"Jesus is a friend of mine (Jesus is my friend);
"Jesus is a friend of mine (I have a friend in Jesus);
"Jesus is a friend of mine (Jesus is my friend);
"Jesus is a friend of mine;
"He taught me how to pray, and how to save my soul;
"He taught me how to praise my God, and still play Rock 'n Roll;
"The music may sound different, but the message is the same;
"It's just an instrument to praise His name!"
That was "groovy," wasn't it? ...ZAP!
The sad thing is, I'm old enough to remember that stuff. I remember being tortured with it as a kid. Here's another one. This puppet-character was so "relational," I think Hollywood later made a slasher movie out of it.
This is the way it looks when you try to be "real," "relational," and "relevant." It looks like you're trying, and bless the man's soul, he is trying. Pretty obvious, too. But instead of trying to be something we're not, can we please be what we are as Lutheran Christians and do what we've always excelled at? Can we please just work at equipping the Church with competent Christian poets, composers and musicians who are trained in the Fine Arts?
And this is what happens when you try to be "relevant," but almost totally miss the mark. Sure, rap is in. It even tries to get in my house from the street on occasion. But I don't think these folks are doing it right...
Yes, this guy's a pastor. A famous one, too. He also figured out the "relevance" of rap. I don't think he's doing it right, either. He's just making a fool out of himself, and out of everyone who bears the name of Christ in public.
Being truly "relevant" and "relational" means opening the doors of the church to let the world in. To look the way the world looks as you speak the words the world speaks. This is truly the image of Christians congregating about entertainers to witness entertainers engage in entertainment -- verbatim from the entertainers of the world.
Speaking of "letting the world in," do you need to have one of those "dirty sex-talk Sundays?" You know, Divine Service where children are denied entrance to the Nave and are sent to the Sunday School room to watch Veggie Tales for an hour instead? Easily offended adults are warned not to attend? Under 17 not permitted without a parent? It would be quite a spectacle to witness wholesome Christians making a public show of lascivious thoughts and behaviour. Yeah, that'd be pretty kinky, wouldn't it. You could sell tickets. All of the sinners in the community would flock to see that! Only, you're probably not doing it right. Among other factors, the bar of "smutty relational relevance" has been raised by other forward-thinking Christians who excel at pushing the envelope, who are consistently first-on-the-scene "to do what no one else is doing, to reach those no one else is reaching." To follow their lead, you'll need professional help. This is the "real", "relational" and "relevant" way to do it, now.
I'd written a couple posts on Sunday attire, but that is apparently an entirely irrelevant concern. Attire doesn't really matter. It's best not to concern oneself with it these days.
"Reaching people no one else is reaching..."
Video Series Proposal: Being really 'Real', and 'Relational' to the Core: An Epitome
Need to talk about Stewardship? You've probably been doing that wrong, too. THIS is the way to address difficult subjects in a "relational" way: turn it into comedy. Only entertainment is "relational" anymore, and everyone loves a comedian.
But if the comedy routine doesn't work, threaten to kill them. Then threaten them with Hell. Then promise them that tithing will keep them in Heaven. And then get caught spending the money on yourself. That's amusing, too.
Contemporary Worshipers, congregating before entertainers. This is the way it looks these days. Sort of. Actually, maybe ten years ago, as they were copying out-of-style music from the late 1980's. Wait... No... This is from a church service in 2010, not 2003, twenty-two years after that wretched song was recorded (I remember it. It was cool for a couple weeks, then we all got tired of it. The radio stations didn't get the message, unfortunately, and kept playing it over and over. I wonder why?). Notice: As in the Miley Cyrus song, above, there was no need to change the words of this song, either. It's not important anymore what the text of a song actually says, what's important is whether (a) the listener can "properly understand" what the entertainer means by performing it, and/or (b) the listener subjectively feels spiritually uplifted by it. If the listener either can't "properly understand" what he sees and hears, or doesn't "feel uplifted" by it, then he is the problem, not the music or the entertainer -- whose "entertainment art" is categorically above criticism.
Yes. Some poor wretch possibly went to church that morning expecting, oh, who knows -- Law & Gospel, maybe? -- but got a bearded lady instead. Possibly... though nearly everyone in the audience surely knew that they got up that morning to congregate before entertainers...
More Circus Church. For real. This is a Church service. This is Supreme Anthropocentrism. I, I, I, me, me, me, you, you, you, blah, blah, blah. And this is, literally, how far seeker-sensitive Evangelicalism has allowed itself to sink. Why do we Lutherans insist on drinking from the same poisoned well?
