_to write darkness

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. _c.s. lewis

Posts Tagged ‘church’

this is scary.

Posted by abramjanson on May 3, 2009

I was rummaging around iTunes tonight before I went to bed… and I found something very disturbing to me. 

I was searching for some of the latest podcasts to download and listen to in the morning on my 40 minute drive to school and I came across the list of Top Audio Podcasts for Religion and Spirituality… The results are frightening.  See for yourself below.

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YUP!  This is not a joke… TIPPING THE SCALES AT #1 is JOEL OSTEEN!  America… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  What trash. What trash. What trash.  This is unbelievable.  Seriously… quite possibly the “evil one.”   I can’t handle it. 

I hate this man. 

 

And Yes… Your eyes don’t deceive you… OPRAH IS #6!!! HOLY HEAVEN AND MOTHER OF MARY. People are getting spiritual insight from Oprah? In the words of my crew…. RASS!  

And yes… If you were wondering… Oprah’s teachings are more popular than Francis Chan’s…

 

I quit. Good night.

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Those Who Cry the Loudest in the Church.

Posted by abramjanson on April 29, 2009

I was presented with a question in class:

What can a reflective Christian offer the Church and what problems or opposition might they face?

Here is the mental vomit that came out. See if you can find some truth. Bless.

Those Who Cry the Loudest in the Church

“Here is cause enough to risk speaking. If there is no God, we are in desperate straits indeed. That fact alone is no proof that He must be, but it does place responsibility on those who have found signs of His presence” (Taylor 10).  It has been said by countless ‘believers,’ that “creation calls for a Creator.”  Creation, the world in which we live with all its complexities and intricacies, proves God’s presence.  At least the reflective Christian believes so.  A reflective Christian is one who believes in Christ and His redemptive purposes and lives a life reflecting his beliefs, yet does not lose touch with the secular world of which he also is a member.  Reflective Christians are the life blood of the Christian faith.  They cause the Church to move forward from its stagnant position, to contemplate its mission in the world, and to question the effectiveness of its ministry.  The “Church” in this sense is not being referred to as a four-walled building where people gather on Sundays, but as the corporate body of believers. 

Reflective Christians strive towards a likeness of Christ in their daily lives.  They have been “crucified by Christ and they no longer live, but Christ lives in them” (Gal. 2:20 paraphrase).  It is a constant effort to be refined through the fire to strengthen and purify their relationship with God. 

Preserving and strengthening that relationship to God and living out its implications in an undiscerning and troubled world is the great challenge to the Christian.  For all its failings, the church as a whole is an ally in that cause.  The reflective Christian can draw great strength and insight from it if he sees clearly what it is and is not, forgiving the church its trespasses as he is forgiven his own. (Taylor 44)

            The reflective Christian has much to offer the church just as the church has much to offer the reflective Christian.  Many times, the church in general is too conservative and set in their ways, closed minded if you will, to new ideas, concepts, or theologies.  The reflective Christian can assist in redefining the churchs’ attitudes.  Taylor reflects on this issue in describing how many believers hate speaking in Christian discussions for fear that their opinions and convictions will be thrown out and not entertained.  Taylor offers an interesting and piercing question to ponder, “How much does the church lose of the gifts and enthusiasm of its members because it creates an atmosphere where honesty and risk are not welcomed?”(Taylor 36). 

This quite possibly is the most important entity the reflective Christian can offer the church.  It seems common practice that in the realm of the corporate body of believers that real questions are generally discouraged and are rarely up for authentic conversation.  Taylor describes the opposite as “phony questions.” A phony question would be one for which the answer is known by all and simply part of a pleasurable ritual.  These questions are consistently asked and answered quickly and quietly, without threatening anybody’s comfort zone.  “The leader voices the supposed objections of the nonbelievers… the audience has the thrill of the chase with none of the threat, and goes away satisfied” (Taylor 37).  This is where the reflective Christian can genuinely minister to the church and break it of its predispositions.  The church should not be afraid of change or conflict.  Change and conflict in and of itself can be scary and usher in questioning; however, it’s through asking the tough questions that real answers are found. Taylor supports this position with a sharp statement, “The reflective Christian not only wants to ask real questions, with a sense that something is at stake, he or she also wants to broaden the range of allowable evidence in this trial of what one can believe and live for” (Taylor 37).

