My friend Ryan Brymer wrote a really good piece on Faith Village a week or so ago, and then he and I and another friend of ours had a lively Twitter discussion about it the next day. Since 140 characters isn’t conducive to a very good conversation, I decided to put my thoughts down here.
First, you should go read his piece. Actually, you should read all of his pieces (except the ones where he goes on and on about Charlotte Church, don’t read those, it just encourages him in his obsession for bad pop music). For now, though, read just the one. I’ll wait.
The key sentence for me, and what drove my side of our discussion, was this one.
… resorting to cheesy, Broadway-esque performance makes me fearful for the future of the Church.
Now, there are several things we could talk about here. One, who doesn’t love cheesy Broadway-esque performances? If it weren’t for cheesy Broadway-esque performances, dinner theater wouldn’t exist. Or high-school musicals. The video he mentions has almost 6 million plays between Vimeo and YouTube, so clearly someone loves cheesy, Broadway-esque performances (let’s just call them CBP’s from now on). Besides, he better be careful — the woman who sang the CBP is 6’2″, I’m pretty sure she could take him.
Of course, Ryan’s concern wasn’t just CBP’s, but CBP’s in church. But, again, who doesn’t love CBP’s in church? Where would Christmas pageants be without CBP’s? Or Easter programs? Or almost any special occasion whatsoever, even made up ones? A Sunday without a CBP is like … well, it’s like Monday thru Saturday, and those days never have any fun.
OK, I’ll be serious for a minute (but only a minute). My real issue with that statement, and by proxy the rest of the piece, was threefold.
First, I’m not fearful for “the Church” at all. The Church has survived for 2000+ years, and it’s going to survive for 2000+ more, or until Jesus comes back for her, whichever is first. Jesus said the gates of **** will not prevail against her, and I think the gates of **** are quite a bit more powerful (though perhaps not as cheesy) as a CBP. Ryan isn’t actually fearful for “the Church,” either. He’s fearful for the American church, and that’s a very different thing. Somehow we Americans, in our typically blind, prideful nationalism, tend to think that so goes the American church, so goes the Church. That’s not just not true, it’s about as far from true as you can get. It’s … super false.
Second, and what our Twitter discussion revolved around, i don’t think CBP’s are the problem, they’re the symptom. What concerns me most about the American church isn’t what’s happening on Sunday, but what isn’t happening on Monday thru Saturday. And because of what isn’t happening on Monday thru Saturday, we put up with an incredible amount of inanity on Sundays.
Last, even if we concentrate on Sunday, the CBP’s are the least of our problems. By far the biggest problem on Sunday is the Bible-less, God-less teaching that happens in so-called churches all over the nation. The biggest “church” in this fine state of Texas is led by a man who wouldn’t know a Bible verse if one reached up and slapped him in the face.
When Proverbs says “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,” the word for “vision” isn’t the vision we associate with leadership (“one of the primary requirements of a leader is to have vision”). The word is specifically talking about prophetic vision, i.e. vision from God. The biggest problem we have on Sunday morning is a lack of that vision, of a vision specifically from God, and the means to communicate that God-given vision to the people in their charge.
And… that’s about all the serious I can muster today. I’m off to find some more CBP’s. I hear there’s one at a Christmas pageant of a teenage Jesus singing “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”
(Admit it — you’re going to go google for that right now. You know you are.)