Monday, January 29, 2007

More on Missional Worship

This is an excerpt from an email I sent to a woman around the area I'm at that's leading a worship workshop around my area. Most of the info that I've gotten most of my thinking can be found Here

I was raised, converted, and had many intimate moments with the Passion CDs and Hillsongs' music, so they will always be remembered in my heart and I honor them for aiding me in becoming more intimate with Christ. However, as I have had more unsaved friends and tried sharing the music with them, they would often recoil in disgust over the style (rather than content) of the music, and it's become a revelation to me that instead of Jesus Christ being the stumbling block to spreading the Gospel, it's been the music style and the entire Christian sub-culture. If worship includes one's entire life, and music is but a small snapshot, and music style is but one of many vessels to "worship" God then as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9:19:

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

To the Jew, I'm a Jew. To the gentile, I'm a gentile. For the grunge rocker, I become a grunge rocker. For the alternative rock, I become alternative rock. For the high-energy, scremo, angst ridden emo indie rocker, I become a high-energy, screamo, angst ridden emo indie rocker. . . Or to the level that I can being a white-washed, Korean-American. . . Because music style is not a central issue to the true heart of worship (John 4:23), Paul states style ought to change for the sake of the Gospel. My "audience" should not be primarily focused on those who are already saved, but the lost in the surrounding community as Jesus, as our example, states in Matthew 9:11-13, that "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

The prescription for the sick and dying is Jesus, and not worship music, style, or any of that. And if any worship music and style become such a huge stumbling block to the "regulars" and non-believers (where the "regulars" want the standard Christian "worship" songs, and the non-believers won't even tolerate listening to any of that because the style is so foreign and grates against their nerves), and it's not Jesus Christ, then the idol of music needs to be broken, and the "regulars" and leadership need to repent of their ultimately selfish ways -- placing their personal preferences to worship style over those of the dying community.

I'm focusing ultimately on music style, and not necessarily content -- true, authentic worship will always be bringing ultimate glory to Jesus Christ. That's a non-negotiable.

Unfortunately, the American Christian sub-culture, where most of the worship leaders were raised in including myself, along with the way the Air Force Chapel services are focused, promote a worship music style that is entirely foreign to the rest of the dying world. It's become such a sub-culture that Christian worship music has it's own genre! Perhaps it's not so shocking to us being raised in it for so long, but I could never imagine the Apostle Paul, though raised as a Jew, attempting to reach the Gentiles with the Jewish hymns he was raised with! Or another example, just as we wouldn't push American Worship music to African tribes, we some how think we should push it onto our neighbors, who are essentially completely separate from the Christian sub-culture.

The standard "Christian" genre of music has become irrelevant, and foreign (if not distasteful) to most (but not all!) dying world yet churches continue and push it on Sunday services for whatever reasons often stating that we want to build up the "believers" and are basically pushing away the non-believers.

Which leads to the underlying disease and dysfunction of the majority of chapels/churches along with their leadership (which includes worship leaders)-- the churches have lost their mission of making disciples of the nation, and instead have replaced it with a congregation-glorifying, Babel Gospel. It's no longer about glorifying the mission of Jesus, to go engage the dying culture around us, creating disciples of all nations, tribes, sub-cultures, people groups, tongues, etc. It's become a Babel gospel, where Christian families "circle the wagons" in a Sunday service to protect themselves from the evils of the world. It's not about going into the world to be the salt that transforms culture from the inside out, but it's more about erecting huge walls to separate the "holy" Christian community from the rest of the "evil" world.

Where is the church that weeps for its community as Jesus weeps for Jerusalem in Luke 13:31? Certainly, if the people and leadership had hearts that burned for the sick and dying as Jesus does, they would die to their personal preferences for the sake of bringing as many people to Jesus.

