Wednesday, October 03, 2007

20 Somethings And Their Musical Styles

Newsflash! The Key To The 20 Somethings Is Not Musical Style

Good stuff that I wanted to pass along. Go read it.

(HT: Jared/Vitamin Z)


RR said...

Yeah, so this is a topic that's been a thorn in my side lately.

I partly agree with this guy, but I partly find it incomplete.

While music is irrelevant to attracting a certain demographic, it is relevant at attracting people. Seeker-sensitive churches tend to create music that is familiar to the audience they're trying to connect with. When non-seeker churches try to "modernize" their music, people get cranky, but the people remain the same.

Truth of the matter is, 20-somethings don't attend church because of a myriad of reasons: 1) the rule of homogeniality causes the church to effectively attract people that look like the people on stage, 2) most churches don't attempt to really attract the 20-something demo because it's a financially weak group that's also pretty transient, and 3) many churches expect the young adult programs to be flashed up youth group, which many with degrees find irrelevant and degrading.

Yeah, and there's more. But that's all I wanted to vent right now.

Chris said...

On average, Hymns and organs means far more to me that "contemporary worship."

The vast majority of "contemporary worship" is poorly performed, and worship leaders try waaaaaay too hard to introduce new music.

Count me in as another that sees the music as merely a hurdle that must be cleared on the way to the message.

Vitamin Z said...

Excellence and authenticity will communicate way more than anything else, no matter what style. Again, like all issues in the church this is a leadership issue. Better to have no music than sucky music.

hippychick said...

I think it takes good music as well as relevant sermons to keep anyone interested. They kind of go had in hand. I do agree though, there needs to be some type of draw for that age group. Whether or not they can contribute funds to the church is irrelevant. They deserve a relationship with God just as much as anyone else. That is a hard age... glad I am past it but concerned about my kids hitting that point!

Fever said...

Don't have the time to say much. If issues of outward appearance are divisive in the church, then there is a problem. "Sucky music" is sucky in outward appearance. I would wager that God finds more pleasure in a crappy singer whose heart is absent of all pride than one who is great and has pride. And, human greatness in anything brings pride. Human excellence will never please God. Excellence is fine in human endeavors. But let's not confuse or coordinate it with the work of the gospel. I'm sure Paul made great tents. Read 1 and 2 Corinthians. Perhaps also Philippians. Paul also admited that he was no great rhetor, and gloried in this human weakness (which does not mean sin!). Paul was fine that there were better and more persuasive speakers than he, for, this confirmed to him that the power of the Spirit was working in him rather than his human ability to draw people. We may think that good music promites the gospel, but the more we go on with this mindset, the more we impede the gospel. We need to just stick our faces in scripture, leadership and lay people, and wrestle with it and forget about "attracting" people according to socially changing norms. Whose gospel are we trying to promote, anyway?
You all may not like what I say, or find it one-sided. Fine. Read scripture. Read it carefully. Where in scripture is the gospel successful because of human effort to attract people? The issue is far more complex than this, you may say. Maybe. But, start there with the fundamental issue. We must not make it more complex than it needs to be by inserting our concerns about attracting people as if the proclamation of the gospel is some kind of Western-Eurpoean cultural thing to be marketed. And let's all calm down before we voice our opinions on this issue. Think. Then read scripture. Then read scripture again. Then offer your perspective, but please refer to scripture. To this point, this post is the only one to refer to scripture. What's wrong? We need to let it form our beliefs, thoughts, and all manner of how we look to the outside world as the body of Christ.

RR said...

Fever, interesting thoughts.

While I don't disagree (especially regarding the crappy singer in God's eyes), I do think it's necessary to point out a few things:

Scripture (and especially Christ Himself) is incredibly vague with definitions of how a church structure should look. It is incredibly specific about how a church should ACT, but when it comes to structures, programs, methodology, techniques, hierarchy, and functionality, there is little biblical guidance. Many would argue that this is intentional and by design, so that the Church can develop to be an organism that is capable of adapting with it's culture (from holding very public meetings in Christ's day, to secret meetings in the homes of Believers later on, and even growing into a political role in the absense of European governments). I'm not defending or supporting any of how these were actualized, but it does seem to be intentional that specific structure within the church was left ambiguous on purpose.

