Well, I’m supposed to be doing some paperwork … or better … sleeping. I’ve been “home alone” this week … Joy and the kids went to her parents to celebrate her Dad’s birthday (78 and full of life!) and a special civic award he’d received up in Gainesville, GA. As a result, I’ve had some time alone and have spent quite a few hours in “isolation” on the beach. I took a stroll this evening from Massengale Park to Gould’s Inlet on St. Simons Island and this “concept” kept coming to me over and over again.
I just read a post on one of the “Church-Music” forums and after reading it I realized that I’m hearing this story more and more … all about our desire as Christians to be more “relevant” and what we’re doing (both good and bad) to get there. I can’t take the credit for this revelation – Joy is the one who socked me with it a while back. But first – a glimpse of the post I just read …
i just read a very sad letter sent to an author/colleague of mine – a woman
who had faithfully served in the music ministry of her church for YEARS. The
church moved toward more of a seeker-driven / entertainment-evangelism method of
worship – which is a major influence in a lot of churches today. They
brought in a new, hip music and worship director who decided to audition everyone.
This woman, who had been in ministry IN THAT CHURCH for all those years had to
AUDITION to remain in ministry. Guess what? She DID NOT PASS the audition –
here’s why – she did not “fit the image” that the new director wanted for the
praise team – she didn’t LOOK like she was worshiping!
Now who knows – maybe this lady had been faithful for years, but wasn’t in her place. I’ve been in places where as a guest musician or even a staff worship leader that I’ve inherited “faithful ones” on the team who couldn’t sing very well or play their instrument with any proficiency. It’s a hard call, for sure, and I’ve had to make those decisions myself. So I won’t comment on the “action” in this email – so much as the “context” of the situation.
Here at Christian Renewal, SSI – we find ourselves deliberating lots of the same things. It seems as we’ve been wide open on the “let’s get relevant” band wagon .. and hear me now … that’s not so bad. For the most part, christians are so “out of this world” that they have no effectiveness “in this world”. But I wonder if we truly know what will make us “relevant”. Is it REALLY the music we play, the clothes we wear, the “style” of our worship service, or the appearance of our buildings? I think we’re putting more stock in that than we should
Joy heard Pastor Brian Houston of the Hillsongs Church in Australia (talk about hip and relevant – we love watching them!) teaching on this recently. He said that things that were “relevant” were “timeless”. (paraphrased based on what she told me she heard – we’re ordering the video). He began to explore things that are “timeless”.
My bride, Joy, began to explore those things in our church and lives. It brought her to the remembrance of a precious saint who has since passed and graduated to heaven. Her name was “Miss Gertrude”. She was a faithful wife, mother, grandmother, and Sunday-School teacher. I forget how old “Miss Gertrude” was when she passed a few years ago – but she was OLD. Would you believe that she started teaching kids in church when she was maybe 13 or so? And she never missed a year of “vacation Bible school”. She served faithfully through generations of children and then, the children’s children. When Miss Gertrude died there was an assortment of folks gathered with her … from young, tiny tots to adults whose children were out of high school. My favorite memory is standing by her bedside in the hospital with “Rusty” – a high school kid who had leather, spikes, and a punk hair-do. He was weeping over her and holding her with all the passion he had.
Musically relevant …. well, Miss Gertrude only wanted one thing from the music … those old hymns. So much that she would reward me with CANDY anytime I ventured into an old hymn in our “relevant, contemporary service”.
So what’s my point? It’s this … Miss Gertrude was RELEVANT. As Joy put it the other night … “Fred … Miss Gertrude was relevant … a little old lady in her prairie dress … she was relevant, because she was timeless. She was full of love and authenticity … and that made her relevant to everyone.
Enough said – I thought to myself … “man, in our post-modern, emerging culture, this saint would’ve never passed the cool test … if she applied to teach the kids at our churches today, they’d probably laugh … “. Yet, she was one of the most relevant, authentic, blessed people we’ve had the privilege of knowing in all our lifetime.
You see – if we (the church) REALLY want to be relevant to this lost world of ours … we’ve gotta do more than dress cool, play cool music, and look the part. We’ve got to be REAL and AUTHENTIC. We’ve got to LOVE. I’m convinced that if those qualities exist that we could reach out to anyone we wish – rich, poor … educated, uneducated. I think true relevance goes much deeper than the shallow, petty things we list on our vision statements and in our dress code.
Again – some of this stuff is very important, and we need to be in touch with the practical aspects of our culture. But really … God help us to see deeper, and to grasp those things that are timeless and eternal.
For the Kingdom,