            Reflective Christians have much to offer the church in their gifts and abilities and their inquiring free spirits.  However, the road will not be easy.  Most likely it will be marked with suffering and difficulties, most of which will likely come from within the church.  “I am writing, however, for a large minority who find life within the church more difficult.   Where some find comfort and acceptance, others also find criticism and rejection” (Taylor 29).  When two different sides, in this case the reflective Christian and the church, present two different worldviews to one another, disagreement is sure to come about.  Taylor argues that we as human beings fight off competing worldviews because we are insecure.  “By threatening our present understanding of reality they threaten our essential security” (Taylor 25).  Self-defense is a natural reaction.  When someone disagrees with our opinion, conviction, or theology our natural reaction is to find fault in our opposition.  It is human nature.  However, this natural reaction brings about nothing good or helpful to the mission of the body of Christ.  It becomes a series of personal attacks that disrupt the infrastructure of the believers and an eventual collapse begins.  Rarely is this fracture remedied quickly.  Healing most likely never happens and renders the church useless and ineffective.  In referring to the church Taylor writes, “No institution has accomplished so much for good in the world; none has fallen so short of it’s calling! The church is God-ordained, God-inspired, but accomplishes its work through human beings subject to every possible failing” (Taylor 29). 

            One of the biggest shortcomings of believers in the Christian faith is the common misconception that God actually needs them to carry out his good and perfect will for his Creation.  He is God.  He does as he pleases, yet believers are so ignorant to think that the success of God’s work on this earth solely depends on them and their obedience.  He does not need his followers but he chooses to empower them and utilize them in the grand scheme, the great dance.  Christ is on his throne in Heaven seated at the right hand of God and we are so unaware of the fact that we are insignificant.  “God needs no particular person, church, denomination, creed, or organization to accomplish His purpose.  He will make use of those, in all their diversity, who are ready to be used, but will leave to themselves those who labor for their own ends” (Taylor 30).  This very well may be the most significant thing a reflective Christian can offer the church, a constant reminder that this life is not about them.  Tom Kizziar quite possibly identifies the greatest struggle facing Christendom in the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan, “Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter” (Chan 93).

 

This is not meant to be a cynical bashing session… and I don’t think it comes across as that. Let me know your disagreements or frustrations. 

Traveling mercies.

 

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Worship… or slow dance love songs?

Posted by abramjanson on April 8, 2009

I stumbled across a very interesting article today on relevantmagazine.com.  The title: The Pitfalls of Worship Music.  

Now in my head I was thinking… “Great… another post modern opinion of someone who has yet another problem with ‘The Church.’ That’s what I need in  my life right now… more negative information about church services.”  I sucked it up and read it top to bottom.  I guess you could say there are some interesting points brought up here… maybe a few that are simply an extra paragraph or two to fill the page… regardless… your thoughts? Give me something to work with here people.

It’s a bad time to be in the concert business, or the music business in general.  So I was shocked to seeChris Tomlin and Israel & New Breed sell out the Sears Center in suburban Chicago, a venue that’s recently hosted The Killers, Foo Fighters, and Lil Wayne.

   

The sold out arena is physical evidence that worship music is a big, big business.  Praise & worship is the only music that touches the vast majority of Christians (other forms of Christian music exist in sub-genres:Sanctus Real in CCM, Underoath in the hardcore scene, Mars Ill in backpacker hip hop circles, etc).  And it’s something that most Christians think very little about; even though music will fill roughly half the time we spend inside the church walls. 

There’s a lot of amazing songs coming out of the worship movement right now, and a lot of incredible work being done by worship leaders at local churches. But since my job (Christian radio in Chicago) takes me into literally every kind of church you can dream up, I’ve also seen where Christians make poor decisions regarding worship music.  Here’s a few humble suggestions on improving.

Drop your church’s “official” worship leader.

When my boss told me that I’d be broadcasting live from the sold-out Tomlin show, I replied, “I guess it will be like being at a bigger version of my church.”  My own church, which is a typical suburban Chicago church full of mostly career types and young families, will use up to four Chris Tomlin songs in one service.  I know of churches in Chicago that will only use Hillsong United songs for worship, and others that lean almost completely on the Desperation Band’s catalog. 

The problem with this is twofold.  First, it creates a monotonous sound for worship. Churches that do mostly Tomlin songs have mid-tempo-ballad worship environment, and Hillsong-worship churches give the impression that God must be a lot like famed Springsteen producer Phil Spector, since they only approach Him with walls of guitar sounds and nearly-screamed vocals.    

Second, it gives the congregation one songwriters (or groups) perspective on God.  One of the cool things about the myriad of worship music being created right now is that the songs are coming from many different perspectives.  Most of Tomlin’s songs are inspired by the Psalms, where as Matt Redman tends to write based on seeing God work in the world (“Blessed Be Your Name” came out of watching the 9/11 footage on TV and seeing heroes rise up to help).

