Is the guitar-driven worship model we’ve been seeing in churches for 20 years still relevant and effective? In a time when nearly all of our popular music is electronically created are we still connecting with the younger generation?
Have you ever wondered why the worship sound in contemporary churches across America hasn’t really changed in 20 years? Think about what life was like 20 years ago. The internet was a year old. Katy Perry was 11. The DVD was introduced to the public. There was no Ebay or Craigslist. Windows 95 was the hot computer operating system. And you were using a pager to stay in touch with your friends and family.
And in 1995 contemporary worship services in churches around America were mostly led by a singer with an acoustic guitar. Just like today.
Just to be clear, I’m an acoustic guitar toting worship leader myself, so I’m not at all opposed to this style of worship sound or style. But I’m in my 50s and sometimes I wonder if this sound connects with the younger generation. When I say “this sound” I mean the standard worship team instrumentation of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keys, drums and vocals. As I write this the top-selling pop music is almost all vocally driven or keyboard driven with performers like Adele, Drake, Taylor Swift and Ellie King leading the way. You can’t even find a guitar in most of it. And nearly all of the top pop music on the charts today is studio-created, digitally-driven, musician-for-hire digital, pure pop. Our worship music in churches could not be further in sound or production than what’s being played on pop mainstream radio stations across America.
In the last 20 years thousands of mainstream churches in the U.S. have gone to high-end in-service video production, expensive stage lighting and yes, even fog machines and lasers, Power Point displays, drum booths and pro-type musicians. Yet, the “sound” of worship hasn’t really changed at all.
Are we missing the obvious? Is our worship not connecting with the younger generation? Should we make a real attempt to understand what teenagers and twentysomethings are looking for in worship? Are we “meeting them where they are” or are we rolling out a style of worship that is right in our comfort zones?
[Tweet “Now imagine if the music you don’t identify with was playing every Sunday morning at your church”]
We all have a type (or many types) of music we identify and connect with. We all also have a type of music (or many types) that we don’t identify with at all. Now imagine if the music you don’t identify with was playing every Sunday morning at your church. I’m guessing it would change your worship experience. Just think about it…
I’m not advocating a total change in the way we present worship on Sundays mornings. I’m suggesting we (myself included) don’t sleepwalk through another decade or two doing the same old, same old out of habit and comfort.
**Image courtesy Taylor Guitars.