And the bigger question then arises, are we as a church missing what true worship is? Just because as worship leaders we play songs that are labelled as "worship" does that mean we're actually worshipping? If we say we love God through song, but don't love the community around us and not fulfill the second greatest commandment, are we not hypocrites and are actually displeasing God? If we say as worship leaders, that we're going to fulfill our personal preferences and those in the congregation over the preferences of the lost aren't we essentially hating and distancing from the community around us and ultimately hating God?

Aren't we being cultural imperalists saying to the unsaved that if they want to join the community and be witnessed to, they must first convert to the American Christian sub-culture, before converting to Jesus?

I write the above coming from the inside of Christian sub-culture. I was raised in it, and probably this revelation didn't become fully articulate to me until about over a year ago. It's always been on my mind, but I couldn't quite place it. I've been to hordes of Charismatic worship sessions and over and over I've noticed that the numbers of the "worshipers" were majority Christian-raised, and not new believers. We're doing something wrong as a church if new believers aren't added in large multitudes because the Gospel is THAT powerful. We've erected monuments to ourselves and to the Christian music genre to fulfill our personal preferences, rather than dying to ourselves for the sake of the gospel.

I've also done as much as I could to communicate and implement "Missional Worship" at SMA and the Protestant Singles of the Chapel, and what I've discovered is that what I'm talking about above is complete SUICIDE without full leadership support! Supposed "Christians" don't seem to care to reach the lost in these, what end up amounting to, Christian clubs. . . They're in a constant, "serve me" mentality, rather than a "how can I declare the glory of Christ to the dying culture" mentality. The leadership oppossed me, and I got swallowed up by the Pharisee-Christians. The leadership's mentality was to keep what they had, and not risk it for the sake of fulfilling the mission of the church. Leadership in communities like that, I would argue, are not Christ glorifying and are bad witnesses to the community around them displaying hypocrisy and legalism.

Sure, the leadership doesn't want to offend the people already in the pews, but what about the fact that they're offending Jesus!? In the end, isn't it about glorifying Jesus and not the people around us?

So I guess, Missional Worship isn't something that could even be implemented in most churches even if worship leaders tried to do it and if they did attempt to, the worship leaders would, in essence, be crucified by the very congregants and leadership! But nevertheless, bad teaching should not be perepetuated or encouraged!

Of the three ministries I've been involved with, only the Youth Group seems to be the place where it is allowed to happen. And that's only because I have full support from the Youth Pastor.

It's okay for us to be Missionally focused in Youth Groups, and when we go to foreign countries, but when it comes to our local adult community the resounding response is, "Forget it! Serve our wants, not theirs. Protect us from the evils of the world, and let's not engage it."

What's needed when less than 10% of the KMC area are bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians, is for the leadership to have more than just a "holy-nudge," but a "holy-slap." There needs to be complete repentence from the music idolotry, and Christian sub-culture selfishness that's being promoted in many churches/chapels today. We need to understand worship to be much larger than just a music genre, and realize our entire lives, our entire congregations, our entire churches, are the actual worship.

To continue and work on worship music style and skill, rather than the heart of the issue -- the fact that many churches have placed our personal preference toward music style over the mission of declaring the Gospel to all tongues, nations, tribes, sub-groups, cliques, sub-cultures, etc. -- will ultimately be in vain and only perpetuate the idols we've created in "worship" music. God is not pleased by our narrow view of worship through music, and our selfishness ultimately hinders the Gospel.

It's no longer about being "politically correct" or being unnoffensive. Jesus was offensive. The cross is offensive. The established religious order crucified Christ for what he stood for. What Jesus cared about was doing the will of God and not the will of the established religious order. The Gospel is a radical lifestyle that should be radically implemented in communities that profess their allegiance to Jesus. The American Christian communities at large can no longer afford to remain unengaged with the culture around them. People's eternities are at stake and it will take a proactive, mission-driven, radical drive to turn around the dying churches and transform the communities through the power of Christ. Propelling a single worship style will no longer succeed in today's post-modern, multi-cultural world (though it did in the 80s).