Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Can You Be Emergent and Go Country?

I had a great time with the gang from Kettlebrook Church, last Sunday. Thanks to all who made me feel so welcome.

Kettlebrook is committed to a multi-generational worship service and so all grade school kids and up were in the morning services. I appreciate the effort they are making to be being together as a whole church for whole church gatherings. If they can continue to infuse this DNA into this young believing community, it will be exciting to see what emerges in the upcoming years.

Since there was a wide-spread of people and ages, I thought I’d share a few comments I heard throughout the morning…

“I needed to hear this, this morning because our family has been struggling with church for the last 11 years.” – A 30-something woman.
“Nice talk.” – 8 year old boy.
“I’m just so excited!” – a 60-something lady.
“I think your jeans are cool.” – high school boy.
“Today I think I’m ready to begin forgiving people who hurt me and begin steps toward following Jesus.” – College-age woman.
“We don’t want a youth group… we like it here with everyone.” – Two middle school girls.
“Daddy, should you go up there now?!” – Three year old son of pastor Mike, five minutes into my message.

The rest of our day was spent with the Kettlebrook team and we discussed what it means to be missional in their context. I learned a lot from their discussion about West Bend and the people there (most in the group are from West Bend). One distinction that stood out was that the community loves country music.

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about… “What does it look like for a believing community to incorporate county music expression into their worship services?” More importantly, can this community leave it out without indirectly stating that “this part of your world is irrelevant”?

These question challenged me personally, because whether it’s music or another or other preferences, I am reminded of how quickly I can conclude that something is relevant or not… and many times this comes out of my personal tastes, not out of missional, incarnational thinking and living.

This day, that I was reminded that emergent is not about cool… it’s about incarnation. Cool imitates, incarnation enters in and discovers close, interdependent relationships with those around them.

For more thoughts of the day from one of the team members, check out Andy Christophersen’s blog .


At Wed Feb 15, 11:55:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger stephseef said...

to answer the question posed by the title, in a word...


At Wed Feb 15, 11:57:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger stephseef said...

just kidding. :) There is something to be said about the concept of giving people what they need packaged as what they want.. and if we really do believe [as i do] that ... style is temporary and Truth is eternal.. then there should be no limit to the 'style' of the music played in any place as long as the content and integrity of lyric is appropriate.

country?? eesh.... talk about being called to a foreign land. I'm guessing that for Mike and Kara this might be a harder language to learn than they had to study in Siberia.. :)

At Wed Feb 15, 12:16:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger steve said...

Steph... You crack me up!

Okay... let me push back a bit. Isn't style more than "what peoeple need"? Do we not have an obligation to allow people to discover what expressing the gospel looks like in their culture?

If I go to africa and make a tribe learn all my western songs and methods in order to be "christian" is this not an offense to a culture and to the full expression of theh gospel?

So if "country" is a "tribal expression" don't we short-circuit the gospel-expression by only promiting our tastes or preferences?

I wonder if this has less to do with style and more to do with missiona, gospel, expression in the context of the culture we choose to serve.

What do you think, worship guru?

At Wed Feb 15, 02:43:00 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no worship guru like Steph, but every (other?) day (mostly) I read a book produced by an ancient near eastern or greek culture (which, admittedly, has shaped mine, but is also very different in its assumptions than mine) and every sunday I go to a church whose liturgy (supposedly) imitates early Christian liturgy which itself derived from synagogue worship, and I sing songs written by people from 200 CE to the 17th century played on a pipe organ.

The words from most of these songs come from the ancient book that challenges my culture's assumptions, and when we do innovate, it is always in conversation with the tradition we've received. Is the tradition imposed? Maybe. But I must respect it if I am to be a Christian. I see no compelling reason to think, however, that the melody I use to talk about these ideas and even quote these words (most of the liturgy is a near exact quote from the Bible, or at least gets at a pretty good summary of the Biblical story). There is no reason to sing the gloria in one tune rather than another. But the Gloria is not mine to change, either.

Not all of traditional Christianity practiced in the west has to do with taste. Much of it has to do with respect for and communion with the past, as you know. And, given that there are different legitimate traditions, might we have a healthy pluralism? And can we please avoid the emergent tendency to pick and choose and create a new tradition that is really no tradition or (worse) a tradition that doesn't cohere theologically?

This, of course, doesn't resolve anything. Steph and maybe Dave Livermore can do that.

ok. gotta go to a tea at the dean's house.


At Thu Feb 16, 10:57:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger stephseef said...

Worship guru or not, ['er no' as they say around these parts], I think we're both saying the same thing. I think the content is what matters.. I think being missional means speaking their language, or at least with their dialect,[what they want] and within the content of what you're speaking, you teach.. you challenge.. you stretch [what they need].

