According to Piper Jaffray’s 27th semi-annual study into teen behavior (as examined in http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2014/04/american-teens-dont-hang-out-malls-anymore/8857/), the number of visits by teenagers to malls has dropped by 30% over the past decade. Furthermore, the report states, “Restaurants have become a gathering place and teens are increasingly suggesting they prefer dining out to other forms of status brand spending. We see restaurants as the next generation hang out for teens.” According to the article, “The study finds that modern teens are more interested in ‘experiences’ than name-brand clothes.”
So, teenagers and 20-somethings, while still spending money on “stuff,” view “experiences” as a higher priority and demonstrate this through their spending habits.
Many church leaders have, at some point, run across research that shows that the current generation (teenagers and 20-somethings) are leaving the church in droves. I wonder, in light of Jaffray’s study, could it be that many of that generation are not finding in a church what they crave? Do they not find “experiences?” Do they experience something they find uninspiring?
What I have found in typical human behavior, not just in the current generation but in all generations, is that if something excites or inspires, people will go to great lengths to be present.
So, that lends me to this question, “Just how often and to what level do people have an experience of encountering God when in our church gatherings?” What are they truly experiencing? What and/or whom do they truly encounter.
I’m not trying to say that we should cater to some emotional desire, but when someone has an encounter with the living God, shouldn’t there be excitement and inspiration?
I remember an experience that Graham Cooke once mentioned. He was still living in England at the time and was a guest at a worship gathering of a different church from his own. As he sat in the sanctuary, he and God started having a conversation about the “dryness” of the worship. In Graham’s words, it was dead – listless and lifeless. Graham started throwing a pity party about being there and experiencing that. How Graham said God responded I found priceless. (and I paraphrase) “Graham, you are a guest here. You come once and you don’t have to come back. These people expect me to show up every week!”
So, if you were at a worship gathering of a church yesterday, ask yourself, “Did I truly encounter God yesterday?” And if you answered yes, then answer this question: “How did I encounter God yesterday at that worship gathering?”
Did what you experience yesterday more closely resemble the characteristics of a funeral or a fulfillment of an obligatory act rather than an encounter with the almighty God?
The God we worship is the God of life. The God we worship is the God of creativity. The God we worship is the God of inspiration. The God we worship is the God of excitement. The God we worship is the God of celebration. The God we worship is the God of joy. The God we worship is the God of the unexpected. The God we worship is the God of all power. The God we worship is the God of music.
The God we worship is the LIVING God.
Shouldn’t our worship then reflect that Jesus is truly alive rather than still in the tomb?
Shouldn’t our worship gatherings then more closely reflect His presence? Jesus told his disciples that while the bridegroom was with them, they should rejoice. Well, the bridegroom, because he lives in us, is always with us. Shouldn’t we then respond accordingly in our worship?
And that gets us back to the craving of “experiences” as a very high priority. This current generation is craving “experiences” and we serve a God who encounters and gives incredible “experiences.”
Let us demonstrate that; let us demonstrate life, because that’s who God is.