P&W, the Next Generation

At roughly 2:30 of <a href="“>this video, which is very, very good, the Lutheran Satirist makes reference to Lutheran youth leaving contemporary worship services for Presbyterianism. News alert: God’s frozen chosen have been defrosted ever since the First Pretty Good Awakening inflamed the English-speaking Calvinist soul.

Aside from what this video may say about Presbyterians, it does raise questions about the generational divide of contemporary worship. Steve Thorngate thinks the video’s point about using contemporary music to attract the young misses the point of contemporary worship. First he quotes the creator of the U2charist:

The U2charist is a demonstration of one way that liturgy can bring people together to celebrate what God is doing in the world to bring justice for the poor and reconciliation for the world. It is by no means the only way to do so, or even necessarily the best way for your congregation. If your congregation doesn’t really know or like U2, it may feel forced and awkward to use their music without substantial adaptation in liturgy — and if it feels forced and awkward for you, that’s probably going to come across to anyone who does visit your church for the first time for a U2charist. That probably wouldn’t be the best sort of circumstances in which to try such a service; there’s little that’s cool or fun about a bunch of people doing something that they think is no fun at all because they think it would look cool to others.

Thorngate chimes in:

The people I know who have planned and executed U2charists, etc. aren’t thinking primarily about outreach-to-the-kidz either. Neither are the people I work with in my side job as a church musician, where we do several such events each year.

Now, this is a church where youngish adults are already overrepresented, and where the musical culture is nontraditional and eclectic. This is key: the pop-star-themed services are organically related to what we do every week, not some gimmicky departure from it. The morning service makes enthusiastic use of a wide mix of pop music. A U2charist makes sense there, and they’ve done several. The evening service—the one I help lead—is more invested in folk, roots, and country-rock music. A Dylan-themed service (Bob, not Breuer) makes more sense in our context, and I’ve planned and led a couple. We’ve also talked about doing a Johnny Cash-themed service sometime.

Attendance always goes up for these services. But that isn’t really the point. The point is to proclaim the gospel from a new angle, to engage in a fresh way—by taking something that is already part of what we do and giving it a one-week special focus, as other churches do with any number of things. In a context where popular music styles are the norm, and where we decline to observe a strict separation between the sacred and secular when choosing source material, this is a very natural thing.

Thorngate is probably right. Contemporary contemporary worship is no longer aimed at teens. It is now the accepted form of worship for former teens who have now become adults. And that’s why the worship wars are over. We have crossed the rubicon and entered the world of eclectic liturgy, sort of like the United Colors of Benetton.

Still, the Lutheran Satirist is right that contemporary contemporary worship is still cheesy and that the key to retaining the youth is faithful parenting and faithful preaching. If that happens, young people and adults aren’t gullible about the appeal of U2 or LeCrae or Faure in worship.

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45 thoughts on “P&W, the Next Generation

  1. Darryl, you are a machine.

    You single handedly deal with many interlocutors, and put out new good material like this in voluminous fashion. Bravo.

    Do note, however, your first link, in this post, to the lutheran satire video, is broken. Emoticon.

    Have a good week, brah.

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  2. “Thorngate is probably right. Contemporary contemporary worship is no longer aimed at teens. It is now the accepted form of worship for former teens who have now become adults.”

    Or, perhaps more accurately, it is for former teens who have never grown up, liturgically-speaking. Welcome to the age of the liturgical “adultescent.”

    Perceptive and spiritually-mature Christian youth who grow up in the context of such liturgically-shallow, historically-unrooted, ever-changing “next big thing” contemporary worship long for something more substantive. Should we be surprised that some of them opt for the riches of historically-rooted, Reformed & Presbyterian worship? (Now if only we in the OPC and other confessional Reformed communions did a better job of communicating to such youth what we have to offer, and of inviting them out of the P & W wasteland into the richness of Reformed liturgy!)

    BTW, the link to the video doesn’t work.

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  3. My pastor recently said that a young man recently approached his pastor and said that church was “boring, boring, boring, boring”. The pastor answered him, “That’s because it’s not about you.”

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  4. “This is key: the pop-star-themed services are organically related to what we do every week, not some gimmicky departure from it.”

    Baloney! They are a complete gimmick, unbiblical, unnecessary, tacky and self-serving. I remember first hearing about the U2charist and confronting Issues etc host Todd Wilken about it because he considers Bono pretty much a Jesus Jr. He had no defense as while he’d never subscribe to something like a U2charist, he’ll sure defend Bono as (nearly) orthodox.

