What the 2000′s Church Will be Remembered for in 50 Years
Someone’s going to study us. We study church history from 50 years ago, and in 50 years someone will study us. Some of it will be good, and some of it will be bad. To say it will all be good is both unrealistic and bordering dangerously on the common human error of thinking that since we are currently at the farthest point in time we have ever been, that we are also at the farthest point of knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and progress we have ever been. And to say that everything we will be remembered for will be bad is to risk sounding like you’re trying to be all post-emergent, and that you have it all figured out, and that the church has become just terrible. Which is actually worse than the first mindset. In the first, at least you’re in a state of pride in something collective. That’s at least forgivable and kind of sweet. (And ya, contrary to what that last phrase would make you think, this is still a guy writing this.) But in the second mindset, there’s few things more awkward and off-putting than people who feel like they must be right and 500,000 other people must be wrong. I’m not saying it can’t happen…but let’s be real that just maybe…I know this is crazy…but just maybe we don’t have it all figured out and we’re actually going to learn some more stuff as we keep living.
And yikes, this post is turning out to sound very ‘church magazine-ish’ if you know what I mean. And if there’s one thing I fear above all else (besides the ‘off’ switch on delay pedals), it’s church magazines trying to come up with new twists on old concepts in order to shock people into reading. And then when you get to the end you’re like, ‘No, I think that verse has always said that.’ So, before I can go any farther into becoming a caricature of my own fear (if you put ‘caricature of your own’ before any object you’re talking about…it’s automatic increase in perceived smartness), I gotta do this:
(This is me on my bachelor party. I decided to leap out of the car while it was still moving. I intended to hit the ground running like I was Jason Statham or something. I tend to over-estimate myself. What ended up happening was…well, you can see what ended up happening. Luckily, my friend Ryan, who snapped the picture, made sure you couldn’t see……uh…everything. Yep. First step out of the car, done. My other friend, Tim, somehow managed to not run over me. Thank you, Tim. The other one? Justin? Ya. Laughing. Probably would have been laughing even if Tim hadn’t managed to not run over me.)
There we go. Any perceived smartness that ‘caricature’ may have added for a few seconds is now gone. And it’ll stay gone, as this isn’t a church musings blog. It’s ‘guitar.’ ‘For worship.’ So, most of these things that I kind of think our current church as an American/European whole might be remembered for in 50 years, have to do with music. As does most of life. Yes. And I cannot take all the credit for this post. A good deal of this has been brewed from a few talks with my father, who is quite a learned and wise man in his own rite. Much moreso than myself. Although if you end up not liking this post, I’m sure he’d be more than happy to let all the credit go to me. But quite honestly, I think the majority of the established western 2000′s church might be remembered in 50 years for:
–Making ‘worship music’ synonymous with ‘worship.’ And that is bad. However, when someone says to me, ‘How was worship?’, I immediately think of the music portion of a church service. It’s become ingrained in me. And in this way, when the Bible talks about ‘worshiping God’, we tend to think that God wants more music. But in the Hebrew, the words for ‘serve’ and ‘worship’ are the same. And in English, serving someone to show how much you ‘give them worth’, makes much more sense to me than singing to them. I’ve said it before, but I can write my wife all the love songs in the world; but if I never make her dinner or take her on a date or take out the garbage, is she going to feel worshiped? Nope. The songs are supposed to be just small mirrors of what our lives should be about. But usually, when we are told to worship God more, we sing Him more songs, because that’s what we in general automatically think of when we hear the word ‘worship.’
–Bringing emotionality back into worship music. I think this is good. We see to have done a really good job making it widely acceptable to love God with all we are…and that includes deep emotions.
–Forgetting missions. I know, I know. I hate that word, too. It’s been used so much, and has been associated with so many ‘I want to shoot myself in the head from boredom’ sermons in other languages on ‘Missions Sunday’, that literally the sight of that word bores me. It does. I’m totally turning on Airborne Toxic Event right now. Yes, out-of-tune yet somehow fun guitar. Combat the boredom. However…in making the church the center of outreach, we’ve kind of forgotten to reach out. Not that I’m down on outreach-driven churches. Sweet mercy, if people can’t find God in churches, where are they gonna go? By all means, let’s reach out to non-believers in church! But it seems like we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve said, ‘Well we opened our church doors, put flyers up on the Starbucks community board, and have our billboards up! What more can we do?’ And there’s nothing wrong with that at all! But it still has to be coupled with us going out and meeting people where they’re at, rather than waiting for them to come to us. I’m guilty of this one most of all. And I’m haunted every day by a book called ‘Simplicity.’ If you can, try to pick this book up. It was kind of shunned by the church in general because, I’ll admit, there’s some questionable things in there. But at least it’s honest. It asks the questions we don’t want to. And it’s written by the lead singer of Stavesacre, who used to be a Christian band. And this guy has chosen…rather than staying in a safe church…and even more than doing ‘outreach events’, to live an outreach. Of all the places to choose to work and live, he’s chosen to live in downtown Huntington Beach and work at a coffee shop famous for the convicts and parolees that patronize it. He chose to step out and live it. And that haunts me. Because I play a well-known Coldplay intro to a worship song, and think I’ve done my outreach for the week.
