One of the hallmarks of today’s post modern young adults is that they like to “experience” things. They are not as interested in sitting in a classroom hearing about rock climbing as they are in actually climbing the rock. They are not as interested in learning about acting theory as they are in actually standing on the stage and just doing it. They are not as interested in reading about South America as they are in visiting South America and meeting the people, eating the food, etc. Today’s post modern young adults like to be fully engaged in what they are doing. This has given rise to “extreme” sports and other experience based adventures.
Many churches have struggled in keeping young adults active in worship services because many churches offer little in the way of “experience” during a typical worship service. Churches hire student ministers to plan trips and activities, and young people flock to those events, but when it comes to actually attending worship services, the number of active young adults drops dramatically.
While some cutting edge churches are experimenting with “new” kinds of worship, perhaps we might consider going back to the ancient ways of the early church. In the early church a large group did not sit and just listen to a man speak. They often interacted with the speaker and asked questions. Paul even had to address this in one of his letters to the church of Corinth because the question asking was so great that it had begun to distract from the point. Early worship utilized the experience of communion much more than many evangelical churches today. On a regular basis they actually passed a piece of bread around the room and each person pinched off a piece and ate it. That is so different from the once a quarter pre-packaged communion wafers that some churches use today. Even baptism was an experience in the early church. They only practiced full body immersion of an adult believer in the first century. Just think about how much more a powerful experience that would be compared to the few drops of water sprinkled on the head of an infant that is often practiced today. Even the music was more experiential in the first century. The Psalms was the early hymn book of the church. When we read it we see that a number of instruments were used, not just one person playing the organ. And a number of people were leading the worship, not just one “worship leader.” All those people who were involved were part of the experience, not just observers of someone else doing it. Even the songs themselves were experiential. The early church sang songs TO God not just songs ABOUT God. When we read the Psalms we see that they are interactive exchanges between a Holy God and His people, much more so than many of the one way conversations of far too many hymns in our 1950’s era hymn book.
The reality was, first century worship was VERY experiential. And if we want our worship services to be biblical then they need to be experiential too. Interestingly enough, having more biblical worship services will actually help us reach more post modern young adults. Who would have thought?