The number one song on April 23, 1976 was “Disco Lady” by Johnnie Taylor. The first few lyrics: “Shake it up, shake it down, Move it in, move it round, Disco Lady.
Move it in, move it out, move it in round about, Disco Lady.”
On that very date, The Ramones self-titled debut album was released. The first song on the album was “Blitzkrieg Bop” and the first few lyrics read, “Hey, Ho! Let’s go! Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” Then the song talks about the crowd of kids ready to release “lightning war” at their shows: “They’re forming in a straight line. They’re going through a tight wind. The kids are losing their minds. The Blitzkrieg Bop. They’re piling in the back seat. They’re generating steam heat. Pulsating to the back beat. The Blitzkrieg Bop.”
The number one song on October 27, 1977 was “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone. The sappy love song starts with “So many nights I sit by my window. Waiting for someone to sing me his song. So many dreams I kept deep inside me. Alone in the dark but now, you’ve come along.”
On that same day, the Sex Pistols released their debut album “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.” The 38 minutes and 45 seconds of fury started with the song “Holidays in the Sun” which begins with the sound of boots marching and the lead singer announcing they took a vacation in “other people’s misery.” The lyrics about their trip to East Germany: “Sensurround sound in a two inch wall. Well I was waiting for the communist call. I didn’t ask for sunshine and I got World War Three. I’m looking over the wall and they’re looking at me. Now I got a reason, Now I got a reason. Now I got a reason and I’m still waiting. Now I got a reason. Now I got a reason to be waiting: The Berlin Wall.”
I could go on with other hit songs from the late 70’s. Paul Simon had 50 ways to leave your lover. Manfred Mann blinded us by the light. The Bee Gees were stayin’ alive. Rod Stewart asked the world if we thought he was sexy and implored us to let him know.
Now, these songs were all #1 on the charts for a reason. People must’ve liked them for some reason or another. But here’s the deal: There were those of us who wanted just a little bit…
We wanted music that was ABOUT something. Even if you disagreed with what that something was.
Something that wasn’t boring (even if themes were simple).
Something that was played as loud and as aggressive as we felt.
Something that couldn’t be played as background music at a party.
Something that wasn’t safe.
Something that was OURS.
Something let the establishment know we meant business, even when they mocked us and patronized us.
Something that was made because it was authentic, not because somebody was trying to get rich and famous.
Something that said things needed to change.
In short, some of us were indeed all revved up and ready to go. We had a reason. And the status quo of music during the mid-70’s caused a reaction that now academics study and musicians acclaim critically. Want proof? Ever seen a recent list of the greatest albums of all time? You’d be amazed at the percentage of a top-100 list that includes punk music. You’d be amazed at how many are in the top-10.
And if you don’t think there’s something wrong with the status quo of The Church in America, can I humbly suggest you might not be paying attention? The amount of publishing to the Tribe that is pointing out the failings of the church is staggering. I’ve mentioned plenty of those books here at The Diner before and quoted extensively, but if you want studies about it, feel free to check out The Millennials by Thom & Jess Ranier as well as Gabe Lyons’ work The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America.
The peculiar thing about the reality to me is the reaction of not only the church leadership but also the rank-and-file to this data.
It can be summed up in a sermon I heard via podcast this week. It was from a church I value, with a pastor who “gets it.” They’re doing great things for the Kingdom. And the guest speaker they had that day had the chops to talk about the church. He’s forgotten more than I’ll likely ever know about The Church and there’s no question he is a respected person to speak on the subject of what the church is and should be. He did a fantastic job, frankly.
But there was one part of his sermon in which he alluded to the very statistics that shows The Church is in decline. The statistic he quoted, rightly, was that some 80% of active evangelicals will leave the church for good before they turn 40 years old. Now, keep in mind this number is staggering…and a reality of the status quo. Offhandedly, the speaker said that this exodus of our younger generation was because they hadn’t been taught the true nature of the The Church.
With all due respect to this speaker (and much is due, trust me), I’d like to have a cup of coffee with him and discuss this a bit. Because my experience has taught me that the younger generation HAS been taught the true nature of the church…
…and the church isn’t living up those standards, folks. That’s why they’re leaving and not coming back. It isn’t that the upcoming generation of the Church doesn’t know what the Church should be, it’s that they do know what the Church should be and can’t find one that measures up to the high standards they’ve been taught in Scripture.
They want it to glorify and focus on Christ…not peripherals (yes, I’m staying vague here).
They don’t want the same-old, same-old.
They want something that calls them to a higher lifestyle founded on the highest ideals.
They don’t want the Church as another part of their life, they want it to be their life.
They don’t want the “well-worn path to successful mediocrity.”
They don’t want to be pigeonholed, they want to have ownership of vision and direction.
They don’t want to be patted on the head by being given an alternative room or service.
They don’t want to show up on Sunday, hear nice worship and hear a good sermon and then go on with their week.
They do want to be part of a body that is everything Scripture says it should be.
And if even some of our most revered leaders in our churches today admit the status quo needs to be challenged, then by all means, don’t you think we should start doing that very thing?
So, a few discussion points:
Why do you think the younger generation is leaving the church and not coming back?
How can you challenge the status quo and do so in love?
What would attract you to be a part of a community of believers in Christ?
A little deep for a Saturday, but have at it, patrons.
P.S. If you’re looking for my “must-reads” on this topic, you might want to pick up the following:
The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Halter & Smay. (now a Kindle edition, too)
And, if you really want to have your hair blown back:
The Shaping of Things to Come, The: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church by Frost & Hirsch. (now in a Kindle edition as well)