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Biblical worship is trans-generational

Recently, an article was written by Thomas Rainer here  regarding a worship style that is attractive to Millennials. Just to be clear on the name “Millennials,” it is a generational term ascribed to a particular group of people born during a certain time period. Here is a list of the six living generations today:

“The Greatest Generation” – born between 1901-1924

“The Silent Generation” – born between 1925-1945

“Baby-Boomers” – born between 1946-1964

“Generation X” (or “Baby Busters”) – born between 1965-1980

“Millennials” (or “Generation Y”) – born between 1981-2000

“Generation Z” – born between 2001 and the present

Millennials-HappyIn this article, Rainer describes an occasion in which he and his son were asked what kind of worship style the Millennial generation prefers. Their answer was that the style of worship was not what mattered most to Millennials, but that they were attracted to churches which exhibited three elements: 1) music that has rich content, 2) authenticity in a worship service, and 3) a quality worship service. Now admittedly, those three elements are somewhat generic, and Rainer goes on to give further explanation of what each point means.

In the course of the article, Rainer points out that Millennials “will walk away from congregations that are still fighting about style of music, hymnals or screen projections, or choirs or praise teams. Those are not essential issues to Millennials, and they don’t desire to waste their time hearing Christians fight about such matters.”

I would like to offer some points to consider in response to this article.

  1. The three elements attractive to Millennials are all noble elements and worthy of consideration. I, too, desire to sing hymns with solid biblical content. I desire “authenticity” in our worship, and by that I mean that I desire for all believers attending our worship service to truly enter into the time of worship rather than be entertained by a select few performers on a stage. I also desire quality and excellence in our worship services. While excellence does not necessitate professionally trained musicians, it does mean adequate preparation and seeking to do one’s best for the glory of God.
  2. Every believer, no matter what age bracket, should desire those same elements. They are biblically based and helpful in worshipping God in a way that pleases Him and is acceptable to Him. The article, however, leaves the impression that it is only Millennials who desire those things. While there are no doubt examples of Christians in the past who did not model these elements, we cannot conclude that these elements were missing entirely from previous generations.
  3. During the course of the past several decades, various attempts at attracting the younger generation have  been made because of the importance of raising up the next generation of leadership. However, what is often cast aside is the number of older people in the church who currently serve as leaders who should themselves be training the next generation in the truths of solid biblical church leadership. When we forsake the wise counsel of the older men and women in our church, we risk the same chastisement that Kings Rehoboam and Joash faced due to their failure to listen to and follow wise elderly counsel (2 Chronicles 10 & 24).
  4. Healthy churches should be comprised of people in every generation. When church leaders seek to do whatever is necessary to pull in more of the younger crowd (such as Millennials), they run the risk of pushing out people in other generations before them, and therefore create an unbalanced church ministry. The Millennial generation is not the only generation that should be desired in a church. Personally, I am thankful for the fact that we have folks from every one of the generations listed above. We are all united around biblical truth and a desire for biblical worship.
  5. Perhaps there is a reason why Millennials are not concerned about discussions regarding worship, music, etc. Perhaps it is because in their individualism, which is common to many young people no matter when they are born, they refuse to acknowledge that God indeed cares about the very things that they may not. Rebellion is bound up in all of our hearts. However, I would guess that discussions regarding worship and music are important to people in other generations who desire biblically accurate worship. I suggest that we do less catering to the younger generation and more praying for them and modeling conservative, theologically-sound, loving, evangelistic (and whatever other buzz-word you want to insert) Christianity before them. This starts in the home with parents being consistently loving disciplinarians.
  6. Finally, the so-called “non-issues” of the Millennials should not be dismissed as unimportant by Christian leaders. It is not a waste of time discussing what kind of worship does or does not please God. It is not a waste of time discussing various musical issues. While the younger crowd may not understanding the full significance of such discussions, the older and wiser Christian leaders should. God cares about what kind of worship is offered to Him. He does not accept just any worship done with a sincere heart. If worship matters to God, it should matter to us as well, and should not be thrown aside as a “non-issue.” Rather we must teach the younger generations about these important matters to God.

Again, let me reiterate the point that I also desire theologically rich hymn texts coupled with authentic and genuine worship. However, I do not desire these things in an attempt to attract Millennials, I desire those things because those sentiments are pleasing to God. God wants me to sing theological truth in praise to Him; God desires my heart to worship Him sincerely.

Let us all understand, though, that when it comes to the worship of God, what matters is not what any one particular person or generation desires. Worship has nothing to do with pleasing those who are worshipping; worship is all about pleasing God. Therefore, as Hebrews 12:28-29 teaches us, we must worship the right God (the God as described in the Bible) with a right heart (sincerely and wholeheartedly) and in a right way (indicating that there is an unacceptable way). We are created to worship God. Therefore we must be diligent to discern and practice proper worship and teach our children and every age group what proper worship is, because our God is a consuming fire, and worthy of all the praise, glory, and worship His creation properly ascribes to Him.

This essay first appeared here and is republished by permission.

About Guest Author

This guest article has been published because an editor has determined its contents to be supportive of the values of Religious Affections Ministries. Its publication does not imply full agreement between its author and RAM on other matters.