesus and His restorative power, regardless of the audience. In this manner, we go about doing our jobs, following our calling, and serving the community, notwithstanding civil circumstances. This is the beauty of the Church and why it will always be relevant to the needs of believers and the unchurched – the Message, the display of servanthood, and our authentic concern. What if the young people of the so-called hip-hop generation became personally involved in the church? What could be the strength of the body? What if our church values could be transmitted into the lives of the drug dealer or gangster? Would not lives be changed for the better of society and for the individuals’ prospects of eternal life?
We pastors know that our task is to comfort the living and attempt to ease the pain of loss, especially when it is tragic. We offer Jesus as an antidote to all ails of society. Ultimately, we must continue to preach Jesus the Redeemer, the Restorer; the merits of His Resurrection; and the power of His Church … to everyone!