    I do enjoy the Lutheran Satirist.

    And this: “It’s a chance to bring modern culture into the church and the other way around,” says the Rev. Nathan LeRud, a priest at Trinity. “It’s a way to push the distinction between sacred and secular, to break it down.”

    Oh by all means, let’s get rid of those pesky sacred things. argggh!

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  5. “I remember first hearing about the U2charist and confronting Issues etc host Todd Wilken about it because he considers Bono pretty much a Jesus Jr. He had no defense as while he’d never subscribe to something like a U2charist, he’ll sure defend Bono as (nearly) orthodox.”

    Really!?

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  6. @ Katy: Yep. I showed Wilken the infamous Bono quote of “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, all true” and he had no problem with it. He gave Bono a free pass and explained it away as not meaning what others (and Bono) meant. I mean c’mon, that would destroy Wilken’s little teenage rock ‘n roll fantasy that he has of Bono and that’s just not gonna happen.

    I just recently gave him an infamous photo from the mid ’90s that appeared in Rolling Stone of Bono touching tongues with the lead singer from Oasis that still to this day makes me yak when I think of it. Wilken didn’t reply to this picture. Apparently he doesn’t have a problem with it or he’s too embarrassed by his hero. Bono still claims he hasn’t found a church worthy of his attendance (not quite in those words but basically the same thing).

    I used to really enjoy Wilken and Issues etc, mainly when Don Matzat was the host and Wilken was the sidekick. Matzat had A Mighty Fortress as the theme music and Wilken has the Coldplay’s Viva La Vida as the theme music for the past what 5 years or something now (?) It’s cheesy and it says a lot.

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  7. I disagree with some of Wilkens’ politics (national and synodical), but maybe I’m misunderstanding you, because I seriously doubt he would say Bono is some sort of theologian, let alone “Jesus, Jr.” or any sort of spiritual leader at all. I remember being skeptical about his interview with Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly on “The Faith of U2’s Bono,” but Mattingly’s job is to show how the media misunderstands/misinterprets anything religious. I disagreed with Mattingly–I thought he was overly generous toward Bono–but he gave some good cultural context. I don’t remember Wilkens saying anything one way or the other.

    Now, perhaps you are trying to convince Wilken to stop listening to U2 because of Bono’s seemingly outrageous self-righteousness and pseudo-spirituality. Lutherans usually don’t listen to music because of the singer’s faith, or lack-thereof, or confused theology, etc. Wilkens will not say, “stop listening to U2 in your car because Bono is a false teacher [he’s not a teacher, even if he thinks he is], and some people have ‘U2charists'” I thought most people who frequent this blog would appreciate that pov.

    Also, I think Wilken has addressed criticisms of using secular music as bump music. He said it’s a radio program, not a ministry or a church.

    Finally, my preferred popular singer from the UK with vague Christian tendencies is Stuart Murdoch

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  8. The attempt to combine rock music with church is exhibit #1 of why every square inch all of life-ism is misguided. Leave them separate and they both flourish. Combine them and they both become lame. Have your broad interests without thinking you need to bring them into church with you. Music should probably have at least a hundred years on it before we even think of bringing it into the church. We sing from the Psalter on Sundays and it keeps getting better and better. I have six Steely Dan CD’s in my car stereo and they keep getting better and better.

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  9. Katy,
    I didn’t say Wilken sees Bono as some sort of theologian. I will say he thinks of him as a spiritual leader/motivator though and thanks for choosing those words.

    Why would I want to convince Wilken to stop listening to U2? I don’t care if he listens to U2 or John Zorn (hint: He would never listen to John Zorn).

    Erik: I love your posts!

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  10. Gross is one of the most fascinating guys in evangelicalism. He’s lasted a decade in his ministry. I hope his theology is robust, because he is playing with fire like no one this side of Marc Driscoll. How many Christians have become good friends with Ron Jeremy?

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  11. “I will say he thinks of him as a spiritual leader/motivator though and thanks for choosing those words”

    Maybe you know Wilkens personally. I have no idea if he thinks this. I hope not!

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  12. Chorts,

    Trinity Cathedral is willing to breakdown sacred/secular distinctions of course except in their architecture. If that were a serious effort, they’d meet in a warehouse or mall (but then they aren’t tacky evangelicals). But in fact cathedral is a beautiful building, that reflections theological commitments that probably aren’t held by many of the rectors there, e.g. Marcus Borg is a Canon theologian in residence there.

