Well, I’m back on the church music subject again. Saturday night I sat in the pews for the first time in a long time while someone else led worship music. Our regular praise band is now deemed too old fashioned for the youth. Our contemporary praise band was no longer contemporary enough. We were put out to pasture. I felt like the wife who is dumped after 20 years of marriage so her husband can take off with a younger woman.
I remember many years ago when we sidelined the choirs because they were too old fashioned for us, so I guess it is payback time. I wasn’t stunned by the difference in the service though. Instead of our two or three guitars and a piano it was just one guitar. He was barefoot and in shorts. He played the same songs we did, only he raised the key higher than most people there could sing. I wondered why this was considered better by the church leaders, and more attractive to the youth. Lagging attendance made them concerned that Saturday night services weren’t meeting the needs and goals of the church board. I felt the 50 or so faithful that came had their needs met, and besides I really wondered whether any music change would successfully attract youth on a Saturday night service.
I confess, I am weary of going into churches where they have to hand out ear plugs because the music is so loud it is damaging to your hearing, where it becomes performance art rather than worship. Church leaders worry that once all these “old folks” die off there won’t be anyone to support the church and the doors will close. That is a bit too business like and materialistic for my taste. We should be concentrating on reaching out to individuals who can be touched by Christ on a personal one to one level. Jesus didn’t worry about the band or the collections plate. He didn’t concern himself with the men’s fellowship dinner or the ladies retreat. He taught and reached out to people (yes, I know the healing was a part of it all that attracted the crowd, but the teaching was the main thing.) Jesus taught in small groups and large. People gathered around him informally. They ate and drank as he spoke and moved freely. Perhaps a format change that creates that informal setting is something we need more than a musical format change to attract younger folks.
To be fair, I have to admit that if that musical change is what it takes to get them to come to a church service, then it is time to make the change. For too long we’ve held on to all sorts of traditions that don’t work. Even though I saw no significant difference in the music and felt that a barefoot post-teen leading music was hardly worth the effort, there were several new young people there. Will they continue to come on a Saturday night, which is traditionally party-time and date night for most youth? Will there be more than 50 of them? I hope so, I really do. The church needs to do everything it can to reach these kids with the gospel. We are failing miserably at that all across our nation. But still I’m uneasy about this one.
And what of the 50 older people that already so faithfully come to that service? I am fearful that all the older ones will get the wrong message and think they are not valued and will leave.