Millennials and Liturgy

In Confessions of a High Church Millennial, Erik Parker writes:

For many of my 31 years in the church, I have been told that my generation is a group of moths attracted to the glitz and glamour of projections screens showing videos in church, electric guitars and drum kits playing the music we can hear on Christian radio and cool, hip preachers who speak “authentically.” …

I am a millennial and I am drawn to tradition, to wrote [sic] prayers, to words passed on to me from generations before. The symbols and ritual actions point to God in ways that nothing else has in my experience, not sunsets or Christian radio, not preachers with graphic T-shirts and 45 minute sermons. I don’t think I am alone. I am not saying that every millennial wants what I want. Liturgy is what it is, it doesn’t really sell itself. And I think many of my generation are not interested in being sold faith.

He describes the some of the impact of liturgical worship as he perceives it:

Liturgy ties us together, rather than emphasizing our personal or generational experiences. …

When you become a liturgy person, all those familiar texts like the Gloria … start to come to your mind like the baseball stats that so many dads seem to know – they come automatically. …

Worship starts to take on a rhythm and pattern that you can’t escape. You will eventually find that worship is something where you always know what is going to happen next, or that your body knows what to do next. …

When you are a liturgy person, you can show up for Anglican, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic or Lutheran worship and generally know what is going on. You might even find yourself singing songs you have never sung before because you already know the words. …

I am a boomer – not a millenial – but I experience liturgical worship in the “Great Tradition” in much the same way.

Tennent on Devotional Reading

From Timothy Tennent: Moving from Tepid Devotional Reading to a People of One Book

The central problem with most (not all) daily devotionals is that they inadvertently teach us the wrong way to approach scripture. Devotionals generally cherry pick some verse from Scripture and use that as a jumping off place to say something vague and moralistic which we already knew to be true before we started the devotional. What they do not do is to teach us to follow a biblical argument in a particular passage and really understand what the passage is seeking to teach. The purpose of the devotional is often to “inspire” rather than to “teach.” The inadvertent result is that the Christian gospel which is presented in these devotionals is often so domesticated and small that it is no wonder that we are left empty.

Four C’s of Salvation

1 Thessalonians 1:1–10

Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica is generally considered to be the oldest document in the New Testament. It is usually dated around the year 50 CE, or 17-20 years after Jesus’ resurrection. It is the earliest written witness, then, of what the Christian faith meant for the Gentiles who first heard it preached in the Greco-Roman world.

As I looked at the text of 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, the material coalesced for me around four words: comprehension, conviction, conversion and commission. Now I would not ordinarily organize the text around four alliterative points. “Points” are not generally my thing; I think a narrative approach is generally preferable. However, as a worked with the text, these four words kept coming back to me as a way to describe how the church in Thessalonica received the apostle Paul’s’ preaching of the gospel.

Comprehension

The first thing that strikes me is that Paul’s message included specific assertions about who God is and what God did.

The “living and true God” (1:9) is “the Father” (1:1, 1:3). By implication, all other deities are “idols” that Paul condemns in 1:9.

Furthermore, Jesus is the “Christ” (1:1, 1:3) [or "messiah" or "anointed one"]. He is “the Lord” (1:1, 1:3) and God’s “son” (1:10), whom God raised from the dead (1:10). In the future, Jesus will come again from heaven to save “us” [the church, whom Paul addresses] from the wrath to come [presumably on those who still cling to idols] (1:10).

So Paul proclaimed a faith that encompassed God the Father, and Jesus Christ, his Son, the Lord, who died, who rose from the dead, and who will come again when God judges the world.

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Imitators and Models

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

How does God makes a disciple? Teaching is important. There are propositional truths a Christian needs to learn. Liturgy is important, too. James K. A. Smith describes liturgy as those actions that train the heart what to desire. Importantly, word and sacrament have both a human dimension and a divine dimension. They are among the means of grace through which God has promised to act.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Paul shows us one more dimension of disciple making: imitation. As I wrote in this site’s invitation:

Being a Christian is not a solitary endeavor. To a large degree, you will learn how to be a Christian by being around other faithful Christians.

Learning through imitation affects every part of a Christian’s life, including how we engage the scriptures, how we conceptualize the faith and how we worship the living and true God. Moreover, the truth we believe in our heads and cherish in our hearts spills out into all our relationships, the koinonia we have with other Christians together with the actions and attitudes we take toward our neighbors.

Both consciously and unconsciously, we learn how to live as Christians by absorbing how the faithful people around us live their lives. And, in turn, we become models for others who choose to walk in the way of Christ.

One cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ apart from the church.

A Christian pastor in Caesar's army