Have you ever been embarrassed in church, because your teenage children were barely moving their lips when singing? Later, in the car on the way home, there’s silence or the all-purpose “whatever,” when you ask why they weren’t singing.
A decade ago, I was doing a series of teachings to the large high school group at our church. Before I spoke, we’d have a time of worship and I observed that at least 50% of the kids weren’t singing or sang sporadically – boys mostly. During the course of the year, as I got to know many of them in a small group study or on retreats, I began to notice an important correlation. It appeared to me that the non-singers, tended to be the spiritually ambivalent. Most of them believed in God, saw value in the Bible, but were clearly not yet true believers. As I got to know some of them one-on-one, they confessed that the whole “worship thing” felt phony. They saw kids who they knew were sleeping with their boyfriends or girlfriends, or smoking pot, singing their hearts out in worship and the hypocrisy of it made them gag.
It was the same things for their parents. Their mother and father would be screaming at each other in the car on the way to church and twenty minutes later, singing with gusto about loving God. They’d rather keep their mouth shut, than sing something they really don’t mean.
New songs for non-believers? So, at one meeting of our high school leaders I made this suggestion; “Are there any good spiritual songs written for non-believing teenagers?” They all look at me like I’d lost it! I wasn’t kidding.
I think we need some great new spiritual songs that address the doubts and questions of not-yet-Christians. I’d suggest songs that address these themes:
God, reveal yourself to me. I need to know you’re real and that you love me.
God, forgive my indifference to you and light my heart on fire for you.
Jesus, I’m afraid to follow you. It will mean the loss of my friends, the music and some bad habits I’ve grown to love. I’m scared!
I confess to you God that I’m a sinner and feel unworthy to be loved by you.
God, I’m angry at you for allowing children to starve to death, child soldiers to kill, and my parents to divorce. Where are you and why don’t you stop it?
Jesus, why do your people behave so badly? I hate hypocrisy! Why do they do that?
God, if there is a God, give me a sign. Help me in my unbelief.
God, help me to see what you want me to see. Do in me, what I can’t seem to do for myself – to believe. Truly believe.
New Songs So, here’s a challenge; if you have teenagers or young adults who are musicians, discuss this idea with them. Perhaps they’d like to try writing songs for this group of people. They’ll probably never get recorded, because there’s no money in it. Non-believers are not likely to purchase music to “get themselves saved.” But I still believe music could be a powerful way for not-yet-Christians to voice their questions and even anger to God. Do we dare do that? These Old Testament patriarchs did;
“God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.” Job 23:16
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” Psalm 22:1
(I’ll bet you’ve never heard those words, straight out of scripture, in a spiritual song before!)
Both Job and David loved God, but occasionally questioned why they felt deserted by him. And they dared voice their frustrations. Do we think God would be dishonored by the honest questions of not-yet-believers who seek him? “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17
This genre of song isn’t for worship services. They’re best reserved for gatherings where a good percentage of young people are wrestling with their doubts about the existence or goodness of God. Let’s give them a way to do that – to be honest before God and trust that if they seek him, he will be found.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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