Saturday, November 14, 2009

If It's Too Loud, You're Too Old--A Caveat to Cranky Christians

This is no doubt going to step on some toes or ruffle some feathers... oh, well... That has never troubled me greatly, so here goes.

My sons play in a secular hard rock band called Tailgunner Joe. They also play in their church praise bands. My older son plays guitar at Relevant Church, a fairly young, non-denominational church in Ybor City populated largely by 20-somethings. My younger son plays drums upon occasion at his home church, a Methodist church here in north Tampa. Their experiences are vastly different and highly instructional to those who care to learn.

Relevant, the non-denominational church, has a praise band that will just blow your socks off. They are gifted and they are loud. David Crowder, one of Christian contemporary music's most influential musicians, has a song entitled "Our Love Is Loud." And that, to me, is a perfectly valid style of worship. When I go to Relevant Church, I find myself energized, immersed in an internal place of worship. The music allows me to open up to God in some way. That's the only way I know to describe it.

When I go to the Methodist church, which has a long and deep history in the community, the experience is very different. Muted, faded, as though exuberance in worship is an embarrassment of sorts. But, I've learned to adjust my expectations. The praise band plays contemporary music but almost bashfully, as though there is some inherent offense in it. And, there is.

I have watched congregants walk up to the sound engineer during worship and complain about the volume. I have watched congregants cover their ears as though they are in excruciating aural pain. I have even watched congregants storm out in a huff, making sure everyone saw them and knew why they were leaving. It isn't that the church doesn't offer them a quieter, more traditional service earlier in the day. It's that they'd rather put on a little show of their own so everyone knows of their disapproval, not only of the volume, really, but of the musical style altogether. And people wonder why the Christian church is not only not growing, but is actually shrinking in the US.

The orthodox Christian church has long known it has a problem reaching and retaining the 20-somethings. The only exceptions I have found in my research are the non-denominational churches like Relevant, and the Assembly of God churches. Why is that? I propose it's because the established churches have become ossified and politically driven. They have forgotten that their overriding charge is given to them in The Great Commission, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you".

The Christian church is growing overseas, especially in Third World countries. Why is that? I think it's at least in part because those congregants are not saddled with 300-year-old traditions, including music, that bear no relation to the culture in which they function. I also propose that in the US, the Christian church is dying for, at least in part, the opposite reason. One of the cornerstones of Christianity is that you must take people where they are and speak to them in ways they understand. Today's 20-somethings function in a culture that many of us cannot even begin to comprehend. The churches that get it, that speak the language these young seekers understand, will thrive, will create new believers. The churches that don't will die. And, maybe that's as it should be. If you are in your 50's or 60's and don't want to see your church die with your generation, make room for the new ones.

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