Archive for April, 2008

The Creative Spectrum

This is an excerpt from Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts by Harold M. Best, pp. 180-181.

Artistic culture is a vast expanse.  Deep within its workings, it is also seamless, even in the face of vivid differences between, say, grunge rock and Renaissance motets or street rap and Milton’s poetry.  It is especially important for Christians to see it this way, because this is surely the way God sees it.  Just as he is no respecter of persons, so he is no respecter of styles.  He does not love the Baroque artifactual signature any more than that of the South Pacific Rim.  Nor would he prefer, if he were a dancer, the polka over the hora.  He is Lord of diversity, Creator of the human imagination and Master of every one of its artistic ways.  His lines of demarcation are based on faith or its absence, authentic worship or inauthentic worship.  His call to excellence is based on how we are becoming better than we were yesterday more than how we place in a static aesthetic hierarchy.  A Bach cantata is no more a musical password into his favor than a Zulu harvest song or an Indian raga.  When the Scriptures call out to the nations to rejoice, they do not call for an artistic Esperanto, a colorless and hypothetical language, a test-tube Pentecost.  Nor do they call out to a panel of artistic experts to determine what might please the King of kings.  They call out to the many cultures to use their instruments, their tongues, their shapes, textures and gestures, their vivid twists and turns.  God is happy with the plethora.  He loves its faith-driven clamor and hilarious tintinnabulation.  It comes to him from everywhere and from all times, translated into eternal speech by the blessed Paraclete, in whom groans, mutterings, silence, singing, dancing, shaping, masterpieces and pastiches make up a transfigured jubilee.

It is only a secular or paganized culture that chooses to divide people on the basis of their artistic preferences and choices.  It is a spiritually connected culture that takes cultural differences, works through the tensions that they may create and comes to the blessed condition of mixing and reconciling them and of stewarding their increase and growth.  It is therefore not amusing to hear about how we are to embrace the poor, eat and drink with sinners and cross racial and ethnic lines, only to find out that leadership, back home in the safety of the local fortress, is afraid to do the analogous kind of embracing when it comes to the arts and to the commingling of their styles.  “Not in my style” may really and truly mean “Not my kind of people,” except when it comes time for the yearly youth group trip to Mexico or the occasional spade turnings for another habitat.  Why do we go outside the church to diversify when we fail to do so within it?

If this resonates in your spirit as it does mine, buy the book.  There is much, much more to glean.

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A Shout to the Lord…on American Idol???

My friend Bob Kauflin and his pastor Josh Harris discuss the recent use of Shout to the Lord on the television program American Idol. Here are a couple of excerpts:

First from Bob–

In the positive column, someone watching ”Shout to the Lord” on American Idol might be led by God’s Spirit to download the song, or even to start going to church again. They might hear the Gospel and be gloriously converted, all due to hearing “Shout to the Lord” in one of the most unlikely places. For that potential, I praise and thank God.

But there’s a dark side. There’s something paradoxical about worship songs being sung on prime time TV by people who don’t know why Jesus came. Does the world see any difference between what’s taking place on American Idol and what we do on Sunday mornings? Has worship become part of the entertainment culture? It’s unsettling when Christian songs or worship leaders are acclaimed by the masses. Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” He also said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mt. 15:8). Both verses temper my unbridled enthusiasm.

So I had two more thoughts. First, we need to do everything we can to sing and promote songs in the church that clearly, biblically, passionately, and faithfully proclaim the one and only Savior – his work, his words, and his worthiness. Along with songs that express our love for the Savior, we need to sing songs that “teach and admonish” (Col. 3:16), that celebrate and rehearse the foundations of our faith and fill out our vague conceptions of God with clear, theologically informed biblical truths.

Second, we we need to live in such a way that it’s clear being a Christian is more than giving money to worthy causes and being emotionally moved as we sing songs of every genre together. We want to do all we can to ensure that those who walk into our meetings see clearly that we’re not a local version of American Idol.

From Josh–

As I’ve read various comments people seem to fall into two different camps. Some Christians are upset—because they left out Jesus, because non-Christians were singing a song of “praise”, because it was all about money, because it’s another example of Christianity being “censored.” Other Christians are elated—because they put Jesus back in, because a praise song was heard by millions of people, because they see this as incredible evangelistic platform.

