A senior adult shared the above cartoon with me a few weeks ago. He thought it was funny, but I wasn’t laughing. I’ve also heard a guest speaker at a ministry luncheon tell a similar joke, and while the older adults in the room laughed away, I noticed that all of the young people grew extremely quiet and withdrawn.
Why the icy silence? Because we know that this isn’t really a joke… it’s a passive aggressive attack on our generation and the worship songs which speak to our hearts in a powerful way. And we’ve endured this sort of “drive-by shooting” before… more times than we can count. The Baby Boomer generation has a strong fighting spirit. This was wonderful when it carried them through Pearl Harbor and World War II, but now that they’ve set their sights on young people it is doing serious harm to the church.
Of course, many older people feel that they are the ones being targeted. In some cases, this may be true. But in my experience, the young people of my generation continue to sing old hymns and love them dearly. No matter how many old favorites we sing, however, planning even one worship service which predominately uses praise choruses brings us under a fresh barrage of attacks.
I grew up singing old hymns and love them, but as I type worship slides I often find myself worried about the outdated language. If church visitors can’t understand what we’re singing about because it is literally like a foreign language to them, how can it be meaningful and prepare their hearts to worship God? Don’t forget, too, that music itself is a language. Some hymns are absolutely stunning, while others clunk along with tunes that are so cheesy it almost feels irreverent to play them – as if we’re attempting to worship the God of Hosts with corny carnival music.
Am I attacking the use of hymns? Absolutely not. They’re an important part of our Christian heritage and I hope we’ll continue to teach them to coming generations. But if we want to use these songs to reach modern people for Christ (which is the whole point, by the way) then we desperately need to update the language and the musical style of many of these hymns.
To put it simply, we must focus on giving the LORD the glory due His name (Psalm 29:2), worshipping God with the right spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and encouraging one another and building up other members of God’s family instead of tearing them down (I Thessalonians 5:11).
And yes, this cuts both ways. No matter which side of the debate you personally fall on, please catch yourself the next time you’re tempted to make a passive aggressive remark about worship styles. Attacking other believers and drawing attention away from God during times of worship is not cute. This is a sin, and one that will surely bring God’s judgment.
During Times of Worship, Can You Honestly Say That Your Focus is on God and God Alone?