Recently, I was speaking to a lay leader from a church who had a concern about a change she is seeing in the worship of her church. The congregational response is becoming more and more visible and expressive. People are clapping, lifting their hands, standing up during a presentational song, kneeling at the altar, and the choir seems to be leading the way – all in a church that used to not be that way. She was quick to state that nothing unbiblical was happening, but that it also was very different from her experience attending this church as a long-time member.
“Why is our worship expression changing? Is our new leader orchestrating this?” she asked. As I’ve thought about it, I believe she is right in her observation that worship is changing in many of our churches. But, I’m also quite sure the new leader isn’t making this happen. For one thing, a leader would not be able to make such a change happen. So, what is it? Should she be concerned about this?
First, practically speaking, if you have spent any time around college students over the last twenty years, you probably saw this coming. Today’s young adults and median age adults have a different view of worship than their parents and the churches where they grew up. Worship for them is much more experiential and expressive. In churches where worship expression is growing – like the one this lady and I were discussing – it is usually driven by younger adults and students, some of which are now in the leadership roles of the church. They are much more comfortable with this type of response and many from the generation of their peers share this common experience in their worship journeys.
Secondly, it just may be that God is doing something here. Worship that is engaging and expressive in appropriate and biblical ways brings encouragement and enthusiasm to a body of believers. That is not to say that in previous generations we were not encouraged or enthusiastic in our worship – it’s just different.
If the worship in your church is changing, remember –
- Go to the bible and do your own study of worship expression.
- Test every expression in your church through God’s Word and the leadership of your Pastor.
- Don’t be suspicious of your leadership as if there is an undeclared conspiracy going on.
- Cultivate the enthusiasm for worship of younger generations – it’s a good thing.
- Resist the temptation to criticize or withdraw – pray instead!
- Connect with someone with a different perspective and have a spiritually mature conversation about what God is doing. Seek to understand.
- Celebrate the Word of God the same way you celebrate the worship expression.
Just because it is changing doesn’t mean it is wrong – it might just be that God is at work!
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book (checkout his latest book: Worship Essentials). In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family (and his two new grand-babies). Visit MikeHarland.com to keep up with all that Mike has going on.