For some time, I wondered why Christians who were a couple generations ahead of me struggled worshiping in a modern church environment. I don’t think this is the case everywhere, but there is definitely a divide in many American churches between the seasoned saints and the ones currently making their way up the rungs of life. Part of me wondered if it had to do with the dark lighting or the use of projector screens. Part of me wondered if it had to do with the addition of drums and electric guitar in many modern settings. There was also something in me that thought it had to do with the constant changing of the music. And while all of these may play a part in this chasm, I think they are all symptoms of something bigger.
The perplexing started with the idea of the constant change of church music. Why was it such a big deal to switch out the music? I get that worship music has gone from being in one back-of-the-pew hymnal to now being incredibly fluid, having new songs being added at a rapid rate from a myriad of artists. The biggest contention that these people say against modern music is that it isn’t as deep as the songs of old. But is that really true? Listen to Amazing Grace, and the beautiful thing about it isn’t the complexity behind it, but it is the power in how simple that truth is – that God’s grace is incredibly astounding. So… after racking my brain for weeks I finally realized what the difference was between then and now.
As a worship leader, it’s incredible to see the response from the older generation when the team tags on an old chorus or adds a hymn to our worship set. You can look out from the stage and instantly see many of the older members’ eyes close and hands instantly shoot to the sky. At that moment, they are no longer in our church building, but they are taken to a time when they were young, a time when God moved in their midst in the past, and they are reminded that God can still move that same way today. It’s powerful, and it’s the very same reason people in my generation worship so passionately to modern worship – they are having an experience in that moment. Many teens come back from church summer camp and the altar songs instantly can be put on repeat. Those songs now carry with them a time that God changed something in their lives.
There’s something powerful in experiencing God’s splendor. Sometimes pastors think ministry is all about teaching the right theology, preaching a killer sermon, or singing and performing great worship music, but what it really comes down to is creating an environment where people can experience God. A sermon has never caused anyone to believe in Jesus. Knowing the right theology has never allowed anyone to follow it. Singing songs about the atonement has never opened people’s eyes to power of Jesus’ sacrifice. But the Holy Spirit has prompted the sinner towards repentance, the Spirit has illuminated the mind of the saint to practice what they know now to be true in their heart, and the Holy Spirit will enlighten the eyes of a believer to see the meaning and purpose and richness that lies behind Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Without the Holy Spirit, theology is dead, hearts aren’t changed, and people aren’t moved.
You may not struggle singing hymns or modern worship music, but you may still walk through the church doors on Sunday not expecting God to move. You may have a firm grasp on what you believe about God and can articulate the most intricate details about soteriology, ecclesiology, and even ironically, pneumatology, but those truths may have never made their way from your head to your heart. The Spirit is the agent of change. The Spirit is the Guide we need to follow. The Bible might be our map, but the Spirit is our tour guide who is carrying it.
In what ways can we experience God more this week? Maybe we need to pray more – and not just to speak TO God. Maybe we need to take a moment of silence and meditate, allowing God to speak to us instead. Maybe we let go of some of the good things in our lives like music preference, theology, and knowledge, to hold onto the right things – faith, hope, and love. Or maybe we just need to expect God to move again, in our churches, in our families, and even in our own personal lives.
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:25