Coming from a non-Christian background, I began experiencing faith at the age of 13, even though I became a follower of Christ with an “owned faith” at the age of 19. I had been probing my faith at the age of 16. That was the period when I ran away from God. However, I thank God that, by His grace, He blessed me with a community of faith to bring me back into His presence, and today I can serve Him and write this thesis. I thank God for his bringing me back to the faith that I once had before I ran away from the Lord. This was the period when I was in the stage of “searching faith.”
Later, I went through John H. Westerhoff III’s “Stages of Faith Development.” Even though Westerhoff’s model is proposed to be applied in terms of physical age, yet it is also applicable in terms of the spiritual age of a person, as it did in my case.
What led me to study the importance of Intergenerational Worship (IGW) can be traced back to the period in my life when I started to serve in the campus ministry in what was then Inti College Malaysia in Nilai. I had one question, “Why had so many students who were from Christian background left their faith, or why do so many of them feel so reluctant to go to church?” I felt that, had a person been raised in a Christian family, they should have owned the Christian faith and been serving God passionately by the time they reached this college-going age. I did not find an answer to this question until I responded to serve the Lord and was transferred to the Church of Our Holy Saviour in Labuan, where I served in the youth and children ministries. My concern for the youths was that, when the time came for them to move to Kuala Lumpur or other parts of West Malaysia, or perhaps overseas for their studies, they would continue to worship and serve the Lord. I then realized that, in order for them to find a sense of belonging in church, those serving in the youth and children ministries must intentionally spend time with them in order to disciple them. They must be intentionally taught to love the Lord and to serve Him.
In 2008, in order to create awareness for the importance of IGW, the Diocese of Sabah organized the first children conference with the theme of “Children Can Worship.” It was an initial step to mobilize the churches in the Diocese to encourage children to worship together with adults. It was through this conference that I was made aware of the importance of IGW, and it answered the question I had asked above.
I am convinced that a person’s experiential faith is important for their spiritual formation. One’s experience of faith is the foundation of nurturing the faith of that person. This foundation must be intentionally built by equipping themselves with the Word of God. Despite going through a stage of “searching faith,” they would eventually return to the Lord one day because of their experience with God. They would know the praiseworthy acts of God, just like the Prodigal Son, who came back to his father when he remembered how much he could have, should he return to his father. The youths who would be going to a big city like Kuala Lumpur for their studies would have their faith challenged by all kinds of temptations or ‘Baals” offered by the city, which will be examined in Chapter One. Their priorities might change if they were not careful and if they lack a proper foundation in their faith. This younger generation cannot be lost, for they are the future of their churches.