[Repost] The Best of 2011-12: Two Kinds of Churches

This is the final of five reposts featuring the top five posts of the last year.  Thank you for reading and commenting!  I appreciate you!

In the last year or so since I have been at my present job of Music Pastor at Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester, NY, I have come to think of churches as fitting into one of two categories based on how they handle culture.

One kind of church chooses elements for their worship services by seeing them through the lens of “not making anyone stumble.” What do I mean by that? This kind of church looks at culture and, even though they want to be culturally relevant, they stop short of using anything where the source of that element has a character that is question. The concern here is making certain the church does not endorse anything “questionable.” Scripture often referenced here usually includes quotes of being “in” the world but not “of” it.

On the other side of the coin is the church that looks for nuggets of truth in culture, and when they find something, they pounce on it and exploit it regardless of the source. The Scriptures often referenced here are Paul quoting secular poets and Paul’s declaration that he becomes “all things to all people.”

Lakeshore finds itself firmly in the latter position. Here we see value in “redeeming” truths which are presented in less than desirable ways if doing so will enable us to remove a barrier between someone and God. A pastor once referred to this approach as being “willing to get your shoes dirty.”

Case in point. Almost exactly a year ago we were planning a service on purpose and priorities in life. We were thrilled to find that Katy Perry (yes, the I Kissed a Girl and I Think I Liked It Katy Perry) had recently recorded a song called Who Am I Living For. A church in the first category would not have even taken a look at the song because of the source. Since Lakeshore is in the second category we dove in only find an amazing song asking the right question in the right way, with references to Moses and other Biblical figures. We ended up using the song to great success because we were able to leverage music from a very well known cultural source that many non-Christians listen to. As can be expected we had a few people who got pretty upset about the source of the song, asking why the church was endorsing an artist whose lifestyle clearly states she is not following God. The answer? I like what Christ says: “It is not the well but the sick who need a doctor. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

People in the first category of church tend to think church is more about ministering to and taking care of themselves, while people in the latter kind of church tend to be taught that church is about focusing outward while still supporting and building up those who are already in the church. To reach people who are already turned off by church you are going to have do some things differently and risk a little pushback.

What kind of church do you lead or attend?

Advertisements

spiritual grammar

I have been thinking about the primary questions of life: who, what, when, where, how and why. These questions unleash the truth of any situation, idea, or creed. Police use them to reconstruct a crime or crime scene, CEOs use them to challenge the validity of a new product, elementary school students use them to discover the meaning behind a sentence or paragraph, and scientists use them to analyze processes and substances. These questions are the foundation of the modern age.

We also use these questions in belief. Who led the Israelites through the Red Sea? Moses. When did Pharoah let the Israelites leave? After God killed the firstborn of Egypt. What is the color of my true love’s hair? Wait a minute . . . wrong post.

You get the idea. The same thing goes whether the faith system is Christianity, Islam, or any other religion. They are the language of taste, touch and feel.

These questions are completely appropriate for human experience and existence, but what about God? Can these questions illuminate him as they illuminate so much of the human experience?

Example: God says, “I will remember your sins no more.” If God is all knowing, can he forget something, or is he simply talking about making a choice to set aside our sins because of Christ and not “remember” them when he thinks of us? Every systematic theology has an answer for this, but my question is, Can one say definitively HOW God does this? God does give us hints throughout Scripture on this issue and so many more, but God does not lay out a blow by blow description of how his omniscience and grace coincide and cooperate. We have to embrace some mystery.

God says in Isaiah, “My ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts.” We get into trouble when we attempt to describe God using human terms and tools. He is “other,” and we should be willing to grasp a little mystery. Search Scripture for sure; Solomon said it is the glory of kings to search out a matter. “I don’t know” could be the best answer to some questions of God, however.

Ultimately, if you can describe God completely using the scientific method (who, what, when, where, how, why), you suddenly have no God at all. Embrace the mystery of faith in a God you cannot completely explain, and suddenly your faith will have life, because we cannot give life to an idea on our own. Allowing God to be God allows him to fuel your faith, rather than trying to charge up your spiritual car on human batteries. A car can run on batteries, but it’s nothing like the real thing, baby. 🙂

Two Kinds of Churches

In the last year or so since I have been at my present job of Music Pastor at Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester, NY, I have come to think of churches as fitting into one of two categories based on how they handle culture.

One kind of church chooses elements for their worship services by seeing them through the lens of “not making anyone stumble.” What do I mean by that? This kind of church looks at culture and, even though they want to be culturally relevant, they stop short of using anything where the source of that element has a character that is question. The concern here is making certain the church does not endorse anything “questionable.” Scripture often referenced here usually includes quotes of being “in” the world but not “of” it.

On the other side of the coin is the church that looks for nuggets of truth in culture, and when they find something, they pounce on it and exploit it regardless of the source. The Scriptures often referenced here are Paul quoting secular poets and Paul’s declaration that he becomes “all things to all people.”

Lakeshore finds itself firmly in the latter position. Here we see value in “redeeming” truths which are presented in less than desirable ways if doing so will enable us to remove a barrier between someone and God. A pastor once referred to this approach as being “willing to get your shoes dirty.”

Case in point. Almost exactly a year ago we were planning a service on purpose and priorities in life. We were thrilled to find that Katy Perry (yes, the I Kissed a Girl and I Think I Liked It Katy Perry) had recently recorded a song called Who Am I Living For. A church in the first category would not have even taken a look at the song because of the source. Since Lakeshore is in the second category we dove in only find an amazing song asking the right question in the right way, with references to Moses and other Biblical figures. We ended up using the song to great success because we were able to leverage music from a very well known cultural source that many non-Christians listen to. As can be expected we had a few people who got pretty upset about the source of the song, asking why the church was endorsing an artist whose lifestyle clearly states she is not following God. The answer? I like what Christ says: “It is not the well but the sick who need a doctor. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

People in the first category of church tend to think church is more about ministering to and taking care of themselves, while people in the latter kind of church tend to be taught that church is about focusing outward while still supporting and building up those who are already in the church. To reach people who are already turned off by church you are going to have do some things differently and risk a little pushback.

What kind of church do you lead or attend?