Sorry for the tardiness and brevity today – bad, crazy week at work. I’ll just jump right into it.
Russell Moore on the Religious Right – This is a legitimately important speech, at least for people who somewhat mourn the dissolution of the religious right as a meaningful force in society which this election has illustrated. I promised that I wouldn’t jump back into more election talk, but I think that the issues Moore is discussing here significantly transcend the election immediately before us. It is long, but I seriously encourage you to take the time to listen. It is, perhaps, laziness on my part not to write much more about it, or to give you too many other links today, but I really, really want you to give this one a listen.
I’ve culled a couple quotes from the speech, simply to give you a flavor of what’s ahead. I will say that First Things is a publication which transcends merely evangelical lines, speaking to a more conservative cultural coalition which also includes Mormons and Catholics. Considering the rather strident history of separation in our denomination, I think there’s a lot of legitimately valid conversation about the degree to which we should consider ourselves co-belligerents with other conservative religious groups in the current culture.
Evangelical Christianity is only of use to the world, and only of use to the religious conservative movement if Evangelical Christianity is in fact evangelical. And that starts with a commitment to biblical authority and the shaping power of the biblical text.
Health and wealth prosperity theology, in its hard or soft forms, is not just another stream of historical Christianity. It is the old, Canaanite fertility religion, except worse, because it takes the name of our Lord in vain under the pretense of apostolic Christianity.
This is theological liberalism: The pretense of coming before God apart from the mediation of offered blood. When a religion is seen as a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it, one will end up pleasing those who see the primacy of politics while losing those who believe the gospel.
Statecraft is important, but, on its own, good cultures and good laws merely put more resilient shackles on the Gerasene demoniac.
Hospitality and Evangelism – I confess, this might be an idea which is particularly close to my heart right now as I’m avidly pursuing a church plant, but I do believe that the task of evangelism is really in need of some desperate renovation in our current context. In many ways, the rise of the internet has resulted in a destruction of a meaningful public forum, as discourse becomes more an more polarized, and our involvement in such communities becomes more and more selective. How do we engage meaningfully with people in this context. Reading this article was, in all sincerity, like getting hit with a load of bricks. Hospitality. Hospitality is the key to engaging with people in our current context. It’s so staggeringly simple, it seems moronic that anyone could legitimately forget how important hospitality is to connecting with people. It’s really an unfortunate reminder of how fragmented our lives have become even from the people who surround us most immediately in our local communities. I really think there is some powerful advice in here if you want to reach people for the gospel.
Congregational Singing – Modern Worship – Both of these articles came out rather close to each other, but I think both are useful places to start a conversation about why our worship looks the way it does.
To pitch in a personal anecdote on the topic, I visited a church plant the last time I was in Orlando for a class at RTS. It seemed like a natural thing to do – I’m involved with a plant, so I’d go see what they do and what seems to be working. For an additional bit of context, I love singing. I absolutely love singing. Part of me was really excited to go somewhere where I would probably run into some new songs, with some different styles. I don’t tend to be afraid of variety and diversity in music styles.
The music setup of this plant that I visited wasn’t anything out of the ordinary either. They had a very talented guy playing guitar, a number of other instrumentalists backing him up, and the lyrics projected on a big screen. The music was very competently performed, emotionally compelling, and even the lyrics were (occasionally) rather compelling. Despite this, it was one of the most miserable worship experiences I’ve been in over recent years. It was impossible to sing, because the music was too high, too melodically complex to pick up reliably by ear, and too unstructured to know where it was going. Essentially, you can either mumble along and try to pick up the few licks which are accessible, or simply sit back and listen.
I resonate with people who criticize traditional music for occasionally being emotionally sterile, hokey, or simply not resonant. Despite all that, whatever solution one comes to, at the end of the day, it has to leave room for your congregation to raise their voices to the Lord themselves. I think that the trend toward performative music is legitimately damaging to the body of Christ.