Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Using Music to Reach the Next Generation - Part Two

In our last post we began a discussion of how churches can use music to reach the next generation. You can read that first post here. As we continue the discussion in this post it is important to point out that churches sometimes resist changing their music by accusing more modern Christian music of being shallow. While it is true that in the 1970s much of the praise music seemed like it used five words repeated ten times, which resulted in theologically weak lyrics, praise and worship music has significantly evolved in the past forty years. Modern praise music is no longer shallow. Those who persist in thinking this fail to grasp the depth of adoration for God that wells up from deep within young adults when they sing and play music to the Lord.

While young people do prefer the music to be upbeat, what is more important to them is that the music is filled with spiritual passion. Paul Baloche is a worship leader and prolific songwriter of many top contemporary Christian songs, including, “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” “Above All,” “Hosanna,” “Oering,” and “Your Name.” Writing about the growing desire for authentic worship among young adults, Baloche says: “I’ve found that this generation is not looking for another show, another competition, or another place to feel inadequate. They seek authenticity. They seek people who are genuine through and through.” Worship is supposed to be the heart’s cry to its maker. The leaders in worship should be focused on a genuine expression of the heart, not simply a performance.

Though many criticisms of the worship music of the past were genuine, the growing desire to actually connect with God in a real way is what is now fueling young adults to worship God intently, even if their style of music is not the typical in many churches. Skeptics of modern Christian music run the risk of following the example of Michal, the wife of David, who despised David’s passion for worshiping the Lord in 2 Samuel 6. In the Bible, music was a personal interaction between worshipers and God. Psalms was the early hymn book of the church. When we read the Psalms, we see intimate personal exchanges between a holy God and His people.

That is why many modern worship songs are drawn from the Psalms or other Scripture passages. Though more traditional Christians may not like to admit it, many modern worship songs are far more biblical than some traditional hymns because they are drawn directly from Scripture and sung directly to God, which was the original intent of the Psalms. When we wrongly criticize “modern” Christian music, we might actually be criticizing the Bible, something most evangelicals would prefer to avoid.

Young people’s preference for a band instead of just a piano and organ also can be a challenge for a congregation that is used to traditional accompaniment. To find solutions to this dicult issue, we once again must turn to the Bible for guidance. When we read Psalms, we see that a number of instruments were used. Biblical worship used a band not just one or two instruments. In fact, worship was a group celebration in the Bible. Yet far too many churches have turned it into a formal program instead of a personal interaction with God. No wonder young adults are often turned off by it, and rightly so.

Church leaders must ask hard questions about our music. Have young adults actually rejected “biblical” worship, or have they rejected the man-made creation that we now call worship? If we look to the Bible for our worship guidelines, we may be surprised how much it appeals to young adults.

Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.


  1. My criticisms weren't those, but explicitly mission drift occurring when you try to use worship to lure or reach lost people, leading to the shallow song Sundays. I am grateful for the music that has been more Christ centered as of late with some contemporary music.

  2. With a degree in music in my backpack I've been carrying around for 56 years, let me simply say that virtually every generation has had religious music that was shallow, poorly framed in a bad music style, "feelings" driven, and scripturally unsound. That's simply because we have immature and "feelings" driven musicians who do the writing.

    Even Bach was almost ridden out on a rail when he introduced a non-Gregorian type of music and dared to use an organ and a guitar in a church service . . . simply because of style and not because of substance.

    At the same time, every generation has had solid music that has been effectively used to both encourage and strengthen the believer and also draw the lost to salvation. I've been in numerous settings where even music designed exclusively for the believer resulted in lost people being impacted by the words and by what they saw on the faces of the worshipers.

  3. Apologies for how my earlier post sounded . . . like I was some kind of authority! Not what I meant. I wanted to emphasize that the issue of music style and content is an ancient issue that apparently will continue to be a point of controversy until we either learn to walk in the Spirit and give deference to one another, or we get to heaven.