4. Looking for a Countercultural Faith
Having grown up in a culture of entertainment and consumerism, many young people are now rejecting these cultural trends—or at the very least, they are uncomfortable with their presence in the church. For those who are looking for an opportunity to meet with God that cultivates an aura of transcendence, the rhythms of ancient liturgical worship are attractive. It’s slow, repetitive and it lacks instant gratification.
The beauty of a faith that didn’t start yesterday is that it is not driven by the latest fads or personalities. For many, it harkens to another time and is not bound to the biases of today’s culture. One young adult from Chicago told me, “Liturgy is the opposite of our culture…in the sense that it provides ordered participation instead of watching passively.”
Alongside a desire for the “new,” there is a corresponding longing for the past, for a connection to something older and bigger than their individual tastes, interests and experiences. There is an undercurrent in today’s young adult culture that wants to retrieve the things of value from the past.
5. Belonging to the Universal Church
Another reason many young adults are attracted to the liturgical forms of worship is because they are tired of the schisms and splits within Christianity. They see the liturgy as a pathway for unity, a way to unite us with the historic faith by inviting us to join the universal—little “c” catholic—church. In the liturgy, we participate in the same prayers, the same songs and the same rhythms with Christians who have lived across the world and throughout the ages. Sadly, many Christians have spiritual amnesia and have forgotten or neglected the rich traditions and treasures of the faith from the past 2,000 years. Historic liturgy offers us a way to correct our forgetfulness.
Travis, a worship leader from South Carolina who recently began helping his church practice liturgical worship, said, “[Liturgy] helps us remember that we are not alone. We are part of something much bigger and very beautiful. When we pray privately or corporately, we are joining our voices with millions of people around the world and with the heavenly host around the throne.”
6. Sacramental Spirituality
While many Protestant low-church traditions have all but abandoned the celebration and practice of the sacraments, some young adults are experiencing a resurgence of interest in learning about these sacred practices and the bounty of grace inherent within them. The sacraments offer a rich, multi-sensory worship experience that engages the whole person through touch, taste and smell. The church’s outward signs reveal to us a deeper dimension of the Christian faith, one that is often lacking in much of contemporary Christianity.
Our faith is not an isolated, one-dimensional experience that only impacts our hearts, souls or minds. Instead, it must engage the whole of who we are, and the sacraments are an essential way in which God, through our faith, does this. Liturgy leads us into a faith that holistically transforms us—our hearts, souls, minds and bodies.
7. Gracious Orthodoxy
In the relativistic culture defined by a postmodern approach to questions of truth, many young adults yearn for boundaries, though they are not necessarily looking for exhaustive rules. They want an anchor for their faith, an embrace of beliefs that I would describe as a “gracious orthodoxy.”
What is a gracious orthodoxy? Several young adults I talked with expressed a longing for “correct belief,” yet they want to hold that belief in a way that is “full of grace.”
They want to stand up and confess the “faith once delivered to the saints,” yet they reject dogmatic and exclusionary relationships with other Christians. They want a faith that broadly unites them with other Christians, even those who may be a part of other denominations and other traditions. They believe that by focusing on essentials of the faith, the creeds have the power to unite believers from different backgrounds instead of separating them.
8. Anchor in Spiritual Practices
A final reason young adults are embracing liturgy is that the ancient practices of the church provide an anchor for their faith in a world of constant change. Many young people are longing for practices that help them consistently celebrate their faith. They were raised in churches that told them what to believe but didn’t offer ways for them to practice their faith. Because we are creatures of habit, the habits we practice on a daily basis form us even if we are not aware of their power.
Many of those returning to liturgy are hungry for time-honored practices that will form their faith and help them grow. Ancient practices help us develop roots that go deep whether we are young or old. Many young people are incorporating these older practices in fresh new ways into their daily lives.