Go Retro and Re-introduce “Special Music”

I grew up in a church of less than 100 people, in a town of less than 50 people in (very) rural west-central Illinois. The church only had one paid staff member (the pastor), so the music was provided by alternating volunteer pianists, and one or two people who got up and lead songs  from an old hymnal.  And there was (and still is) a call each Sunday for “special music.” 

When churches switched from hymns to modern worship songs in the early 90’s, the “special music” part of the service went with it. 

Due to the indie explosion, there are more songs than ever being recorded than at any time in history. And there’s a lot of music that has something to say, but can’t be communally sung (and not all of them fall squarely into the “Christian” category).  A great example for this Lent season can be found on Jon Foreman’sSpring EP. “I watched heaven dying today/We consumed heaven’s son/I drew first blood/I drew first blood.”  While lyrics paint a gripping picture of the crucifixion and the song points the congregation towards scripture, this isn’t a song can be sung by a large group of people, with it’s falsetto vocals and staggar-beat rhythms.  There should be a place in church for songs like this.

Reject Bad Songs

Well known Christian leader Chuck Colson once interrupted worship at his church after the congregation had just finished singing “Draw Me Close.”  “Shall we sing that again,” the worship leader asked rhetorically.  “NO!” Colson screamed in protest at the mindless lyrical fodder.

“Draw me close to you/never let me go.”  If Lady GaGa, Moby, or Akon remixed this, most people would never guess that the popular club hit was actually a worship song.  If the lyrics of a song can be equally applied to the crush of a 17-year-old girl as they can to Jesus, then we should seriously question it being used to point a group of believers’ collective hearts to God.  In some genres of music, a great melody is enough to create a good song.  Worship should say something, and that message must be in line with what the Bible says is true about God.

Embrace Diversity

In my three seasons as a judge on Inspiration Sensation, basically another Christian American Idol show, I was introduced to a whole new musical world.  The show was filmed in Chicago, the birthplace of Black Gospel.  Through the show, I had the privilege of meeting some of Gospel’s leaders, and learn more about the rich heritage and expansive song catalog of the genre. The show was filmed before a live audience, and I saw how many different groups of people were moved by black Gospel songs. 

Too often, diverse churches only sing traditional “white contemporary church music,” as if we’re operating under the assumption that it’s better to have the songs sound vaguely like Nickelback ballads rather than trying out new songs that might be “risky.” 

Also, we tend to rob songs of their regional nuances within the church walls.  Despite the evil giant known as Clear Channel Radio, and other globalizing factors,  live music still sounds different in each region of the country. One great example of worship music with a regional flare is the brilliant Mike Farris, a New Orleans native who retools traditional worship songs soaked in the soul influences of his home town, and backed by a Delta Blues band, horns and all.

Discover New Music

Studies show that once a group of people have sung a song eight times, it begins to become habit rather than active worship that points them towards the Creator. That means there is a constant need for new worship songs.  Here’s a few underappreciated artists who are creating great vertically-focused songs.

Michael Gungor Band This husband-and-wife duo write songs out what God is going at their church in Denver, Co.  Check out the hilarious “White Man,” with lyrics that stating that God is not a white Republican.

Sarah Kelly An old and very dear pal of mine, Sarah wrote her first worship songs in the middle of a horrifically abusive relationship.  The experience granted her the ability to write songs that openly communicate pain, while maintaining a focus on Christ. 

Phil Wickham There’s heavy doses of Euro-pop in this San Diego native’s offering to God.  And in a genre dominated by traditional keyboards and acoustic guitars, that’s a very good thing.  For an introduction, download his free live album Singalong, and be introduced to his stunning vocals.

The Glorious Unseen Yes, the rock-with—programmed-beats is oh so trendy at this particular moment when everyone is in love with the 80’s again. But the beauty in this band is that the songs are written from such a unique angle.  “We expect the best/and nothing less from you/but will we embrace the suffering too,” sings frontman Ben Crist.

 

Comments on article are here. 

Traveling mercies.

 

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church or the lack of it.

Posted by abramjanson on April 5, 2009

so… it’s sunday. the sabbath. and i didn’t go to church today.  i didn’t oversleep or stay up too late. i just didn’t want to. church has been an interesting or shall we say disinteresting thing for me lately.  i woke up this morning with every intention of going… and i consciously opted out. i felt my morning would be much more beneficial if i spent it with myself; reading, listening, sitting here… (blogging… lol)  

 

so i’ disinterested.  when i go to church… I’m so distracted with everything else going on in my life i can’t hardly listen and when I do listen… i feel what is being said is wishy washy irrelevant uninteresting unapplicable crap.  i’ve become very cynical. 

 

is this wrong?  “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”

 

Regardless… I had a great, blessed morning. 

 

Traveling mercies.

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