And you know, as I read this response again, I'm troubled by the 'we - they' language.. I don't mean to sound so.. oh... pejorative.. or condescending.. or superior.. is there a better way I could say what I just said?

SCL, good to see you here. Let's comment so often that we drive Argue crazy. Crank that site meter!! :)

At Fri Feb 17, 07:48:00 AM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeremiah 18:15 "Because My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to worthless idols. And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways, From the ancient paths, To walk in pathways and not on a highway."

Its not about finding whats relevent in a culture; but about bring what is relevent to a culture. Jesus and the Word of God is the only thing that matters. In the end, just because you changed your style of music does not make you a better church, or a church more in "tune" with God.

I think instead of being so concerned with "ideas" and "concepts" we must be concerned with "returning" to the ancient paths.

Jeremiah puts it great in this passage. The jist of it is that you have forgotten the ancient paths. Its time for the church in the west to become ir-relevent to society and relevent to God.

Christianity is anything but consumer friendly. It flies in the face of everyone of our lifestyles in the West. The Bible is not concerned about finding a new way to do church so that people like it; but it is concerned about people being set free from demons, delievered from bondage, healed from sickness and most importantly people coming into the knowledge of Jesus and preparing them for what is about to come to the earth.

Emerging churches: Instead of worrying about making Christianity relevent; worry about what is about to come upon the face of the earth and how the Bible tells you to prepare for it.

At Fri Feb 17, 03:27:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger stephseef said...

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.

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

At Fri Feb 17, 04:45:00 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steph, good use of the lectionary from two Sundays ago... It should be in the back of all our minds in while we think about our obligations to those who need Jesus.


At Sat Feb 18, 06:57:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger steve said...

Dear Anonymous…

Thank you for posting on my blog. I hope this can be a place where multiple views can be expressed and dialogued. I certainly welcome your comments.

If I might briefly respond, as you made some accusations…

I think you misunderstood the dialogue here. No one’s saying that “style” is the answer or that one is more “in tune” with God.

I agree we must return to “ancient paths.” My question then, is which ones? You quote Jeremiah. So, a mid-eastern path? A strict following of the Torah? If later then that, which ancient line would you like to follow- Middle Ages, Western Christianity, Eastern Christian, African Christianity, Asian Christian, or Latino Christianity (just to name a few)? Do you not run the risk of alienating the majority world?

And does “returning” mean we “stay there?” What was before hymns and the organ (for example)? Do we go back to Gregorian chant? Just the Psalms? Keith Green? Petra? Are there not new expressions of worship that are theologically orthodox and can’t this expression be wide-ranged? I’m not sure why we would want to limit the expression of worship in any context or any style.

I think “the Bible” (though I don’t personify the bible) DOES point to us engaging culture. Jesus makes this evident in his incarnation. He enters our world, lives in it, engages with people, is even dependant upon it (after all, who fed him as a baby and where did he learn the Torah?). If the church is the body of Christ, I’m not sure why we would live any differently. We have an interdependent relationship with culture that we dare not deny.

As for making Christianity relevant, I’m not sure I’m going to convince you otherwise. I would just like to point out that you are…
- Communicating in English (not a biblical language);
- Communicating through a blog (a recent medium and hardly ancient, and I would assume you did this on a computer...);
- Seeming to hold to an eschatology that that has gained popularity in the 20th century (not earlier).

… therefore, it seems you have embraced some of culture. Where do you draw the line. Is not your own critique, self-condemning?

One of the healthy things I see emerging church leaders doing, is admitting that we all are culture bound, and therefore limited in our scope of understanding. I applaud their desire to reach out in love to people, being relevantly human, and to get close enough to share a gospel with a face and touch, rather than lobbing an anonymous, faceless, formulaic, kernels of truth at people.

In the end, I think we both hope for the same thing, that people discover the love of God and the joy of following Jesus. This hope, for me, comes out of a desire to be what God has created me (and others) to be. If following Jesus is simply to escape hell or only to fear God, I think we miss the other important aspect of the abba father that Jesus seems eager for us to see.

God bless you. And thanks for taking the time to write.

At Sun Feb 19, 12:12:00 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Good response. I really appreciated it! You make great points, that I have thought of. Can I answer them now? Ya but dont have the time.

Only one problem. Im not holding to an eschatology that has become popular in the last 20th century. I hold to an eschatology that was only popular about 2000 years ago, in the time of the book of Acts, and an eschatology that is actually very unpopular right now.

I encourage you to look again at what the bible says about what is going to happen in the not so distant future. There is over 100 chapters in the bible that are concerned with the the 2nd coming of Christ.

If you are interested; I will tell you more.


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