Secondly, Paul could be considered one of the first "seeker friendly" preachers. In fact, Paul is one the first recorded people to use a pop culture item for reference in a sermon to reach his intended audience. (In Acts 17, Paul uses a secular poet that his audience was familiar with to help convey his message. What's interesting is that even in that revolutionary inclusion of secular references, Paul ceased to water-down his message. This encounter has been termed "Paul's appeal to philosphers" in many circles.) In fact, Pauls concept of "to the jews I become... jew (1 Cor 9:20)" is the fundamental difference between Paul's effective ministry methods and others of the era. This could be considered the scriptual basis for using pop-culture even today to reach those for the cause of Christ.

To bring this full circle, the United States is the dominant entertainment leader in the world. Multi, multi-million dollar movie budgets, million dollar record contracts, multi-million dollar atheletic salaries... TV shows, podcast, radio programs, websites, theme parks... the United States hoardes money to it's secular entertainment industry to achieve a specific result which is effective at attracting people. Even companies spend millions upon millions in marketing campaigns to get your attention. Why should the Church (if the Church truly is the Light of the world today) let the secular world 1) overtake the arts (there is a very interesting and powerful school of thought about Christianity and the arts, but that's a different blog), and 2) sit back as the secular world attracts more people in the US than the Church? (Check the latest stats... more people watched a movie this summer than attended church.) After all, the Church isn't competing for's competing for lives. If the Church truly believes that the soles of people are the line, shouldn't the church be willing (and able) to use any effective means of changing those enternities? How can a secular entertainment industry justify a bar of quality (when all that is sought is money), while the Church is willing to settle for mediocrity? Is the God of Christianity a god of vanilla? All signs in creation passionately yell not. Why should the Church promote an idea creation itself does not?

Now, that to say: the Church NEEDS to envoke more of the heart of Christ in it's methods. The most common problem is that churches seek the result of production, rather than the face of the Creator. That, I believe, is a fallacy. The most effective method at still being the Hand of God on the earth lies in the relentless pursuit of God's voice. The manifestations of that, regardless of the methods, will be more effective than methods above purpose.

So in summary, the Church should be shameless in it's pursuit of God, and unabashed in it's willingness to compete for the soles of people. Pop culture influence is not the devil (insolongas it's use is a tool, not a solution). At the end of the day, the Church needs to be effective with opportunities given to it. Because, after all, the Church isn't for God... it's for people. And if it's not reaching people, it's broken. (And, in as much as this reply was directed to the American church, each culture represents its own unique norms, ideals, structures, and obstacles that need to be considered for reaching it's own population. There is no one-size-fits-most model with the Church.)

[Also, for those who feel that the pop-culture-music-in-church thing is a new concept, do some research. It's extremely interesting to see how the role of music in the church has evolved over two thousand years. Actually, the beloved organ was the cause of many violent riots when it was introduced into the church (because the organ is of Roman origin, and the early church felt that it was obvious blasphem against He who the Romans crucified).]

the sife said...

Churches are reaping what they've sewn for several years. Those churches who are now seeing attendance for 20-30 year olds decline based on music issues are simply experiencing the fruits of their labor.

When you attract people with fads and shallow externalities, you attract people who are attracted by fads and shallow externalities.

To put that another way, "seeker sensitive" churches simply attracted a fickle and shallow morass of humanity that was a mile wide and an inch deep. That the artificial high eventually wore off and house of cards began to tumble should come as no surprise to any rational person.

RR said...

And also, I can't spell "soul". That's my Oklahoma edukamashun.

Fever said...

Glad you are using scripture and wrestling with it. I think some of the ways you use it are a bit off, and Paul does deal with "how" a church should look in 1 Corinthians 1-4. Again, glad you are wrestling with scripture. Is the issue "church structure" or the manner in which we proclaim the gospel? We need to clarify this first. Further, you still need to look deeper and ask in what way is Paul "A Jew to the Jews..." and still need to reckon with the historical contexts of Paul's statements. In 1 Corinthians 1-4, Paul is speaking against his "pop culture" understanding of how a preacher of his day should look. He is speaking against this because the way it looks is not the way the proclamation of the gospel or the church should look. Get Gordon Fee's commentary on 1 Corinthians or Scott Hafemann's book on suffering in 2 Corinthians. Read them. I do not deny that Paul used elements of his time. But, that is not enough to simply state this and then say, "see we should too." We need to go deeper. Why did Paul do this? What elements of his culture was he using? What was significant about these elements?Why those elements and not others? And how did he use them? Were there restrictions? What were the "non-negotiables"? And then the transfer to our day is not so simple. Paul used philosophical language and concepts to communicate his gospel. This does not mean "seeker friendly"; it simply means he spoke the same language of those around him. Anyone has to do that to communicate. Speaking the language of people is a bit different than making the gospel and the church look like the rest of the world. We can't just use any effecive means to procalim the gospel. When this happens, the gospel and scripture become the whore to that which drives its proclamation. We can not reduce the gospel to this. I am not concerned about winning people. I am concerned about the proclamation of the gospel. Our culture has dictated the way that we even look at the issue. Since when is the competition and winning of numbers a concern of the gospel? Much in our culture rages against the very form and manner of the gospel of the suffering Christ. In 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul's proclamation of the gospel showed itself in his suffering and weakness. All of his society around him found this offensive and a sign of ineffectiveness. Yet, this is the very thing that for Paul marked the true proclamation of the gospel. Why? Becuase the gospel is the gospel of the suffering Christ. However we say that Paul took up elements of his culture, we can not brush this aside.