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  13. Erik: “We sing from the Psalter on Sundays and it keeps getting better and better. I have six Steely Dan CD’s in my car stereo and they keep getting better and better.”

    Man, that’s the truth, singing from the Psalter (what a great, natural way to learn God’s word) DOES get better and better. And Steely in the car is pretty choice too (we discussed Steely before on your site).

    Good luck (Is there any such thing?) on your taxes.

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  14. MP,

    Thanks.

    In other news, has anyone else seen “Damsels in Distress”?

    Was that awful, or what? They need to use that at Guantanamo and they’ll get whatever they need out of those prisoners. Here’s hoping Stillman (that’s Whit Stillman, not Jason Stellman) has another 13-year-long writers block. I may never be able to watch Greta Gerwig in a movie again.

    It was nice seeing Duquan from “The Wire”.

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  15. the Wilken or Rosebrough interview usual consists of their question and then an answer and then the host doesn’t remotely react to the answer… and then the next question

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  16. Richard,

    I would equate it to what I hear passing a gallstone is like.

    Wes Anderson called and said that Stillman might want to consider being a little less precious.

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  17. trouble with the Psalter is when you cut out the last happy resolution verses, and you finish the hymn stuck between the jaws of the grizzly bear or hung on a meat hook begging for mercy…

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  18. Erik, Barcelona may be Stillman’s best.

    And not to play muddy gravel, or anything, but Damsels is good (even if not great).

    You need to rethink manliness.

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  19. Yo me bros—Tuesday–White boy soul–PBS fundraising

    http://wkar.org/post/great-performances-dukes-september

    Fagen, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, are you kidding me, check your local listings

    Rock ‘n’ roll royalty Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) and Boz Scaggs join forces to form a super-group, The Dukes of September, delighting audiences with high-octane new performances of their greatest hits, along with other chart-topping favorites from the 60s and 70s. Among the crowd-pleasing favorites are “What a Fool Believes,” “Low Down,” “Lido Shuffle,” “Pretzel Logic,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Reelin’ in the Years” and many more.

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  20. D. G. Hart
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink
    Erik, Barcelona may be Stillman’s best.

    And not to play muddy gravel, or anything, but Damsels is good (even if not great).

    You need to rethink manliness.

    Anyone who wears a bowtie in public, let alone be photographed in one, is manly. That includes Liza, of course. And Ellen. They’re just trying to be you, D, and I don’t blame them.

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  21. D.G. – And not to play muddy gravel, or anything, but Damsels is good (even if not great).

    Erik – There is not yet a release date for the papyrus scroll version…

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  22. Tom – Fagen, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, are you kidding me, check your local listings

    Erik – I owe you one.

    The second half of Fagen’s “Eminent Hipsters” was written on this tour. Pretty funny and morose. He complains the whole time that the accommodations are not as good as when he tours with Steely Dan.

    Fagen’s solo stuff since “The Nightfly” is a mixed bag and his voice ain’t what it used to be. About the only thing that doesn’t suffer is stuff from “Two Against Nature” because it was recorded in 2000 when he was already old. A great album from beginning to end (especially “Jack of Speed” and “Cousin Dupree”). Surprise Grammy winner for album of the year in 2001. This is what music for adults should sound like.

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  23. Speaking of entertainment, if you want to see an impeccably written piece of work, check out episode 7 of season 4 of “Mad Men” — “The Suitcase”. I’ve seen it at least three times now and I think it’s perfect. One of the best things I’ve ever seen. It requires some knowledge of the backstory, but even without that it’s a fine piece of writing.

    http://literatecomments.com/2014/03/11/mad-mens-best-episode-in-mad-mens-best-season/

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  24. While it’s slow around here, I’ve been reflecting on the difference a great producer and a studio makes when creating rock & roll. Compare this early version of “The Caves of Altamira” to the final version in the next comment:

    This is also why a concert can normally not live up to what you hear on an album when playing music with any complexity.

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  25. Andrew – Nebraska was worth $3.99 to amazon.

    Erik – Bruce Dern has been a really good actor for a long time. “Support Your Local Sheriff”, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”, “The King of Marvin Gardens”, “Black Sunday”, “On The Edge”, “Coming Home”, “Big Love”, “Django Unchained”.

    Like

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