How should we “do” worship? Sometimes there are about as many answers to that question as there are people. Some of our friends want to recapture evangelicalism’s former “glory years” by holding on to the past. Others want to revamp just about everything we do around here in order to reach the youngest generation of adults.
Most certainly, reaching young adults is a noble pursuit. Let’s do it! According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, at least 25% of those whom we generally label “millennials” claim no religious affiliation whatsoever. This makes their generation the most faith-disconnected generation in American history.
But how will we do it?
Will it be all about “branding” and “market share” and “trendy”? Will “edginess” and “hip” and “decaf mocha breves” (admittedly my favorite) really impress for the long haul? Those words may have their place in our conversations about attracting young adults, but they must not drive the train.
The gospel of Jesus must drive the train. The glory of God. And the family of faith – the church – as the community where both are experienced. For real.
It is the gospel alone that will disclose the secrets of the millennial’s heart (or anybody else’s, for that matter), and it is that same glorious gospel displayed in authentic worship (regardless of music preference or style!) that will cause him or her to “fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (First Corinthians 14:24-25).
Rachel Held Evens, herself a millennial, writes in The Washington Post (April 30): “You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve. You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water. You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.”
Millennials want authentic. Millennials want genuine. Millennials want real. Just saying.
Evens wisely calls us to recapture “those strange rituals and traditions Christians have been practicing for the last 2000 years.” And she graciously reminds us: “They don’t need to be repackaged or rebranded; they just need to be practiced, offered and explained in the context of a loving, authentic, and inclusive community.”
Beloved church family, we still have to tell the truth about Christian doctrine. We still have to call sin “sin.” But that includes telling the truth about our sin, and not striving so hard to create such a trendy “worship environment” that we leave behind the things that matter most (and always did). I think that our young blogger friend is right to remind us to keep it real along the way.