Where have we seen this before? Hmmm?
Has liturgical dance EVER been "relevant" or "relational?" Other than that one time King David did it and embarrassed his wife?
Confirmed. Liturgical dance has NEVER been "relevant" or "relational." And that's NOT a good reason to do it anyway!
Yup! Me too! I think I'm gonna...
And this surely must be the Captain Underpants of contemporary praise and worship.
This isn't to say that ALL Evangelicals have sunk this low, or even want to. But in the past twenty years, I don't think I've heard of a single Evangelical congregation that doesn't "congregate before entertainers" on Sunday morning, that doesn't want to congregate before them, and that doesn't adamantly refuse to give up this model for fear that people will stop coming to church, for fear that they will be unable to attract the unchurched if they can't entertain them on Sunday morning.
This isn't to say that NO Evangelicals have seen the problem with this. I've spoken with many Evangelicals, and read of even more, who've found both practical as well as doctrinal problems with these anthropocentric practices.
From a purely practical standpoint, unless the "Preaching Pastor" is also the "Minister of Worship," there are two divergent sources of significant influence in the congregation which appear before the congregation each week. Often, these two influences, perhaps initially competing together for the approval of the assembly, find themselves competing against each other to increase or maintain their influence. And this is especially the case if these two prominent influences find themselves in disagreement, or see that disagreement is on the horizon. This is a particular problem in mid-sized Evangelical congregations, as disagreements between the "Preaching Pastor" and the "Minister of Worship" often lead to strife among leadership, abrupt dismissals of personnel, and even congregational splits. I've heard the story a hundred times, and it is always the same. Either personality incompatibility, insecurity, jealousy, and even genuine policy or doctrinal disagreements between the "entertaining minister" and the "talking minister" are at the root (even if they start out as good friends), and more often than not, it's the "boring" and "untalented" "talking pastor" whose is seen as the bad guy, even though he usually wins.
More importantly, from a doctrinal standpoint, some Evangelicals actually do see that this entire model of Church practice distracts attention from the centrality of the Word. It makes people the object, as well as the catalyst, of Christian worship, rather than Christ and their relationship with Him. To the observer, the "entertaining minister" is the apparent object and catalyst; but in truth, he's only the secondary object. Hidden under the surface, the primary and real object of the contemporary worshiper's striving is himself, is in his self-centered pursuit of a particular emotional state that he cannot reach on his own: he needs the worship team to get him there. The "entertaining minister" is certainly the catalyst, and to the extent that he generally succeeds at delivering worshipers to their desired emotional/spiritual state, he becomes an object of their adoration, as well. To the extent that he can't, worshipers complain, "They're not doing it right!" I've personally spoken with such Evangelicals who see this most clearly, some are laymen, others are pastors. When they raise their concerns, they are always defeated by the chorus of voices who've been brainwashed by CGM seeker-sensitive principles, who are literally hooked on the entertainment, and like dependent junkies are frantic to retain the source of their weekly "spiritual fix." Some even see an element of manipulation in this model of Church practice, and this is especially the case among mega-churches, whose practices are models of aspiration for smaller, growth-at-all-costs-oriented congregations.
I, personally, haven't witnessed the inner workings of mega-church practices. But over the years I've heard from a handful musicians who have. The leadership structure in these organizations is very similar to what one would find among C-level executives in any corporation. They all have contracts under which they have negotiated compensation packages and associated leadership responsibilities, performance expectations, etc., and frequently, the "Worship CEO" functions as a manager as much as anything else, managing several teams related to the execution of the entertainment each week. I've yet to hear of a situation where there is only one team of musicians. Generally, there are multiple bands. Each band is comprised of professional, or at least highly accomplished musicians, each of whom are almost always Christians. Each band doesn't play every Sunday, it seems, but instead, only every other Sunday or even just once a month. They rehearse between gigs. And this is where it gets interesting. Sometimes, it seems, the set they rehearse for a given Sunday has been planned out for them, other times, band members contribute in some way to the selections; however, it is almost always the case that they are working from either a sermon outline or an entire sermon text that has been provided for them ahead of time by the office of the "Preaching CEO." The "talking minister" appointed for the service they are rehearsing for already knows what he is going to say, or at least what he is going to talk about, and the point of the band's rehearsal is to select and practice a sequence of pieces which will adequately prepare the audience for the message he will deliver.
