The Modern Pilgrim's Journey

What Can Happen When Church Folks Feel More Passion for Their Traditions and Styles Than for Lost Souls


The Modern Pilgrim #26- Pilgrim struggles to understand the Good Shepherd’s methods and behavior. Many of the newcomers to the pilgrimage are introducing climbing songs that make the Good Shepherd, and many of the pilgrims, want to skip and dance in a silly fashion. Pilgrim doesn’t know the new songs. She doesn’t like to skip. She wishes the Good Shepherd would stick with the good old marching songs they used before, the ones that meant so much to her.

“Music that makes you tap your feet is from the devil.” Mrs. Pickard, an older woman in my childhood church, believed young folks should exclusively listen to hymns and classical music. She declared her opinions one night, during my youth group meeting. She was not part of the youth team but self-invited as a “guest speaker.” We kids listened politely and as soon as we exited church, pulled out transistor radios to listen to “our music,” and talk about the latest hits.

I love many musical styles. My play lists represent that, ranging between worship, rock, jazz Appalachian, pop, classical and many other styles. As a teen, though, Mrs. Pickard wasn’t the only voice telling my generation about the evils of the “wrong” music. So, we sang hymns on Sundays, (I still love hymns) and the rest of the week bopped around with Motown and rock and roll.

Thank God for Christian music pioneers like Larry Norman, who understood that rock and roll connected with my generation, the Baby Boomers. For sure, much of it  glorified premarital sex and drugs. Larry, and a few others, were visionaries who recognized rock and roll as simply a style that could be used for good or evil. He asked the question, “Why should the devil have all the good music?” His answer was to write songs that shared the gospel and glorified God, using a style of music that spoke to Boomers.

I chuckle when I now hear the same arguments arise over younger generation’s musical styles and their place in worship. “We can’t have rap in the church! That music is godless. Besides, you can’t understand a thing they say.”  “Why can’t we sing songs like ‘Our God Reigns’ and ‘Majesty,’ instead of all this pop-rock worship music?”

I challenged you at the beginning of this month to consider ways your church might be more dangerous to the gospel than the kingdom of darkness. So, let’s consider today, how people 30 and under view your church. Did you know that that great majority of today’s Christians accepted Jesus Christ as savior under the age of 18? Does that age bracket attend your church? Are they engaged during your worship services or messing with phones? If you asked them what they thought about your music choices, sermons, and general flow during Sundays, what do you think they would say?

Let me frame this idea through the story of my generation and their saga of music and the church. First, a few statistics about Boomers. Frankly, we are not doing so well in key areas. This is documented by numerous research organizations. Boomers show the highest divorce rate of any generation. Our children are divorcing less than we are. Would it surprise you to know that the bottom half of my generation, those between the ages of 54 and 64, have the highest suicide rate of any age group in the nation right now? How about the fact that more Baby Boomers die of prescription opioid and heroin addiction than any of the younger generations?

We are the generation of rock and roll, hippies, and protests. “Free Love” and “Stick it to the Man.”  We were going to change the world by undoing the establishment but instead we ourselves came undone. Why? Because most of my generation are not followers of Jesus Christ. So, we tried to do some righteous stuff with the devil’s methods. Results? About what you’d expect.

Now, here’s where the church comes in and where I believe some mature believers from previous generations failed mine. What if, back in the sixties, the greater church recognized that rock and roll was simply a style that didn’t need to be dominated by the lost? What if godly Christian bands like the ones we love so much today, were welcomed into numerous churches during the sixties and seventies?  Instead of a rare few. Musical pioneers of that era, like Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill and Second Chapter of Acts, lived on love offerings and beans and rice because they had so little support from the greater church. I seriously laugh out loud sometimes when I see some of the contract demands current Christian groups insist on when they use my church as a venue. (Seriously, only certain expensive brands of bottled water and specific M&M flavors?)

What if kids like me had opportunities to invite lost friends to a Christian rock concert in our own town? So our friends could hear about Jesus’ love for them in a style of music that opened the door to their hearts? Or what if the worship music in my church had been so engaging for my generation that I felt comfortable asking unsaved friends to come to church with me? We sang music that had great meaning to my parents and grandparents. It had little to no meaning to the lost of my generation. With all my heart, I believe Boomers might look different as a generation right now if the greater church of our youth had invested in creating welcoming, loving environments for us. Instead, we went looking for love in so many wrong places.

I’ll ask you again, how are you engaging with the 30 and under crowd in your church? Music is a large factor and a good first place to look but there are so many other subtle things that people over 30 might not consider. For example, do you serve refreshments somewhere on Sunday mornings? If it’s black coffee, Kool-Aid, and store-bought cookies, you might not be speaking the food language of the under thirty folks. What is their food language? Well, you’re going to need to involve them in even small decisions like church snacks, to know that answer.

Part of the reason my husband and I joined our church as lay people, in between ministry assignments, was because of their vision for the lost. I love the way our pastor phrases it, “We are romancing this city to Jesus.” So, think about it. If a man is trying to win a woman’s heart or vice versa, he/she will take the other somewhere or create an environment, where they are surrounded by sights, sounds and tastes that they love. Are we willing to do the same for the lost in our churches or are we deep down, more in love with our own comfort and routines?

Is your church unintentionally disconnected from lost folk, particularly young ones? If so, are you willing to ask God what he wants YOU to do about it and then obey? Don’t just dump it on your pastors. Please. Be part of the solution or at least suggest some. Can you let go of your favorite music styles, comfortable routines, and maybe other stuff to authentically engage with the lost? If so, you are officially a threat to the dark kingdom. Just like Jesus.

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One Comment

  • Deborah Alexander

    I love this post so much, Sharon. You know that I’m married to a musician, and I raised one as well. You brought up some really important points in this post.

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