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How Much Has Worship Changed in 50 Years?

This article originally appeared here.

My blog post for today contains a little math. This math does not a contain a revelatory or revolutionary idea, but when applied to worship music, church design, communicating to different demographics in our churches, and reaching out to the world of the 21st century—it matters.

Here is the simple math for every communicator, pastor, worship leader, songwriter and missional Christian. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s not important. I have seen many churches struggle with this over the last 20 years in my work.

It is approximate math, giving or taking a few years—but it is close enough for what we are measuring.

Let’s round the year to 2020. Just for fun. We’re only a few years away, and time flies.

  • 1970 was almost 50 years ago (1/2 century).
  • 1980 was almost 40 years ago.
  • 1990 was almost 30 years ago (1/4 century).
  • 2000 was almost 20 years ago.

A lot changes over time. In a day where rapid cultural change is happening at an alarming historical rate, these general estimates matter even more.

The Question

How much do

  • music styles,
  • sound experiences,
  • design styles,
  • cultural metaphors,
  • optimal times for teaching retention, and more …

… change over approximately half a century?


Every communicator, worship leader, pastor, artist and spiritual leader who desires to culturally connect, in a culturally current way, with the various age groups that are out there, must be alert to this reality. We aren’t compromising when we say we want to connect (nor are we just being “seeker sensitive”)—we are thinking like the Bridge-building Jesus of the parables, the stories and the metaphors.

And just because we “love, love, love” a certain style of music, or atmosphere, or design, doesn’t mean we aren’t way out of sync, or maybe way in sync, with demographics we desire to serve. It may not be a problem, but we need to be aware that things change, and people’s eyes, brains and emotions are not seeing, processing and feeling in the same ways.

Some elements of our worship and church life are timeless. Here are just a few:

  • The Eucharist/Communion
  • Singing together
  • Silence
  • Hearing the Word together
  • Reading the Word
  • Praying for one another
  • Fellowship
  • Reaching out to our communities, and
  • Daily, weekly and yearly Worship Year calendar rhythms.