I guess I’m not really at home with either group. With all due respect, I don’t think that having a song like Shout to the Lord sung (even though I like it) is going to usher in revival. This reminds me of the fervor before the movie The Passion of the Christ was released. People spoke about this movie as if it was the ultimate opportunity for the gospel to advance. I don’t think it was. Was I glad that it was released? Sure. But I think that it’s too easy for Christians to think that any moment in the media spotlight on TV or in film is a bigger deal than it really is. We should welcome any opportunity for media to help spread the good news about Jesus, but I don’t think we should put too much stock in that vehicle. The gospel is going to advance as it always has—steadily as it is clearly proclaimed by believers in their words and modeled by their lives and actions. The gospel advances as local congregations receive and live God’s word for their neighbors to see.

What do you think?

New Blog!

I want to encourage my readers to check out my friend Mark Culton’s new blog, A Recovering Fundamentalist.  Here is how Mark describes his site:

It is all about trying to live a life of unswerving faith in Christ and His Word while maintaining a spirit of grace and charity. For me, this involves consideration for how my fundamentalist background plays into this.

Some of you who receive this email joyfully consider yourself fundamentalists. Some of you would resent being called by that label. Others of you may have one foot in fundamentalism and the other in evangelicalism. Still others of you may care less about any of this – in which case you can disregard the blog.

However, for those of you who are interested in honest, charitable discussion about the state of the church and the gigantic gap between evangelicalism and fundamentalism, please check out the blog.

New Sermon Online!

Our Featured Sermon Last Sunday, April 13, 2008 
Sunday Service
Brian McCrorie

A Secret Worth SharingPlay!Download!
A total of 78 sermons are freely available from Red Rocks Baptist Church

By Faith…

In our search for God’s next ministry location for us, my family is starting to get “faith pains.”  My kids are asking me several times a day, “Dad, did [name of church] call today?”  “What about [name of church]?”  Last night, my wife looked up at me and said “I don’t think I like waiting very much.”  Of course, as the unwavering spiritual leader of the family, I give them all the exhortation they need to continue to trust and not be anxious. [false piety intended]

What I don’t tell them is that Brian gets the “faith pains” too.  Even though the Lord has given us some very positive experiences through this process, the waiting doesn’t get any easier.

Part of the problem is that we are so accustomed to instant gratification.  We live in a society that demands such immediacy.  Particularly in our cities, the “rush hour” is a misnomer; our real problem is a “rush” lifestyle as we scurry from one event to the other.  When we are forced to a standstill, by traffic jams or extreme weather, we get angry.  We call it “road rage”; God calls it sin.

Recently, I had the privilege to visit a rural section of the Midwest.  As I drove through miles and miles of countryside filled with fields of corn and soybeans, I started reflecting on the differences between that culture and the culture in which I currently live.  There is a patience and a calmness in people from “the country” that people from “the city” can learn a great deal from.  Many of the people in this particular area are still involved in farming.  Now there’s an occupation with some history!!  I didn’t know much about the particulars of farming so I asked lots of questions.  Although with the advancement of technology, farming has made incredible strides, it is still a job that requires patience.  Seed can only be planted so quickly.  Corn will only grow so quickly.  Flooding, drought, bugs, and animals can slow and even destroy productivity. 

A city boy would be greatly frustrated.  “Why does it take so long to grow?”  “Why are the work days so long”  “Can’t you make that tractor go faster?”  “You do all this FOR CORN?!”

The farmer will just smile and continue with his work.  You can’t hurry the work of God.  He establishes the timing.  He brings the sun and the rain.  It’s just the way things are supposed to be.

It’s interesting how at different times in our lives certain biblical characters give us needed hope and guidance.  For some going through deep waters, the testimony of Job is significant.  For those needing to be inspired by the huge task ahead, Nehemiah provides a sterling example.  For me, right now, Abraham’s my guy.

Of course, I know the stories of Abraham–have since I was small.  But now, in a sense, I’m walking in his shoes:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8, NKJV)

I could put my name right in there with Abraham.  The Lord is leading.  I am obeying.  I haven’t a clue where I’m going.  And…

I believe God.  I really do.  I firmly believe not only in his all-encompassing knowledge but also in his personalized plan for my life.  I am so excited for what He has for me.

I’m sure there were times when Noah paused from his ark-building to wonder when the rain would fall.  I’m sure Moses looked up to God and wondered how much longer they would wander in a desolate wilderness.  And I’m sure that there were times that Abraham wondered where God was taking him.  I wonder too.

But what marks followers of the one true God is that we continue to trust, we continue to follow, we continue to obey.  It’s called faith.  We don’t have to know the end of the story right now.  We just have to know the One Who has already been there and Who is leading us there step-by-step.

I think I know why I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the “country.”  It’s because God has called me to be a shepherd.  I can’t wait to meet my next flock!