January 16, 2010

Music and Mission, part II: Incarnation

I was perusing my files today to filter out the old stuff and noticed an incomplete post for a series I started a while back. If you're interested in the topic, here are links to the first few posts from the series:

Part 1a
Part 1b

And now, we continue the story. Thanks for reading ...

Once I started thinking like this, it occurred to me that perhaps I'd been thinking in all the wrong ways about worship arts. Maybe instead of treating worship as another duty on Sunday, I could use that service as a means to teach the congregation about being missionaries. Maybe, as Neil Cole writes, it was about lowering the bar on church and raising the bar on discipleship. The more I studied, the less I saw wrong with having paid worship staff, so long as they used their positions as pastoral positions. If a church's worship service was less about trying to convince people who are not there why they should be Christians and more about sending the Christians who ARE there to the people who don't want to be, maybe, just maybe, there could be hope for the world yet. To say it another way, I started to take issue with what some called the "attractional" model of church.

God didn't just do the same thing He'd been doing - pillars of fire, large clouds, plagues, prophets who parted the sea - he didn't stay apart from His people, but instead came down to live among them. And not just as a fully-grown adult either, God came down as the Son and spent time growing and living with the first-century Jews. Sometimes, I think, we want our missions and evangelism to look different, to be easier than that - we want to just go in assuming everybody already knows where we stand and call them to repent. That's the story we often tell with our actions, right? We sign big declarations about what we think are important issues, preach sermons about repenting, and have long conversations with each other about "the way of the world," and all the while the people who need to meet Jesus aren't involved in the conversation because it never even occurred to them that the Church might have answers to
their questions. I think if we ignored three of the four gospels, we could continue to think like that, but since we don't just have Mark, but also Matthew, Luke, and John's accounts, we can't ignore this idea of incarnation because it affects SO much of church life. We can't just isolate or even insulate ourselves from the world and then expect it to change; like Jesus, we have to invest ourselves in it, even preparing to pay a heavy price to see change - good change, positive change, godly change - happen.

Israel did this time and time again; they'd isolate themselves from the world around them or they'd use military means to make change happen, and over and over again things didn't seem to work out for them. Worse, they couldn't seem to stick to their own rules! Time and time again, God sent prophets to inform Israel of her misdeeds, of her affront to the poor, the broken, and the downtrodden. God asked Israel to be a light to the world in the midst of darkness, to show the world the way in which they could live well, the way in which they could know God. But instead, Israel continued to forsake that charge. And thus Jesus came.

If our lives are to be imitaitons of Jesus, and if our collective body of churches are the body of Christ, then it stands to reason that our worship services can fit into this story. Churches ought to begin by learning the culture around us, applying it to the way we design services, and using those services to make better disciples of the Christians and non-Christians alike who come.

(to be continued ...)

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