I have long disliked the concept of a “call” in Christian ministry. Let me explain.
It has been a year since I left being a “professional Pastor” at a church. I am now an attender at a church. It is an interesting transition which is not complete.
North America (Canada) is a strange and critical place, and implementing the vision Jesus set before us in the great commission is complicated. Jesus never required a building or programs (it would seem) to implement His vision through his work. Of course, he did use the infrastructure in place quite a lot, so he did not seem to reject the notion that the places were useful.
The ongoing conversation (and one that I think needs to continue) is whether or not it is wise to spend millions of dollars on buildings, land, sound equipment etc., when the money could be spent to feed the poor in Canada and around the world.
Here is where the disconnect is for me. Remembering I work daily to feed children in Canada and around the world. Our mission as Christians is primarily to teach and live the teachings of Jesus. Literally, creating atmospheres and opportunities for more people to just hear about Jesus and what he taught. An outcome from living what he taught should be both extravagant worship of Jesus and God (think of the women who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet with His approval) AND taking care of the poor (think Jesus asking in heaven why we did not give water and food to those in need).
So for me the answer is an ongoing tension. To build a building that can communicate in the vernacular of our time musically and through teaching makes sense, even if it costs some money. What doesn’t make sense is the Pastor or people in the congregation living high on the hog. That too, of course, is a sliding scale worthy of much debate, but at some point we must sacrifice things to live more simply and give more away.
Like I said, ongoing tension, but sometimes the tension can be created because the vision is not being viewed holistically.
So I am speaking at the Nova conference this Friday. The topic I am dealing with is how to take a church from traditional to contemporary music without blowing it up. It is a challenging topic not simply because of style issues and preferences, but because there is so much organizational baggage we are carrying today as the church. We have been so homogeneous in our tactical approach to relevancy that it has stifled the artists in our midst from participating and taking us somewhere culturally. It should be an interesting and hopefully somewhat interactive talk.
It has been a long time since my first post on this subject, and a lot of songwriting and “art” creation has taken place since then. One big difference for me since that time is I have actually had the chance to visit several churches and experience some very different worship environments. It has, in fact, confirmed in me the theory that we are missing a part of the mark when it comes to creating music that reflects all of the humanity that we might, maybe should, be bringing to God in worship.
For example, there is a general lack of lament, repentance, meditative or self examinational lyric present in worship services. The actually mood of the music generally never leaves “positive” land. It IS worshipful, but it one dimensional. I think the problem here is that as we try to reach for authenticity as churches (it is a buzzword used a lot anyway) that we are not representing all that most everyone experiences with consistency. There is a need to worship the way we do, with positive, upbeat lyric, but there is also a need to mourn over the state of the world, our personal worlds and the bad stuff that is going on. Even if we are just talking about our own shortcomings as it were. I DO NOT know how to implement this. I feel that it needs to be done. Not all the time, but in balance.
More of a musing than a conclusive thought I know, but just some observations.
Well we are back down in the old neighbourhood after all of the transition. As those who have read know, this year has been a wild one. Back in Dec of 2006 I started taking over as the interim Lead Pastor of my church to cover for the Senior Pastor. That led to 4 months of leadership and a tonne of transtition. Around that time we learned we were to have our fourth child, near the end of that time was the wild change in jobs which necessitated a change in geography and of course we no longer attended the church I worked at. So now we are in the new location, I am at the new job, the new baby is 3 weeks old and it is time to find a new church community to hang with.
I wish I could do justice to the complexity of this issue for me. I think of a book like Revolution by George Barna (his greater work here) and so many more. Having been in leadership in the church, I am sure some would say “and it is better now that you are out of it”, and having filled so may of the public and private roles that encompass leading a church, well I have too many opinions.
The debate can be seen raging right now within the Christian community and certainly outside of it. I am blown away by the American news coverage on the issue of “true” Chrsitianity, and all the iterations people are seeing.
Some, it seems, will die for the institution of church, others, although claiming to be Christian seem to think it needs a complete overhaul, a rebirth, maybe even a near death experience. Both parties claim an undying love for the teachings of Jesus. and there is the rub. How does one measure one’s adherence to the teachings of Jesus. By how loud one yells that they believe? Or, as Jesus himself said, wisdom will be proved right be her actions. (Matthew 11:18-19) Note the context there as well, very interesting.
Without playing all my cards (is that a respectable metaphor?) I think I am laying some sort of a framework to the difficulties. Relevancy without heresy, great teaching with outward focus. Community and family support, without a sub-culture that kills the ability to relate to everyone who doesn’t go to church – the majority of everybody I know.
So the journey begins. More to come I suppose.