Sunday, October 30, 2005

A. Vacation: Reply

I'm confused. This person, who is not a believer, attends a Christian worship service. Despite being an admitted liberal who listens to popular music (such as Van Halen), she criticizes the music of a Christian choir for not being conservative enough? I don't follow the logic of her statement.

You got all the details right but didn't listen to what she said.

  • Yes, Sarah Vowell is profoundly liberal.
  • Yes, she's not a believer (in fact, she's essentially turned her back on church/God, which she does get into at other places in the book).
  • Yes, she thinks the CCM mid-tempo pop ballad is insipid (she's not alone on that one).
  • Yes, she wants music that feels root-sy & authentic...

...which is her point (and mine). We in the church often assume that we KNOW what seekers want - but we don't actually listen to seekers to find out. Much of what the emerging church has done right is because they've tapped into the authentic desires of folks seeking a real & vibrant faith, rather than simply creating our own Christian subculture hermtically sealed against corruption.

But I've gone off-topic - you questioned the logic of her statement. Being a political liberal does not define your musical tastes, any more than being a theological conservative does. What she expressed is a desire for gospel music - that to her, like many of the senior adults in my congregation, there's a particular sound that rings true to them as "professing Christ".

I'm not saying that every church should do Johnny Cash's "Man in Black" each Sunday (though it wouldn't hurt if we played One Bad Pig's cover of it every once in a while). :-) But I think we must listen carefully to those in the culture around us to hear how our attempts at communicating the most important message ever is coming across. Not so we can change the message (cue dope slap) but so we can make sure the way we're communicating doesn't speak louder than the truth of Jesus Christ.


Scott Rushing said...

Good conversation Mark. I'm still working out exactly what I think about this topic. Actually, I've been working on this for about 16 years, so I probably won't come to any solid conclusions any time soon.

I have gone from being completely seeker sensitive, and desiring all worship to sound contemporary; to now being completely liturgical, and relying very little on seeker sensitivity.

Maybe the Orthodox have it right; worship in a way that makes people realize they are completely removed from culture, and in God's presence. Something about their form of worship I find appealing for that very reason. Of course, I'm not sure I want to worship like a 5th century Antiochean for the rest of my life either. LOL

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Nothing wrong with going for a worship tradition that is deeply meaningful to you... but will that tradition end up spiralling into irrelevancy to the world around it? (Obviously, the Orthodox Church has been around a long time - I'm not predicting it's soon demise.) :-)

I'm pretty sure you're oversimplifying, but there is no way to have "worship in a way that makes people realize they are completely removed from culture." In the Orthodox tradition, you've simply chosen a DIFFERENT culture than the one you currently live in. The same is true in a traditional Baptist church.

My assertion is that we must swim as creatures in a culture that shot through with the love & grace of God... and that our worship forms should be informed by the culture, while NEVER comprimising the Message.

Good conversation, indeed!