Sife, I like your comments. As I said, we often make scripture and the gospel the whore of that which really drives us.

Fever said...

Last comment, then I'm done. I just don't have the time.

Richard Hays' commentary on 1 Corinthians. Read it, too. He writes on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (really on 1:18-2:5):
"Because God has confounded the wisdom of this world and shown it to be foolish, Christians must see the world differently and live in light of the wisdom of God. (This should not be confused with Thoreau's "marching to the beat of a different drummer"). When people tells us that we must be "responsible" or "realistic" (I would add "relevant"), or ack in ways that would be "effective," we should be wary and ask whose wisdom, whose rationality is being urged upon us. Is it God's? To whose power are we deferring in the choices we make day in and day out?"
He goes on:
"Christian apologetics (and I add the proclamation of the gospel--though Hays has this in mind) cannot proceed in such a way that we identify the culture's questions and then provide satisfying Christian answers. In fact, according to Paul, neither Jews nor Greeks will get the answers they seek."

Both quotes are from p.38 in his 1 Corinthians commentary in the Interpretation series by Westminster John Knox Press. Don't confuse this with thinking he is Presbyterian--he is not. He has much more to say. In addition I recommend his book "The Moral Vision of the New Testament."

RR said...

I find it interesting that you say the "gospel is the gospel of the suffering of Christ". When in fact, that is a mere portion, not the completion. 1 Cor 15:1-4 states exceedingly clear the the gospel ("good news") is that Christ came to earth, suffered, died, was buried, rose again, all for the cause of our salvation. It was not limited to suffering and tragedy, but also to joy and hope. This is key to all other definitions or debates.

Also, to say you're "not concerned with winning people" places a bit of tension on the crux of Christianity. The purpose of Christ on earth was for the salvation of souls (I spelled it right this time!). His interest lied not with the religious, but with the sinful. His companions were prostitutes and scammers. His purpose was "to seek and save the lost (Luke 19)". Granted, He could have just as easily stood on a corner letting everyone see how much he suffered in human flesh, but that doesn't reach people. (Even "For God so loved the world..." did not end with "... sent His only son...", but with "...shall have eternal life" (John 3:16).) The Great Commission (Matt 28) is clear that Jesus wanted us to baptize and make disciples, not just spread the word. Point is, Jesus' goal was more than just "telling" us of His diety, but also to become Savior. It should be the Church's desire and obligation to help others find the same salvation, by grace, we were granted.

Through Paul's christian life, he continually pursued effective communication, as judged by results. Phrases like "cause no man to stumble (1 Cor 10)" and obvious mentions of quantities of people (Act 9:31, 11:26, 16:5, 28:23) shows that he made a very clear correlation to intention of action and results considered success or failure. (I'm not saying the Church today needs to attempt to pad it's attendance, but rather it's attendance is litmus test of effectiveness.)

I am familiar with Paul's trip to Athens (I actually studied Athenian culture while in college). Interestingly, at the time of Paul, Athenian culture took pride in Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, and also being well versed in the latest philosophy. Paul's dialogue about the death and resurrection of Christ, as well as his interweaving of thier philosophical tradition struck the curiousity of his audience. I'm unsure how familiar you are with Epicurean and Stoic thought, so it's worth getting into a bit.

Epicurean thought was that everything evolved from eternal choas. There was no concept of "creation". All matter was the result of accidental collisions which resulted in form. (This also borrowed heavily from Aristotle's teachings. Stoics believed that God, essentially, was the soul of the world, and that God was in all men, and that all men were brethren because of this. This caused them to live lives of high moral principle. Also, there was a firm believe in fate.

