why WILL we worship?

Timely piece written by David Lose that you can read here.  It’s really about the future of the church as it pertains to worship, and whether the so-called next generation will continue showing up every Sunday like their parents and grandparents did if things don’t change.  Just to let you know how relevant this article is, you should know I've had conversations about this very topic about 3 times in the last week alone.  And all 3 have been with people of different ages and church backgrounds.

Two paragraphs in particular caught my attention, though the entire article is worth a read:
We need to rethink how we “do church” in relation to a changed cultural context where fewer and fewer people go to church just because their parents did. Instead, people want church participation to mean something. They want, in other words, to get something out of it
There’s little doubt that this represents a generational sea change. If I were to ask my parents whether “church worked for them,” they would likely not understand the question. They didn’t expect church to work. Or, more accurately, they went to church out of a sense of faithfulness. That’s just what you did on Sunday morning. Sure, sometimes it was more uplifting and inspiring than others, but that wasn’t the point. They didn’t go with the primary expectation that church would “meet their needs,” but rather attended out of a mixture of faith, habit, and duty. 
I have tons of questions regarding this topic, and I think that's where we are and need to be right now; that is, we need to be asking questions.  And we cannot fear the answers.  Are we willing to “rethink” church?  Are we willing to do things differently so that the next generation will choose worship over all the other really cool, fun, important things to do in the world today? (I’m not being sarcastic; there are plenty of really cool things people can do on Sunday mornings that don’t involve church!)  Will the generations that show up faithfully, out of habit, faith, and duty, be willing to give a little in order that the next generation might feel empowered and heard?  Finally - well barely finally, the list of questions could go on and on - what is the change that will make church mean something to those disillusioned with church? 

Here is the area I’m wrestling with – if church matters, and gathering as the body of Christ matters, why is it so hard to compel people to place value on attending church?  I don’t think the issue is that people are walking away from faith per se, but that they are walking away from the church as an institution.  Church programs are still relatively well attended, but the value placed on Sunday morning worship is definitely on the decline.  And the answer, I believe, isn’t going to be found in simply making worship more exciting, dynamic, or stylistically palatable.  It’s somewhere else.  Where?  Well, that’s the million dollar question!

I’m with Lose – I’m excited to see what it will look like to worship and be in community with a group of people who truly want to be there – not out of obligation, guilt, or duty – but because church is like breathing; it’s something we can’t live without.  

There is really only one place to start when it comes to tackling this tough topic – we must begin to LISTEN and try our best to withhold judgment on a group of people who love Jesus, are are at the least interested in spirituality, but just don’t value attending church in its current form.  Are we willing to listen?  Are we willing to process what we hear and do something that makes people want to worship God together?  Or is this just an issue of a generation that is selfish and hard-hearted?  So many questions, and too few answers.  That's why I'm convinced listening is the only way forward.


Christian Tiger said...

So, basically, if God doesn't give you results every Sunday, why should we go? Is that really what my generation is saying?

I think the idea of relevancy here is a moot point because the Church endured the sixties and free love/liberation, endured the seventies and disco, endured the 80s and Aids, endured the 90s, and continues to endure.

I'm not saying Jesus can't move every Sunday but there is something to just having that measure of faithfulness that I think it probably more crucial than just expecting God to move.

Joshua Smith said...

Seeing Christian Tiger's response the one thing that popped into my head was a lyric from Leonard Bernstein's "Mass"

"For the Word, for the Word was at the birth of the beginning; it made the heavens and the earth and set them spinning, and for several million years it's withstood all our forums and fine ideas: it's been rough, it's been rough but it appears to be winning."

Now that is not to say Bernstein had tapped into some heavenly knowledge or deny the fact that this is talking about Jesus and not Sunday morning worship services. However, what it is saying is the times change, the authorities and the culture changes, but one thing that has remained the same throughout history is the Word of the Lord. That being said, we as church leaders are called to stand firm in obedience to Christ. It is clear to me throughout Scripture that this life is to be lived in community. Our Sunday morning gatherings are much more than something we do out of habit and duty, it is a communal gathering to offer praise to God and to hear of His message. The question I ask is: have those who have gone before us given us a false definition of what Sunday morning is all about? Furthermore, is the notion to change in order to conform to the way culture seems to be going? If so, is that the way Christ reacted to all that was happening in His days on earth?