Missing A Beat
Posted on August 20, 2009 by Paul | 2 Comments | Jump to Comments Box Below
Missing A Beat
by Paul Baloche
“What’s wrong with the church? What’s wrong with modern worship? What is it that would help most twentysomethings connect with God, and how would music fit in and encourage that connection?” Over the past year I have made a point of interviewing lots of twentysomethings and asking them for honest feedback regarding all things worship. I have been surprised and challenged by their responses. Following is a fictional yet common synopsis of their accounts.
Picture, If You Will…
You walk into the Friday night college group of a prominent church. In the foyer you see about hundred college-aged students mingling about getting coffee, munching on day-old pastries, and talking. Music blares form the speakers throughout the hall and sanctuary causing everyone to shout out their hellos. These kids have the perfect haircuts, the most put-together outfits, and an air about them that says, “You couldn’t possible be as good-looking as me, even if you tried.” Intimidating to say the least, this group looks more like they’re dressing up for a night on the town rather than coming together to worship God.
After a few songs punctuated by well-timed lights and a moody atmosphere, smoke billowing down the aisles and a virtual mosh pit in the front, the pastor walks on stage and addresses the crowd. “If it’s your first time, we welcome you here. The way we see worship, if you can scream your guts out at a football game or dance around at a concert, you can do it here for God.” And on he goes with anecdotes, with a spiritual bent, that have everyone snickering and cheering for various pop culture icons.
Individual expression in worship is wonderful. If these people want to raise their hands for God, dance and jump around, that’s all fine. But maybe we are taking something special out of this connection with God by mimicking other areas of entertainment. Have we come together to be entertained, to take part in some godly rock show? Often times this is what it feels like. The worship band seems more in focus than God. After seeing the staff at some of those places, I begin to understand partially why everyone in the congregation looks like celebrities. They’re all young, dressing even younger and acting like they’re the best thing since carbonated beverages. Those who who can call the staff friends are automatically a notch cooler than the rest. Where is the focus here? Where is God here?
This type of service might please some, but I’ve talked with many who are less than satisfied. Rather than feeling accepted into this crowd, newcomers feel intimidated and separate. Skillful musicians and singers do the worship, but the performance and light show can be distracting. Though they are greeted at the door, it’s easy to feel like the person in front of you is just playing a part, obviously not that interested in you as a person because as soon as you start to respond, they’re on to the next person. What is lacking here? What makes this atmosphere so easy to play along with, but so lacking in meaning?
More Than This
I’ve found that this generation is not looking for another show, another competition, or another place to feel inadequate. They seek authenticity. They seek people who are genuine through and through. Worship is supposed to be the heart’s cry to its maker. The leaders in worship should be focused on a genuine expression of the heart, not simply a performance.
What this comes down to is a pursuit of truth. Twentysomethings don’t long for a sugarcoated version of the Bible, faith and church doctrine. They seek an in-depth exploration of what it means to be Christian – Bible studies and sermons focusing on why Christians believe what they believe, not because tradition says so, but because of what Scripture claims.
Consider a church that explores the root cause of modern Christian culture. Why throw out rules of the Old Testament Law while keeping others? Why even keep some rules of the New Testament church and throw out others? Why consider some things to be cultural according to biblical time and some things transcendent throughout the ages? These are only a few of the complicated questions that are pertinent to what Christians believe today. Young adults long to discuss these ideas. Sure, a fool-proof answer might not surface, but it’s the journey and the pursuit that is important.