Athenian culture enjoyed reasoning and debate. What's most interesting is that Paul "reasoned" with his audience. He questioned thier teachings, he poked at thier theories, and used the debate to teach the cause of Christ. He didn't preach. He didn't "witness". He reasoned. Paul took the most obvious signature of thier culture, referred to their own influences and tendancies, and used it for his purpose.

What would happen if Athens, for example, was present-day US? If reason wasn't valued, but entertainment was? Would Paul still reason his audience as if they were Athenians? I would say not. Given Paul's adaptation to the culture he was with, I would argue that Paul would make the same effort in that hypothetical situation (again, without watering down any message).

Truth is, the Church has done the exact same thing Paul did in Athens for centuries. From portraying a caucasian Jesus in paintings in Europe (a black for Africa, latino for now-hispanic countries, and so on), to even creating stained-glass pictures dipicting biblical stories for the illiterate classes of medieval Europe, even translating the bible into common languages (and in some cases, sub-translations) for every linguistic background, the Church has also adapted it's depiction of the gospel for those it was trying to reach.

I find this somewhat humorous that this same debate has occurred millions of times across the ages. When instrumental music was included in christian ritual (considered pagan), when polyphony was developed (demonic), the inclusion of certain instruments (sacreligious), the adaption to several languages (disrespect), the translation of christian literature and rites into other languages (loss of purity), the progression of various styles of music (hymns, chants, gregorian chants, Proper and Ordinary Mass, the Council of Trent verdicts, and even to the first real use of secular tunes in the 1600s, etc). All said, no one has ever taken any development or progression lightly. But for the sake of argument, it's important to realize that any concerns or distaste with "modern" church music or style is fine and good... but it's the cycle the Church has always and [no doubt] will always continue on. The church will always, and should always, adapt to the culture it's trying to reach. (Actually, your arguments about "the gospel and scripture become the whore" is the exact same argument given as push-back for the translation of the Bible into common languages, for the entire progression of church music history, and for the move to common language services.)

Regarding "seeker" churches: while I am not supporting or disregarding any church, "seeker" churches (which also compose some of the largest single church units in the US) are extremely effective at... well... the unchurched (thus the name "seeker"). They're not intended to pull people out of pews and into auditorium-style seating, they're meant to pull people off of couches and out of beds of churchless lives. And they are exceedingly sucessful at it (there are those that aren't, but keep in mind of the largest 10 churches in the US (which range from 15,000-25,000 in attendance), 7 consider themselves "seeker" appropiate). If ANY christian church is effectively converting people from couch potatoes to Christians (or from other faiths), to GOD be the glory... God's grace for salvation is still evident.

Vitamin Z said...

I like Fantasy Football.

Clare said...

I can say right now that my answer is going to be nowhere theological as everyone elses.

I am that 20 something. I am that person that isnt be aimed for. And to be honest, its turning me away from the Church. And it sucks. Its interesting that this topic comes up right now, because my husband and I are getting done with a big battle with "our" church.

We recently moved back to the area and were excited to restart our lives here in small groups and services. And yet, we feel completely left in the cold. In order to get married in the church we had to go through massive amounts of counseling that was pretty much pointless, but now, 20 somethings, particularly married ones, are ignored. There are no programs or groups or events or anything to get involved in. And that is more important than the music of a service. Being able to feel a part of the community of the church and bonding together in relationships with eachother and God.

While this is more important than music, music shouldnt be discounted completely as this article seems to state. Music does matter. If half an hour of hymns starts the service, you will of course lose the people that listen to pop radio the other 6 days and 23 hours of the week. I agree with the articles statement on the length of worship. If the church is going to go the more traditional route, shorter is better. It can be lengthened a bit longer if the music is more to the standards of what 20 somethings normally listen to, but otherwise, we are used to watching tv, talking online, doing homework, and eating popcorn all at the same time. While most of us know that this is the time to savor and worship God, a lot of our minds really cant handle 30 minutes of organ music.

Really it comes down to including 20 somethings into the community of the church, giving them their own realm and groups to grow at that section of their lives more than the cultural progression of the music, but its definitely not to be ignored...

I ramble. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Well--I don't know where to start with that one. To be honest, of course I was offended by some of the statements. But after much thought, I'm not 20 something. So I'm not sure what that age group is looking for. I can speak for the 30 something crowd---we love our "contemporary" music at our "contemporary" church!

Fever said...

