Monday, June 29, 2009

Worship & Theology, post 5: This thing is worse than Swine Flu!

So having set the table, its time to dig into the steak.

Our services of worship have gone down hill. If we were to point fingers, and I don't intend to; we could point to Finney and Darby, but I won't. Suffice it to say that what passes as worship music today is failing.

And it is not that it is not good music. In fact the opposite is the case. Never have more people been in the full employment (or support) of the church in the area of music.

There are more professional and professional caliber musicians serving the church with less theological music being written. We have substituted musical excellence for excellent music.

What I mean by that is that we have sacrificed content for style. Our music is good. It is popular. There is little difference between U2 and some of our more popular worship groups. That is no slam on U2, it is a compliment.

The problem is that we have focused so hard on the style and attracting people to worship that we have abandoned that which is just outside our range of vision, God.

A few weeks ago, everyone was scarred that the half of the world's population was going to die of Swine Flu. Surgical masks in hand, people braved mass-transit. Armed with super-mega-antibiotics people took to the streets hoping not to be victimized by this pig-faced killer. But it was a lot of hype and not a lot of fall out. It was more bacon and less epidemic and apocalypse. Am I guilty of the same thing? Am I making a pandemic out of a minor issue? Is this Swine Flu or simply a strain of Flu called H1N1?

Lets take a look. The following are the top songs from the Christian section of iTunes by downloads. The first is "God in Me" by Mary Mary. Here are the lyrics:

- Mary Mary Lyrics

Seriously, I can't make this up. But lets be fair the next song was by famous worship leader David Crowder. It's called How He Loves.

Lyrics | David Crowder Lyrics | How He Loves Lyrics

This is much better, but there is still some significant problems. Did you catch the line about heaven meeting earth like a sloppy wet kiss. I'm sorry, is this the transcendent God of the universe or Brad Pitt in a romantic comedy?

The third most downloaded song is Matthew West's "The Motions":

Lyrics | Matthew West Lyrics | The Motions Lyrics

OK. At this point I need to stop.

I don't want to sound negative and like everything is awful and bad. I am not trying to say that everything that doesn't meet my select standard of theology fails.

What I do want to point out is the extreme lack of any kind of theology whatsoever. It is not as if I object to these songs out of my theological vantage point. They have no theological vantage point.

It is also not that I object to these songs because they sound too much like God is my girlfriend. There is theological justification of that style of worship as made clear in the book of Song of Songs.

Here is the point that I am making, and to be pointed that I am putting to you Rich: The music behind these songs is relatively good. The problem is theological. We have to abandon notions of musical excellence until we can recapture the transcendence and a healthy dose of the immanence of God.

We have sacrificed our theology on the altar of music.

Links to the conversation thus far:

1 2 3 4

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wal-Mart is Killing the Church

Let me start by pointing out that Rich Van Voorst has posted the latest blog in our series on Worship and Theology over at his blog. This post is number 4. We will begin numbering our post so you can follow the flow better.

Ok, to my thoughts:

Wal-Mart killing the church. There, I said it.

Ok, So I don’t mean that Sam Walton is out to destroy Christianity. I am pretty sure he isn’t.

What I mean is the philosophy that drives Wal-Mart is bleeding into our concept of church in ways that are disconcerting.

When you go to Wal-Mart you are confronted with a dizzying array of choices. What kind of orange soda does my mother-in-law want? Shasta? Sunkist? Orange Crush? Fanta? Sam’s Choice? Nehi? Barrilitos? Even worse, what if she wants carbonated orange drink that isn’t soda; the choices increase exponentially.

So there I stand in the aisle dedicated to soda, reeling at my choices.

But I am not that worried. If I pick the wrong one and she wants another, though it will be a pain, all I have to is go back and get the right one.

We can have anything we want custom made. I presided over a weeding a few years ago where the bride and groom had M&M’s made with their names on them. How cool is that!

Unfortunately we have brought this mentality to church. Our commitment only runs as deep as the given churches commitment to make us happy. If anything changes that we don’t like, we quit and go somewhere that fits our needs.

If they serve Matza bread at communion, we leave for the Church of the Leavened Bread. If they don’t cater to our needs we find someone who will. This is what has created 27,647 distinct IRS recognized church divisions in the United states.

You could go to a different denomination once a day, everyday from the day you were born and would not finish visiting them all until you were 75!

We have got to commit to a church and believe that we are a part of that body. If we believe that the Bible is true, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that people to not join churches at random. They are created to be specific part of a body at a specific time. They are not created to endlessly seek what makes them happy.

It is not always easy, but we are created for a specific church and that church needs us, and we need them.