And here I digress for a moment to share from my own experience as a worship team musician, in much smaller venues. It is amazing to me how Christian religious people, addicted to weekly "spiritual/emotional highs," are so eager to completely give themselves over to the music. Like racehorses leaning on the gate, they chomp at the bit in eagerness for the signal to start, for the piano or the guitar to strike the first chord. It's almost like a gun going off. Even positively mediocre musicians like myself -- people who could never even succeed entertaining drunks at the local bars -- are swiftly given almost complete control of the emotional/spiritual state of worshipers before them. As the music grows louder and tempo quicker, the people jump, gyrate and stomp their feet right along with it, while smiles cover their faces and their singing turns to laughing and shouting. As the tempo and volume subside, the people follow right along -- their eyes close as they sway and swoon with their arms in the air. For cerebrally oriented folks such as myself, it is positively frightening. For reflective Christian musicians with a conscience, it is bothersome. Most musicians, it seems, simply get off on it. They have the power of music, and they like to use it.
To "adequately prepare the audience for the message of the 'talking minister'," the audience must be brought to a fitting emotional state through the preceding entertainment. That is what the band rehearses for, and the "sequence" of music they practice generally leads their religious audience -- people who are eager to give themselves over to the music -- through a cycle of ups and downs: up, up , up to euphoric highs, and down, down, down to melancholy lows; uuuuup and doooowwwn, uuuuuup and dooooowwwn, uuuuuuup and dooooowwwn it cycles until the audience has been "sufficiently prepared." And somewhere between the high and the low, either on the upswing or the downswing, is the preferred emotional state for the audience to receive the message of the "talking minister."
The musicians who have spoken to me about this over the past twenty years, all either professional musicians or very accomplished non-professionals, had, by the time they started talking about it with others, already grown bothered by this practice. It felt to them like they were taking advantage of the emotional vulnerability of their audience. It felt like mass manipulation. In nearly every case, these musicians had shared with me their concerns, in a personal way, because they'd already shared their concerns with their church leadership, and those concerns had been ignored. Rejected, in fact: "You have a negative spirit, God is not able to work through you until you repent;" or "We have no impact on the audience, we are merely instruments through which the Holy Spirit works, and what we see happening before us on Sunday morning is purely His work, not ours;" or "You're fired." In a few cases, I know that these conscience-stricken musicians eventually quit the mega-church scene (if only temporarily in at least one case). In another case, I recall hearing later that the musician even quit being a Christian over it. I no longer move in these circles, and have long lost contact with these guys. I can remember some of their faces, but don't even remember most of their names. I have no idea what they might say today. Granted, these accounts are anecdotal and, as far as the specific circumstances involved (which are irrelevant), amount only to hearsay. But I know what these musicians were concerned about back in the 1990's and early last decade, concerns which resonated with my own, and we can plainly see from the above that the worst in Evangelical practice continues to defy what even our worst imagination of poor Christian judgment can conceive, as "entertainment ministers" continue to "push the envelope". It continues to get worse.
What do you suppose might be around the corner?
And now for the heavy stuff...
"Relevance" among Emergents: Transcending our primal narrative, to live harmoniously with man in the present -- the only true reality there is -- that we may collaborate in the essential human task of creating the New Earth. Ah, Rationalism in the post-Modern age, a.k.a. "making it up as you go along." And the Bible says any of this... where? It doesn't really matter anymore. Emergents, who are largely former Evangelicals, are open about rejecting what the Scriptures plainly say in their most fundamental teachings. And they're pretty safe in doing so. Enough of Evangelical Christianity has been conditioned by nearly a generation of false practice to accept whatever the "talking minister" says -- as long as they find themselves to be sufficiently entertained by the process.
More of the same sort of "relevance" from the same kind of sources: Me... Today... and the pursuit of Ionian/Pythagorean Harmony and Wholeness. Know any Lutherans dabbling with Emergent Church theology? This is what they are being exposed to, and this is what you will be exposed to through them.
All of these videos, and MANY more, have been compiled by Chris Rosebrough in a collection he calls, The Museum of Idolatry -- "the world's largest collection of artifacts of apostasy." 1500 exhibits, and growing. They're all of the sort shown above. Whenever I need a reminder of what I left behind, and why I left it behind, I go to the Museum. I saw this coming, I knew that this is what Evangelicalism would turn into. Very little of this represents genuine Christianity. This is the direction CGM leads.