Why don’t young people stay in church? Why don’t they respect tradition and the old ways of worship? Why don’t they like the old hymns?
I did NOT intend to touch on this…like…ever. Especially not here. But here we are. I’m going to present my side of the issue and let you decide how you feel. You’re allowed to disagree with me. I don’t really care how it makes you feel, your feelings are not my responsibility. **please see disclaimer at the homepage of my site.**
I’m talking directly to the people who think hymns are the superior way to worship. Or should be the only music in the church. I’m talking the people who grumble about “modern” music ruining the church.
It must have been the Facebook post that made me snap. Maybe it was the mutterings of an older member of the faith. Maybe it was the stories people share about churches breaking apart. Maybe it was even the lecture I got from someone who insisted you weren’t a TRUE Christ follower if your church used anything more than a piano during a hymn singing. Maybe it was all of these spinning up into a mental tornado finally crashing into the opinions section of my being, demanding a response.
Worship is how you define it. John Piper gives the best explanation of what worship is to Christians, in my opinion. In Matthew 15:8-9 Jesus divides worship as inner and outer expressions saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” To Jesus, if it’s not from the heart, its worthless to him. So then, to worship without a heart dimension are we not worshiping?
One of my dearest friends has struggled with her belief in God for most of her life. She studied Philosophy and Religion in college and constantly bounced between doctrines and beliefs, arguing pillars of religious faith. She looked as far back as she could without reading the Bible itself. She studied histories and cultural implications of different divisions and denominations. She had all the knowledge and finally said, “Yes, I believe there is a God.”
I was so relieved when she told me that. But my heart soon sunk. She still hadn’t EXPERIENCED God. She hadn’t had that moment where God whispered into her soul, “I died for you. Come to Me. I can lift this burden.” She hadn’t felt the grace wash over her. She hadn’t felt the Spirit of God enter her life. Her eyes were still shut to anything but rules, laws, declarations, and decrees. Her chase for knowledge didn’t get her any closer to understanding God Himself. It didn’t bring her any peace. The realization was with her lips but not her heart.
Worship is how we see God. What is he worthy of? Reverence? Dedication? Worship is putting the supreme worth of God on display to Him.
Worship is manifested in the heart. And we know that what comes out of the heart comes into our life. So each action, word spoken, and thought given should be an act of worship. Our heart worships, our mind, our soul, our spirit, our body, our very thoughts worship. This is why Christianity is a way of life.
In Piper’s words, “The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God, overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.”
For me, I haven’t focused on worship if I haven’t entered into God’s presence. I worship away from people easily. But in church it’s never exactly what I need or can get used to. I never hold that against the church. It’s my own comfort zone -and I’m working on it.
This week, for the first time in my life, I went to church and didn’t want to stop worshiping– and it was with *gasp* modern music.
That’s not to put down any other church I’ve attended or any worship I’ve experienced. In fact I’ve experienced some great and incredible things in churches. I’ve worshiped in a pew, a park bench, a car, a bike path while riding my bike, on a yoga mat, in a field with a thousand others at a music festival, in prayer with friends and I’ve worshiped at home in my own bed. There’s no rule on where and when. That’s one of the beauties of worship with the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t care where. He loves us in the light and in the dark.
Church for me was a place of knowledge and learning and music. I’ve been to every type of service you can imagine, every denomination. Just because I wanted to experience it. Through all this, hymns let me stand in awe of what God does in the lives of men. It gives me imagery and a quiet respect. A select few make me want to dance before the throne of God. “Modern” music brings me past the Outer Courts and into the Holy Place. It drags my withered parts out and into constant worship and holds me at the altar. It raises my hands, moves my feet and lifts my voice. There is so much passion in modern music.
I’m not here to say one is better than the other. I just want people to respect the fact that a lot of people feel closer to God with other music in the church. Hymns have their own power. They’ve been around for a long time for a reason. They are beautiful. But they aren’t the law. They aren’t doctrine. They aren’t what make us Christians. And they aren’t the only option. Part of the beauty in America is that you can always choose another church at any time. Our paths change, and so do our needs. Your spiritual life should be changing and growing constantly.
I’m not saying you should ditch one for the other either. Some churches have a specific calling, and if yours is only hymns that’s great! You will attract people who only want that. Just keep that last sentence in mind…
If hymns are how you enter the presence of God, I don’t judge you. Go you. That’s great.
Hymns, traditionally, hold better memories for the generations before us and therefore they prefer to enjoy those memories while singing. Worship means different things to the separate generations. My generation is just more idealistic and charismatic.
Lastly, to answer the questions:
Why aren’t young people staying in church? – I see a ton of young people at my church. They just aren’t at YOUR church.
Why don’t they respect the old ways? – We do, but we go where we are fed. If a church welcomes our involvement and listens to what we have to say we stay and flourish.
Why don’t they like the old hymns? – We didn’t say we don’t like them. We just prefer to encounter God in a real way and hymns don’t always get our generation there. We’re wired differently. We have better options so we lean towards the better version of worship for our spiritual walk. You tried to force us to like hymns and your church got smaller. The numbers speak from themselves.
The moment I hear someone scoff at the new “Modern” music I know I’ll never want to visit their church. That tells me they don’t respect things that are different, most of all me. They don’t like how I encounter God on emotional, spiritual, mental and physical ways. There is so much passion in modern music that they refuse to see. Have they watched young people fall to their knees in worship? Have they seen whole groups of teens crowded around their struggling peer, crying with one hand in the air and one hand on their friend? Maybe they should some day. Have they seen anyone inside a church grumble about the 15th repetition of the chorus while tears stream down their face and their hands are in the air? No, because that’s in the passion. I don’t care how many times the chorus is repeated. Just like I also don’t care how we “Bring in the sheaves.”
How incredible actual worship is!
I leave you with this, if your heart is to chase what God wants -and since part of what He wants is true worship from the heart, chase whatever music brought you into the presence of God. But don’t be afraid to experience God on a new level with new music. You may be surprised at what it does to you.
The Mild Millennial