Today's Young Turn to Elders' Worship

by Robert Webber

Worship in Protestant churches centered on the sermon before the 1970s. A change began in the 60s: not a decline in preaching but a revolution in music. When long-haired musicians started coming to Jesus, worship would never be the same.

In towns where the traditional sermon-centered worship lingered, new churches formed. By the end of the 1990s, there seemed no choice but to use contemporary worship music.

Today's young people, however, are turning from the worship their parents (the Baby Boomers) found so new. "My parents grew up in traditional worship and fought to bring the world's music into the church. And that's all I have ever heard," says one young adult. "So now, what I hear in the world, I also hear in the church, and I'm sick of it! I want something different."

Change is coming, and Boomers are on the defensive. Indoctrinated in the value of church growth, Boomers cling to a view of worship as "market-driven, music-driven, numbers-driven, and therapy-driven." Now they are the entrenched traditionalists.

As in the 70s, this change will create new churches. Across the world, new postmodernist leaders are returning to a more conservative style that is at the same time eclectic-drawing on a variety of Christian traditions. To these leaders, differences between traditional and contemporary worship are irrelevant. They are attracted to the music and art of distant centuries.

The future of Christian worship promises to incorporate liturgical elements and make greater use of the arts. Yet it will merge with the causal, relational style favored since the 1970s. Worship, instead of a performance to be watched, will become a quest for authentic experience.

"Today's Young Turn to Elders' Worship" is an abridgement of Robert Webber's article, "Where are we going?" which appeared in Worship Leader, Jan/Feb 02. This abridgement appeared in Current Thoughts and Trends, May 2002, and is used with permission from Current Thoughts and Trends.