Please read the books I referenced above. They will deal both with hermeneutics and New Testament interpretation.
You continue to fail to reckon with 1 Corinthians 1-4. The gospel Paul proclaims is that of the Crucified Christ (1 Cor 1:23; 2:2). But read these passages within their rhetorical and socio-historical contexts. Use Fee and/or Hayes for help here.
You have not rightly understood 1 Corinthians 15. True, the resurrection is part of the gospel message. I should have been more clear. In 1 Cor 15, Paul brings up the resurrection of Christ to deal with contemporary Stoic and Greek philosophical thought. You should know this. They did not believe in a bodily resurrection. Stoics believed in the immortality of the soul (read Cleanthes' "Hymn to Zeus") and the Epicureans believed that when the body dies, it evaporates like a smoke (Seneca, "Troades"; Epicurus; Cicero, "Tusculanae Disputations"). These men also show the degree to which Stoic and Epicurean philosophy were not easily separable, for Cicero and Seneca were Stoics, but took seemingly Epicurean views on the afterlife (or lack thereof). Paul is dealing with this this sort of thought here, arguing that there will indeed be a bodily resurrection of the dead, and that they must live their lives on earth in light of that. The problem in Corinth was that certain aspects of the Greek audience at Corinth understood Paul's message through their philosophical lens and mystery religious lens (at points the same things, but at other points different. Can't go into it here). Thus, on the one hand they thought they were "spiritualized people" and on the other hand did not believe in a bodily resurrection. Some of my colleagues will even argue that because they thought they were already "spiritual" they did not need to worry about bodily resurrection. In a sense, they did not think they were going to die (I am not sure I agree with this one, but that is a debate with my colleagues, and not for here). Now, Christ's resurrection is indeed part of the gospel story; however, the gospel proclamation emphasized the death of Christ on the cross. This is why Paul never uses the resurrection to discuss the manner in which believers should live on earth. The cross of Christ is the proclamation around which believers are to shape their lives and around which the church should shape its identity. The resurrection provides a future hope and vindication for those who remain faithful in their identification with the crucified Christ. Read also Philippians 2; 2 Peter (all of it) and Mark.
A blog is simply a poor place for these discussions. Too much is assumed, often wrongly. And there is not enough space to offer a fair, detailed treatment of what are in some ways good, fair readings of scripture, yet fail to really wrestle with historical and rhetorical matters. In short, too much use of scripture for this or that purpose, but little deep reckoning with what scripture really means accoring to its historical and rhetorical contexts. So, we get surfacy readings and base our Christian practice on them. Most times, this is harmless. But the snowball rolls quickly and gathers a bunch of junk off the ground along the way.

Kelley said...

Bear with me. Random string of comments coming at you:

"When you attract people with fads and shallow externalities, you attract people who are attracted by fads and shallow externalities." Yeah. And then, after you've attracted them and brought them in the door, you introduce them to the eternal relevance and extraordinary depth of the Gospel message. And you craft Christ-centered worship experiences that stir them and affect them and leave them questioning and wondering and wanting more of whatever THAT was. (And, before anyone goes all hippicanorious on me, I'm not by any means suggesting that "contemporary music" is the only way to go about that. I'm also 100% clear that it's the Holy Spirit doing all the good stuff. We're just helping out.)

Oh, and all of the "attracting" methods must be absolutely SOAKED in authenticity.

Personally, I'm totally psyched about attracting the "fickle and shallow morass of humanity." They sound a lot like me, really. And Christ is doing a pretty amazing work in this often fickle, occasionally shallow slice of humanity.

Now, an ignorant question from a not-20-something: I get that 20-somethings want programs, groups, and so on that would help them connect with God and others. Say more. What would those programs look like? When you go to a church and you walk away thinking, "Huh. Too bad they don't have anything for us" . . . what's missing? Sometimes, I worry that churches make programming decisions based on what they THINK people want/need, rather than ASKING people what they want/need. So I'm asking: What do 20-somethings want and need?

By the way, aren't we all attracted to fads? Hello? We're blogging.

the sife said...

"And Christ is doing a pretty amazing work in this often fickle, occasionally shallow slice of humanity."

- I disagree. Unless he bought stock in hair gel.

And Fever, paragraph breaks are a good thing, man. Don't be scared of them :)

Kelley said...

Hair gel? I don't get it.

hippychick said...

Well said Kelley. If Christ is not put above all in any church, how can it succeed. Wow Tim, you opened the flood gates on this one!!!

hippychick said...

Well said Kelley. If Christ is not put above all in any church, how can it succeed. Wow Tim, you opened the flood gates on this one!!!

Tim said...

I guess I did. I was just passing on an article that I found interesting. I am glad to see that it has led to some discussion. I think conversations like this help us to grow.

Hopefully I can come up with another topic that spurs this much discussion.