Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How far have we really moved?

I'm sitting in class (yes, in class), and we're talking about how music is involved in our being missional. I'm hearing people suggest that what we need to do to engage missionally with secular music is to listen to secular music; to speak the gospel in the language of that culture; to be daring enough to wear clericals to a rock concert, etc.

And I just had a memory of a Saturday night worship service when I was in high school, at a youth conference. During testimonials, two peer ministers got up and confessed to the rest of us that when they'd left the night before for a rock concert, they'd decided to put their peer ministry crosses inside their shirts. (Peer ministers wore big wooden crosses so they could be identified - actually they looked a lot like pectoral crosses that bishops wear.) They talked about why they did it, their shame in wearing the crosses and then their shame in hiding them, and then wondered about the witness they might have given if they'd had the guts to wear them outside their shirts. (We probably also talked a lot that weekend about using rock music for Christian messages, about seeing the spiritual messages in rock music, etc. Those conversations were really common at these gatherings.)

And now I'm wondering: What does it mean that ten years later I'm sitting in seminary having almost exactly the same conversation? Are we coming up with decent ideas that we're just still not acting on (and then why not)? Or are we coming up with the same ideas that sound fresh but just aren't working - and then what else is there instead? Either way, it sounds to me like the conversation has gone stagnant, and I'm very aware that I'm not helping that at all.


Les said...

Or, of course, your high school may have just been 10 years ahead of your seminary class.

Beth said...

Well, ok, but even if we accept that premise, I'm part of both of those groups. So there's still a problem of whether I've really grown or learned much around this issue in ten years of trying.

micah said...

Well, Beth, I don't know if people are wearing their clericals to rock concerts or not. I suspect not. After all, I never do. But here's the thing. Conversations like this will never lead to effective evangelization because they substitute an external thing (crosses, clerical collars) for a true inward conversion. I would suggest that a person who operates the "coming down off the high" tent shows the love of Christ. The guy who wades into the mosh pit to protect the kid who has fallen from being crushed shows the love of Christ. The priest who wears clericals to a rock concert and considers that a sufficient witness is missing the point.

The song doesn't go "And they'll know we are Christians by our enormous wooden peer minister crosses." I wonder why not?

Tripp Hudgins said...

Nice, Micah.

BUt then, it has been really interesting singing with One of the Girls. The lead singer will always introduce me with my title...sometimes the full name..."The Reverend George Vincent Hudgins, III on mandolin!!!" At the bar after our concert or between sets, someone will approach me with "Are you really a pastor? No shit?" And we'll talk about why I am allowed to play in a band or be in a pub on Saturday night.

So, yeah. I think that Micah is right. But I think it is one of those both/and situations. Evangelism is also naming God's presense. It is naming God's people. We have to say, I am picking your drunk arse off the mosh pit floor because Jesus loves you. Or something...

The young fogey said...

Seems one of those perennial topics, doesn't it?

You could say my general rule about church matters is 'orthodoxy always, decorum in the sanctuary (objectivity and Godwardness) but "come as you are" for almost everything else'.

So... a priest going to a rock concert in clericals? Well, why not?

Simply wearing a collar or a cross as a conversation-opener is a better way of witnessing than the obnoxious fundygelical way of setting up a soapbox at the concert to preach at people, or passing out tracts or leaving them on people's cars.

Father, I wouldn't say 'never'! It seems, sorry, a Protestant false opposition of external and internal. Remember the classic Anglican and Roman definitions of a sacrament? (Anglican: An outward sign of an inward grace.) Externals matter and are gateways to the inward stuff, nothing pharisaical about it. Great examples of the corporal works of mercy though.

Tripp, the band stuff sounds lots of fun and of course cool... and a good witness.

Reverend Ref + said...

In some ways this isn't any different than me wearing my clericals into the Stockman, Sump, Mill Creek, Pioneer or Bale of Hay. It's a conversation starter.

And what happens during and after that conversation (hopefully) manifests the inward grace we proclaim.

In short, it's a "meet them where they are" theology; much like the father of the prodigal son. He met the prodigal where he was, and he went out to meet the eldest where he was. Do we meet people where they are, or do we demand they purify themselves to meet our own standards of decency?

Baruch Grazer said...

I think my version of Tripp's "both/and" is that, It is not enough to be visibly clergy; and it is not enough to not be a jerk (i.e., show outward evidence of Micah's "true inward conversion"). What is necessary is to be out there visibly being clergy not being a jerk.