I have an unusual perspective during Friday night high school football games.  I am the father of the band director, whether cheering for the Bucs or the Bears – one is my son’s band and the other my daughter’s group.  Of course, I am sometimes tending to a grandchild as was the case Friday night at my daughter’s game.  It was homecoming and the crowd was extra hyper – students exchanging seats, yelling at fellow students and climbing over one another to get to the concession stand.  The stands were relatively focused when the homecoming court was announced before the game and finally the homecoming queen announced.  Cheers went up, and the constant motion and noise in the stands resumed. Of course it is altogether appropriate to yell at football games and cheer for your team.  I’m right in there with them, although I am not sure how many students actually knew what was happening on the field.  The crowd buzz was slightly muffled during the presentation of the National Anthem, even though parents directly in front of me talked loudly through the entire presentation by the school chorus.  It was all I could do to keep from asking how they would like it if their child was performing on the field and other parents were openly disrespectful.  I decided to show restraint.    At halftime the school’s small marching band would have received more attention playing on a gas station parking lot.  In that location at least the novelty would have drawn some mild interest.  The band’s show design opened with a narration of scripture reading, and the show focused on the seven deadly sins enumerated in the Old Testament.  Two young girl students sitting next to my grandson and me were voting for their “favorite sins.”  Fascinating!  Since I could not hear the band I decided to listen in on their provocative conversation.  One of them announced that she did not consider either pride or gluttony really a sin.  When “lust” was announced they both exclaimed together, “Oh yeah!”  Sorta like it was their favorite.  Wow!  To these girls the list of sins, just like showing the least bit of respect for the halftime presentation by her classmates, was strictly optional.  “I like this.”  I don’t like that.”  “I’ll take this one.”  “Ignore that one.”  It was very telling.

Likewise recently I have had opportunity to observe teens in worship settings planned just for them.  I noticed that there is an eerie similarity in the environment that at best tolerates, and at worst actually encourages distraction.  I know I sound “old fashioned” and “fuddy duddy” to call for an atmosphere that inspires reverence.  I am fearful, however, that we are raising up a generation who is convinced they come to God on their own terms and in a way that pleases them, rather than on His terms and only through the means He provides.  If we pump up the volume and serve up a ballgame atmosphere we should expect the same results as the ballgame.  Little respect for leaders, for other persons, and an open display that God is someone who needs to entertain me to capture my attention.  We talk to students a lot about bringing other students to “build the crowd,” “fill up the room,” “make it exciting.”  If a visitor comes, what is the message we are giving about God’s character?  What are we saying about His place in our lives?  If our Christian students cannot engage in meaningful worship expression, but are screaming at each other over the loud music, then what possible difference does it make that the lyrics of said music are “Christian?”  Who would know?

Please do not hear me asking for saintly atmospheres where teens come in, sit with bowed heads while awaiting the leader to call them out of their meditative state. I get it that we live in a culture of distraction.  I do contend strongly, however, for a very serious evaluation on the part of youth leaders, worship pastors, and others to determine how we help set the stage for worship that encourages respect for God’s presence, celebration appropriate to the spiritual reality at hand, and that fosters genuine connection among our student worshipers with the Spirit, with their fellow believers, and that conveys to non-believers that God is God.  Even though worship may capture all extremes of our emotions at one point or another, distraction seems to be antithetical to what it means to worship a holy God.



Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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