Rebellion without a Cause

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Worship Renewal:  Unity

Rebellion without a Cause

Three Keys to Understanding Generational Spiritualities

Key Number One: The Source

In director Nicholas Ray’s 1955 masterpiece, “Rebel without a Cause,” the youth culture in America found its primal scream—James Dean’s tortured reading of a line of dialogue is the most frequently shown clip.  In a police station with his shirt collar all askew, he confronts his clueless parents, “You’re tearing me apart!”  When asked by a policeman what he was rebelling against, Dean’s character’s answer was this classic line:  “What have you got?”

Of course, rebellious youth had always been there, but the children of the WWII generation had more social media available than any previous army of hormone-driven youth: radio, records, TV, film, hot rods, and drive-ins, both the hamburger kind and movies kind.  They had money to spend and time to spend it.

And, as a nation, we began to divide, each generation from the other, in new and deeper ways.

Opportunists in the culture began to exploit the budding rebellion providing kids with “their own” music, TV shows, films, and magazines.  There was money to be made in this generational breech. Holden Caulfield, the hero of J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “Catcher in the Rye,” became that generation’s anti-hero, as the vapid values of their parents were exposed and foul language became literature. In another decade, this manufactured movement would erupt into a cultural clash known as the generation gap as “flower children” turned on, tuned in and dropped out.

The causes of this schism are many and beyond the scope of this writing or this writer. I am a Baby Boomer, raised by members of the WWII generation and an eyewitness to the emergence, exploitation and inevitable effect of this phenomenon. It is time to examine this societal segregation in the light of scripture.

Key Number Two: The Spread

It would take another ten or fifteen years for the church to experience its own youth-quake: the Jesus Movement.  This was actually a renewal, a reformation, and a revival as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was born and rusty worship machines began to get a fresh anointing of the oil of the Holy Spirit.

Church leaders of my generation accepted the inevitability of a rebellious youth culture and, instead of fighting it, joined it and made it a strategy of choice.  We divided the children from the adults, the teens from the adults, and now we divide the adults from the adults based on the music.  We now have leaders who went to children’s church as children and youth church as youth, joining with the whole church only on special occasions.  Age segregation is the new norm.  The trans-generational transfer of faith is now a crisis.  We should not be surprised.

Key Number Three: The Solution

All of this division was done in the face of scriptures that reveal the heart of God to be something else altogether:

  • Psalm 145:4 NIV One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.
  • John 17:20-22 NIV My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
  • Romans 15:5-6 NIV May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 4:3-6 NIV Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Clearly, the heart of God is that the family of God be a whole, worshiping family as faith is transferred and values are shared across generational lines. He wants us to build the structures of our lives on his Word, on Him! This is counter-cultural, not cultural.

To promote a truly Christian community is a rebellion with a cause—the cause of Christ.

There are functional reasons for the temporary grouping of people according to their needs and abilities at a given stage of life. For a few interesting months I helped teach first grade in a public school and I understand age segregation for specific instructional purposes.  However, it is a giant leap from teaching a child a children’s song to building a culture around what a child wants.

The world does exactly that without a moment’s hesitation.  It is as if, we are cursed.

Malachi 4:5-6 NIV

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

The curse we have; it is the cure we need.

This prophecy is also one of the first verses in the New Testament.  When the angel of the Lord spoke to Elizabeth about the ministry of her son John, he quoted Malachi.

Luke 1:17 NIV

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

In the classic musical of the Jesus Movement “Come Together,” Jimmy and Carol Owens wrote this verse into a wonderful song:

Turn Our Hearts
Jimmy and Carol Owens

Turn the hearts of the children to their parents.
Turn the hearts of the parents to their young.
Turn the hearts of us all to one another.
Turn the hearts of the people to the Lord.

My Windmill

I suppose this is my windmill at which I must tilt, but I must speak the counter-cultural truth I find in the Word.  There is no biblical basis for a youth culture of rebellion against authority.  Segregation by musical style is a camel swallowed as the gnat escapes unharmed.

Revival has its roots in Reformation according to scripture which must begin with a Renewal of New Covenant spirituality.  For this to happen, we must learn how to be One as we worship.

Come Together!
Jimmy and Carol Owens


Come Together! Come together! Come together in Jesus’ name!

1. Jesus People, come together. Let your light shine.
Share your love with one another. Let your light shine.
Let no difference grow between you. Let your light shine.
Let His Spirit flow between you. Let your light shine.

Well, let it shine, shine, shine! Come on and Let your light shine.
Well, let it shine, shine, shine! Come on and Let your light shine.

2. Jesus People, come together. Let your light shine.
Come and worship your Redeemer. Let your light shine.
Sing for joy and shout for gladness. Let your light shine.
Come and praise Him for His goodness. Let your light shine.


3. Jesus People, come together. Let your light shine.
Tell the world about your Savior. Let your light shine.
Preach the Gospel of Salvation. Let your light shine.
Spread the new to every nation. Let your light shine.


Come Together! Come together! Come together in Jesus’ name!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2012 Creator Magazine and 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

For further reading on Whole Family Worship:

Generation to Generation

Greeks at Nine / Jews at Eleven: Worship that Brings down Walls

Six Keys to Worship Renewal

Turning Hearts

Where Have All the Boomers Gone?

Who’s in Charge Here?

The Hammers and the House 

Transfer of the Watch 

Come (Back) Together!

The Calamity of Culturally-Driven Worship

The Power and Glory of Culturally Expressed Worship Part 1 

The Power and Glory of Culturally Expressed Worship Part 2

The Gunfight at the Samaritan Well

Rebellion without a Cause


  1. Steve, one of the things I value most about our little church in West Helena was the corporate worship and teaching of the Word by our wonderful pastor. We gleaned so much by simply observing our elders as they entered into worship and then time spent around the altars. We experienced love and support from our elders during this time. For me this was a life saver. Our church family was truly MY family. I think about your dad. He took the time to nurture and bring out talent from the youth after working hard hours. He could have just said “I”ll let someone else do it, I’ve worked long, hot hours and I need my rest.” I am so thankful that the elders took time for us. It made all the difference for me.

    • Becky–you cannot know how much your words about my Dad mean to me. He was a great man who touched his generation and the ones who came after. That’s what each of us must do. I want to see a rebirth of the inter-generational worship and fellowship we experience at our little church growing up. We didn’t realize how special it was–that was just the way it was supposed to be. How did we lose this? How can we get it back? That’s my “windmill” as I wrote in this piece. Thanks for reading and commenting. Steve

  2. Hi Steve. I am not acquainted with you but came across this article and wanted to say “thanks” for writing it. As a pastor, generational renewal has been a topic close to my heart and long to see it happen. Your article carried me along until the last paragraph where you left me hanging. I was expecting a seven point way to generational shift toward God. But, I understand. It is not that simple. Hopefully, you will be able to offer more revelation on this in the future. blessings. Mike

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