I recently brought my ten year-old daughter to see the band, One Direction, in concert. Like the thousands of other parents in the stadium, I was there for little more than to see the look of pure joy on my daughter’s face. But once the band hit the stage, I immediately noticed that One Direction is not the boy band of my youth. While the show had all of the fanfare that I recall from my early years, a number of elements were decidedly different. These differences highlight why it is imperative that we as the Church continue to adapt how we live the gospel message.
When I was a girl, boy bands dressed up in coordinating outfits and lip-synced to carefully choreographed sets. Between songs, they repeated the same scripted lines night after night, filling in the blank for whatever town they were in. But I saw and heard none of this at One Direction’s show. Their clothing was notably uncoordinated. I certainly would not use the term “dressed up”, by any means. I’ll admit that the “mom” voice in my head kept saying, “Who let Harry out on stage wearing a shirt that is too short for him?”
Much to my delight, there was no lip-syncing. There wasn’t even any dancing. The show was notably un-scripted. The guys offered some of the typical platitudes I recall hearing as a middle school student, “We love you Detroit!”, but it was free of the ridiculous statements like, “You are the best audience ever!”
Instead, the band noted how loud it was because this was the first show they had played in an enclosed stadium on this tour. They offered observations like, “Wow, you must have some amazing art teachers in Detroit because I don’t think I’ve seen so many banners at a show before.”
Their unrehearsed banter seemed awkward to me at first. Accustomed to the empty flattery of the boy bands of my youth, the casual interactions between band members, stopping mid-sentence and remarking to audience members, were totally new to me.
But, of course, Once Direction couldn’t offer the same kind of empty flattery to their audiences that I recall because they don’t perform back in the days that I recall. Those days were before social media developed into the way of life that it now is. Back in my day, I was excited if I could find an article with a photo in the newspaper the following weekend. Today, within hours of concerts wrapping up, fans have already posted thousands of photos on Instagram and video clips on YouTube.
Today’s boy bands live with a new kind of accountability. And their generation is not necessarily interested in the things that entertained my generation. They value transparency far more than looking like one has it all together.
Perhaps my observations from the One Direction concert speak more about my generation than they do about today’s generation. Perhaps being a Church where this generation finds the belonging, understanding, equipping, and hope that we all long for means that the Church needs to continue to discover new ways to convey the power of the gospel message.
The Church has a huge task before it—to be the diverse, active, intergenerational body of Christ himself. This is no short order. Nonetheless, we are called to represent Christ in a world that desperately needs Him. We do this through our unity in our diversity, through the fact that we are brought together not by our cultural traditions, but by Christ alone. This generation is poised like no other to hold us accountable in this.
I pray that my children will always know that the Church as their home, even if that means that I have to give up the traditions that I am familiar with to make room for theirs. As the Church, we have a rich history, and admittedly, at times we have tossed out critical pieces that we should have held on to. Yet, there are some elements in the Church that probably don’t matter to God, elements that we cling to but perhaps God is calling us to loosen our grip on to make room for others.
Unity is not uniformity. Unity in diversity creates space where those of us who value things looking a certain way can dwell in harmony with those who value transparency. Just as boy bands will be around as long as there are teenage girls to swoon over them, the gospel message will be around as long as we are here to proclaim it. And we proclaim it by living it, by telling God’s story through sharing our stories with the next generation.
Yes, I just compared the Church to a boy band. I’ll admit, the analogy has its limits. But my point is that we need to recognize that our children and grandchildren have been shaped by a different time and culture. Yet, their generation has gifts that the rest of our generations need to receive, and receive graciously. Then, we can reap the rewards by being the Church that Christ has called us to be, a Church that gives God the glory not to traditions, but to God alone. May God continue to receive all the glory through His Church.