September 24, 2011

Navigating the Line

I’m learning that there’s a fine line between prophet and pharisee.
A prophet calls out a culture on the ways it has strayed from truth and warns of the consequences of bad decisions; a pharisee condemns a culture for every minutiae.
A prophet speaks of the One who sent her; a pharisee speaks of himself and those like him.  
A prophet speaks because he cares for those whom he addresses; a pharisee cares only for her perceived superiority over those whom she pities. 
A prophet speaks to people now, here; a pharisee speaks to everyone at all times. 
A prophet is proactive; a pharisee is reactive.

Worship arts pastors, being of creative mind and spirit, often take on the role of prophet for their church culture, sometimes intentionally, but more often not. Our creativity is often at odds with a culture that prefers to mass-produce, our art at odds with a sports-infused populace, our lingering poetry counter to a bullet-point society. It is only natural that we challenge the status quo, as our personalities and our preferences fit the job description. But the danger is that we can become that which we prophesy against; in our cry against perpetual busy-ness, we become too busy ourselves; in our cry for families to spend time together, we neglect our own; in our crusade against consumer-driven worship gatherings, we don’t have time to curate with integrity and simply throw together whatever comes to the top of our minds. We can become pharisees in the midst of our role.

C.S. Lewis is known for saying that all vices are merely virtues taken out of their proper place. The role of the worship pastor is no different; when we do our jobs properly, the people rejoice because they have encountered God, not us. A worship pastor, like a prophet, points to God, calling attention to His mercy, His holiness, His grace, His justice, His love. But when we distort that calling, we begin pointing towards ourselves, to our congregation, to our culture, and we become pharisees.
When we try to enforce our way on others instead of collaborating, we become pharisees.
When we curate a worship gathering with our own tastes in mind rather than what is best for the community, we become pharisees. 
When we condemn others without intense self-examination, we become pharisees. 
When we don’t acknowledge the diversity of tastes and talents in others, and instead mandate our tastes and talents as the preference of God, we become pharisees. 
When we ask others to make sacrifices without first becoming living sacrifices ourselves, we become pharisees. 
When we don’t set aside time to simply be creative (but instead mass-produce what everyone else is doing), we become pharisees. 
When we see resources to be used rather than people to be encouraged, we are pharisees.
When we see only ritual instead of relationship, we are pharisees.

A friend and mentor of mine often says that, to detect counterfeit money, bank tellers are not given a class on what counterfeit looks like, but rather are given time to spend with the real thing. In knowing the real thing inside and out, the counterfeits become obvious. So too, I’m learning that we worship arts pastors need to spend time with the real thing if our gifts and passions and callings are to be used well. For if we don’t know God, all our planning becomes clanging cymbals in the ears of those we lead, and WE become the distraction. While the truth of the matter tends to find itself in the middle somewhere, let’s recommit - daily if necessary - to spending time with the real thing. Let us be prophets, and not pharisees.

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