(The third cover of the book. I believe the first was deemed inappropriate for some very odd reason.)
–Making our churches more outreach-driven. hehe Alright, since I just railed on church and myself for not reaching out enough, I’ve got to say that I do think that the fact that the 2000′s church seems to have made itself much more accessible and open to the non-believers who do enter through our open doors because of the Starbucks flyers and billboards. And this, I think, is very, very good.
–That almost every one of our movements ended in a scandal. Kind of sad, but history is not kind to this type of stuff. I mean, history will make up stuff about people if it feels like it. So the fact that so many prominent heads of so many prominent Christian movements over the last 10 years have ended their tenures abruptly by the uncovering of money laundering, affairs, or any other number of the visible sins, will most definitely not be forgotten.
–Making ‘Republican’ and ‘American’ mean the same thing as ‘Christian.’ And ‘Democrat’ isn’t synonymous with this new breed of ‘free-thinking’ Christian we seem to be breeding, either. ‘Christian’ is completely different. Not all Christians love America; and I’d say especially the Christians in the underground churches of China and Indonesia and such. And not all Republican beliefs are Christian, and not all Democrat beliefs are evil. Anything beyond God’s commands (i.e. not killing babies, taking care of His creation, supporting the poor, etc.) is just politics. Nothing against America, Republicans, Democrats, or politics. But we’ve gotten to the point where if you’re a patriotic Republican, well then, you must be a Christian, too; and vice versa. And I’m not sure that’s in the Bible.
–Focusing more on the buildup of the family and the alleviation of sin than on preaching Christ or loving people. I just have this scary feeling that we’re going to get up to Heaven and tell Jesus, ‘Lord! We outlawed homosexuality, kept prayer in schools, and kept all the bad people out of our neighborhood!’ And I think God’s going to say something to the effect of (and apologies, I don’t like putting quotes around things I’m merely assuming God would say, hehe), Okay. Well, I never intended homosexuality, I like prayer, and I’m glad you showed love to your kids by keeping your neighborhood safe. Cool. So, how many homosexuals, politicians who didn’t believe in prayer, and criminals in your neighborhood did you bring with you here to Heaven? And we’re going to be like, ‘Oh. You mean you wanted people brought to You, not the world to be cleaner?’
–Making some asserted steps in art and music to create new things for God, rather than just recycling 15-year-old ‘secular’ ideas. Ya, we don’t have it perfect yet. But at least we’re going after it. The Christian music industry is far from perfect. And maybe it shouldn’t even be it’s own industry, in the purest form of simply living out Christ amidst a fallen world. But there is a concerted effort to create art for the glory of God, and I think that’s a good thing.
–Confusing people who haven’t yet come to know Christ, for demons. I know it sounds stupid, but so much of current Christian culture is based on the war model. That it’s a battlezone out there, and we’d better fight the evil or be overcome by it. Which is fine. Ya, if you’re getting overcome by sin, or by Satan, or demons, you should battle it. But we seem to always want to battle people. If someone says ‘Christianity sucks’, we immediately go into battle mode and start to battle the person. Usually with words. And it’s understandable. Sometimes in order to take a stand for something you believe in, you have to pump yourself up. The problem is that it seems we’ve never gotten past that. I mean, how much do you really believe in what you believe? Do you believe it enough not to be shaken and go crying to your Bible study about the ‘persecution’ you’re enduring when someone says ‘Christianity sucks’? But rather to say, ‘Alright. I’m gonna tell you right now that I don’t believe that. But obviously you’ve got your reasons for saying that. What do you do for fun?’ And starting a relationship. Almost always, when someone makes fun of something, they’re a little intimidated by it. Like when I make fun of Paul Walker. Ya, I think…nope, not ‘think’…he just is…a horrible actor. But if I look deep enough, I’m sure that I’m also a little intimidated that someone who I think to have so little talent, can be that much more famous, rich, and accepted than I am. And I’m sure the fact that I always lived under the delusion I was kind of good looking until I saw how good looking he is, doesn’t help either. (Wow, I just said that.) Anyway, any emotion towards something is an open door. And not just to ‘winning’ them for Christ. To actually loving them for who they are…which of course includes caring about where they end up for eternity. But it also includes hearing out their side of the story, and listening to their hurts, successes, failures, and stupid things that humans tend to say.
(That man is a horrible actor. Such stern confusion. He is definitely better looking than I am, though. And this frightens me. Hence, I make fun of his acting skills.)
I apologize for the serious tone in this post. There’s enough serious blogs out there that claim to know the secret to 2000′s Christianity, and I’m afraid this post fell right into that. But at the same time, as the title of the blog conveys topics about understanding worship, and ‘worship’ is not just synonymous with music, I think it might be good every once in a while to look at ourselves and our culture from different eyes. And to step outside ourselves and see if the things we may have become accustomed to, are really showing any ‘worth’ or ‘worth-ship’ (can’t believe I just did the Christian word switch thing) towards God. Maybe that’s good? And if it’s not, then hopefully all of you just scanned to the Paul Walker pic and the me jumping out of a moving car pic.
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