Not Not Letting Go

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.)

4 thoughts on “Not Not Letting Go

  1. Vince,

    A) thanks for the response.

    B) Charlotte Church is most assuredly indie rock, not pop – that hurt my heart. Further, the world must know! (To be fair, the Four EP was more pop and decidedly less engaging than her previous work.

    C) Again, I don't think that we disagree, we're just coming at it from different perspectives.

    I'm more focused on practice and procedure than the spiritual side. In fact, I'm assuming the best motives and proper theology. My concern (as I'll flesh out in future posts) is more focused on a teaching model from a sociological/learning perspective.

    I have been writing with a bit of hyperbole, but I stand by my statements.

    All that to say, I'm 100% with you and I think that you get what I'm saying for the sake of your own hyperbole.

  2. A) You're welcome.

    B) You think the Stones are better than the Beatles, so we've already established our musical tastes are quite different. I'll just say an album I pulled at random of hers in iTunes (after my post and your reply) is in the "Pop" category. Plus, I have ears. But let's not argue about Charlotte — it was a throwaway line for fun, and I probably wouldn't tolerate someone picking on Rich, either. 🙂

    C) Yes, as we "discussed" on Twitter, we definitely agree there's a problem. But I don't assume the best motives and proper theology, because they've both been proven to not be there ((in general, not this church specifically). Further, I think if the living out of the Gospel (Monday-Saturday) is present, they can sing all the CBP's they want on Sunday. Lots of us like bad music. Or, more accurately, music others think is bad (ahem).

    Most importantly, if it's not obvious (and I know it's not always), know that I love and greatly respect you and your views and writings, and have great fun discussing them with you.

    But I have no idea what you mean by hyperbole…

  3. Vince,

    For the sake of seriousness, do you really think that "if the living out of the Gospel (Monday-Saturday) is present, they can sing all the CBP's they want on Sunday"?

    The reason for my concern is that I think that this will become (perhaps already is becoming) a major turn-off to younger generations. It's attempting to make the church more "relevant" to one demographic while coming off as completely irrelevant to others.

    For a long time now, churches have conscripted the tools of the day to make themselves more relatable. What I'm afraid of, however, is that coming generations don't want a church that has all the trappings of brand and Broadway. A place that looks and feels different from everything else that they interact with on a daily basis.

    Certainly it varies from place to place, but I think that many churches are not well-positioned for the pending culture shift. The millions of views that the aforementioned video has will serve as justification for continuing down that path until one day they wake up and ask – where are all the young people? At which point they will scramble to find the latest "thing". Rinse. Repeat.

    your thoughts?

  4. First, I think Ron is right — you need to come to Hard 8 with us for lunch one day. 🙂

    My small group mantra for many, many years: People will put up with not good teaching if they have good/great relationships. People will not put up with not good relationships no matter how good the teaching is.

    The same thing applies here: people will put up with not good Sunday experiences if they're seeing and experiencing the gospel being lived out on a daily basis. And if they're not seeing that, it doesn't matter how good the Sunday experience is.

    One of the problems (perhaps The) with focusing on the Sunday experience or lack thereof is that assumes an attractional model, i.e. that the Sunday experience is going to attract non-believers. That hasn't been true in the rest of the world for decades, and I don't believe it's true in the US, either, even here in the buckle of the Bible belt.

    IOW, if the American church is depending on their Sunday experience to make a difference to the younger "lost" generation, then we've already … lost. The "pending culture shift" has come and gone, and no, the American church wasn't prepared for it. But it had nothing to do with our music, it had everything to do with our not actually living out the gospel!

    This is why I say that the CBP's are the symptom, not the problem. If the real problem is taken care of, the CBP's will take care of themselves. That is, if the church uses CBP's because they're hopelessly behind the times, then their gospel-liver-outers will go somewhere else, or form their own body, or storm the Bastille, or whatever.

    But, if the church uses CBP's because the body likes CBP's, AND they're living out the gospel on a daily basis, well, then, who am I to tell them they should play U2 and David Crowder instead?

    Finally, according to your previous post you don't even participate (by singing) in music worship anyway, so what difference does it make what they sing? 🙂

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