We deserved it.

First this...

This has been rocking my world for a few days now, and a lot of my friends as well. For some reason, it has struck a chord; it's almost worse than some kind of sexual scandal (for what reason, I'm not sure - still processing through that).

But I quickly landed on an interesting position:

we deserved it.

"We" meaning the church. Full disclosure: I'm a church worker (surprise); furthermore, I'm a church worker who stands on a stage each week, mostly with a guitar in hand, and tries to get people to remember the saving acts of Yahweh, their God. I've worked at one of the largest churches in the world, and at some of the smallest ones.

For years, church "worship culture" (does this sound like insane vocabulary to anyone out there besides me?) has been in ascendancy. Vineyard, Hosanna, and Maranatha laid the groundwork in the 1980s, and then Passion, SonicFlood, and Hillsong blew the doors off in the 1990s, making the worship of God pretty big business.

I'm not questioning motives. I've had the privilege of meeting some of the "names" in worship leading, and most of them are really great guys. But in the meantime, we -- the Christian, "Big C" church -- created a machine. This machine feeds good music to a lot of churches across the world, but unfortunately there are by-products to this that I believe are utterly unavoidable and mostly negative.

It's just this: should worship be based on the particular remembrance of a particular community of people of God's activity in their midst? Should worship be localized and intimate? Or should it be broadcast as a mirror image of pop culture, fed from the far off lands of Nashville, Australia, and Orange County?

Because if worship is going to be business, franchised out from the musical mega-centers, then the ramifications of a failure like this will spend tremors around the world. If worship music is going to be severed from relationship (unlike shepherding and discipleship, thank God), then we have to be prepared for failures.

What would I advocate in its place? Partly I'm not sure. I think in evangelical culture we've already "swallowed the pill". We assemble worship sets from iTunes "Top 10 Worship Songs" lists; from the latest release from SixSteps, most of the time without asking the deeper questions of what our community needs. Do we need this song? What about an ancient (maybe just pre 1970?) prayer?

Sometimes I fear that the "Traditional" (is that a bad word) churches may be on to something. The main line churches, who evangelicals have snickered at behind closed doors, worship in intimacy and "smallness" (some of them by necessity, as their congregations have shrunk away, stolen by the new mega church down the street). If an artist -- or even a pastor -- stumbles and falls in their community, the damage is truly no less severe, but reconciliation can occur in the way it was always intended to -- in relationship. Those who've been effected by the lack of integrity of a TV evangelist, or a youth pastor in Australia have no recourse, and God the Father takes the hit most of the time.

Years ago, we (the evangelicals) decided to dance with the devil, and decided to have our worship governed by celebrities. Most of the time, we've reaped benefits of great songwriting and new visions for musical worship. But we've also set up a system now that trades relationship for excellence, and so when one of us weak and frail individuals fall, we now shake whole systems of churches.

Can we return to smallness? Can we return to local artists struggling through "C+" songs, rather than purchasing the "A+" one from iTunes?

I really don't know. I think we like it here.

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At 4:17 PM , Blogger beth said...

Good post.

You know what I think we hate most about this? So many of us leeched onto this song as an awesome new 'story' of amazingness and coolness and Christian superman kind of stuff. It's been played at churches - not just the song, but the video - and we extolled the soap opera, human tragedy part of the story. We get distracted away from THE story to seize upon LITTLE stories and we can control and dig into and maybe even reach out and touch...I think that's maybe what drove this guy. We are so compelled by the popularity contests and created cool factor of the subculture that we have created and call 'church' that we get sucked away from the Jesus story and completely captivated by this.

Not that THE story isn't full of HUMAN stories, which is why we get it, why it works - but when we are compelled to begin to make up our own so that we fit or find fame or whatever, something's screwy.

So I think the problem here is that we got snookered - and too many of us fell for it, hook, line and sinker. And we know it. We'll push this sappy soap opera over the dynamic and awesome convicting power of a holy God...

...and then we find out how hollow it all was....

I cannot condemn this guy, as one who has been a liar, a hypocrite and a sinner. I hurt for him. My anger goes towards the church, and those of us (me included) who are willing to settle for a three minute pop song with an oxygen line, rather than what we are offered by the Healer - whether it tickles our ears or not..

Them's my 2 cents.


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