"Not that": An Observation of 'Contemporary Worship'

The more and more people that I speak with that are at least remotely involved with church life, the more questions come up about my opinion and experience with 'contemporary worship.'   They like to pick my brain, ask my preference, and get a sense for how I feel like worship in the church ought to be.  Yes, they often have their own preconceived responses and notions regarding the style of music used within the Church. The questions range. "What do you think young people are into?" "Don't you think 'traditional' worship is a turn off for young people?" "Don't you think contemporary worship is too hoaky these days?" "Is it possible to plant a church that only uses traditional worship?" "Does Chris Tomlin every write any good songs?" "Don't you think hymns are just boring?" "What's the purpose of the flashy lights? To try to be something we aren't?" "Aren't choirs outdated?"

Contemporary worship, though, is the newcomer in this game.  In many ways, it has to prove itself.  Somewhere around 50 years ago or so, the Beatles invaded America, forever changing pop music and rock and roll. This, along with the decline of mainline church membership in the United States sparked new ideas.  People left the mainline denominations to be 'non-denominational' in an effort to do church differently.  That was the goal: do church differently.  Maybe then, perhaps, people might think about coming back.  If we just aren't 'that,' maybe they'll be more likely to come back.

In a sense, then, Contemporary Worship (with a common low-key liturgy and more culturally-relevant music) became "Not That" worship.  See that stuff the Methodists are doing?  We aren't that.  We're cool.  We're hip.  We're reaching out to young people.  We are meeting you where you are.  You can wear jeans to our church.  That's the way we are.

This type of church is the church that I was born into.  We still were a part of the big Baptist church downtown, but we were open to those who had never been to church before.  We didn't have cryptic creeds.  We didn't have strange liturgy.  We watched movie clips and played slide shows.  We had drama. Our pastor preached from behind a music stand rather than a pulpit.  I was born into a church that was trying to make church relevant to a society that it wasn't relevant to.  What we did, in the early 90's, was to be "not that."  For peope too intimidated or scared to attend traditional worship, we were "not that."  We called ourselves the "Seeker Service" so that those who were 'seeking' could find a place to feel at home.  Too intimidated by the choir robes and organ?  We aren't that.

So, if this is true, and it was truly meeting a need, why aren't all churches like that now?  Why are there young adults begging to go back to the traditional services? Why are large portions of people leaving NOT ONLY the mainline denominations, but also the nondenominational churches?  If being 'not that' was supposed to save the church, why are we drowning more than ever before?

I'll tell you why.  We stopped.

It isn't 1995 anymore. What was hip and cool then is not hip and cool now. What drew people in because it wasn't 'that' then, pushes people away now.  'Contemporary' has become a way of saying 'not that' and it has done so in a permanent sense.  This is why so many 'contemporary' services feel hoaky.  This is why many young people want to return to traditional worship.  This is why when you hear about contemporary worship, you ask yourself if it is emergent or 'contemporary.'   Oddly, those leading the traditional services never went out of their way to reach the young people and different generations; it's very much a "take it or leave it" situation.  Some choose, for many reasons, to take it. Many, sadly, are choosing to leave it.

'Contemporary' was great when it needed to be. But it is stuck now.  Sure, churches like Hillsong and movements like Passion are successful, but by and large 'contemporary' music in many (especially mainline) churches is simply stuck.

'Contemporary' has to move forward. 'Contemporary' has to continue to be what it's high and lofty goal was (an environment that allows those on the outside access to the inside) instead of what its not-so-just goal was ('not that').  It has to be as innovative as it once saw itself being.  It has to live into its title.

In order for us to justify our worship style, no matter how it exists, we need to be able to articulate it in a way that explands the Kingdom.  Otherwise, it has little reason for being. This is true for traditional worship.  This is true for 'contemporary' worship.  Our worship should be creative.  Our worship should be innovative.  Our worship should remind of of who we are.  Our worship should define who we are.  Our worship should convey to those within it that the Church is thriving, moving, changing, and growing disciples. Our worship should be, of course, worship...reflecting the God who breathes life to the people.

We cant have 'not that' from either side.  We need quality, strong, theologically sound worship in both environments (and perhaps more to come).  That's when it finally becomes quality worship and we can **finally** get out of the way.


What Every Student Needs...Dropbox

In light of my previous post, it occurred to me how much of an evangelist I have become for Dropbox and how many other students risk too many of their valuable files to one hard drive.

Let's review one thing: your computer has a hard drive and that hard drive will fail.

I don't care if you have a Mac or a PC, most computers run off of a hard drive and those are made of moving parts and moving parts break. With the move to Solid State Drives (think of how the iPod touch has memory, it's all internal flash memory--like your USB drive) imminent, this may be less of a problem, but one thing will always remain...you HAVE to back your stuff up.

If you aren't backing up regularly, shame on you. You'll get what you deserve in time.

However, if you are a student (or any human with important files) you need Dropbox.


For real, you need Dropbox. Its syncing capabilities are unreal.

Think of this, if you put your files on it, you can access them from wherever there is Internet, from any device. And...if your computer dies, your iPad dies, your android phone dies, your iPhone dies, and you've obviously had the worst day of your life...you STILL have your files, because they are stored in the cloud.

I remember telling a friend at FSC that she needed to have a folder on her computer of every class she'd ever taken and every note and paper from each class in each respective folder.

You need to do that. Then, you need to keep that folder as your Dropbox folder. Copy and paste it once and always save your stuff there from here on out.

Do it. Now. It is free for 2GB. Do it.

I like it so much, I've considered trying to pay for enough space for my entire iTunes library.

If you don't back up your computer, at least do this. To lose your stuff is to lose your life and memories.


"Christian" Music

Michael Gungor has a blog post from back in December about the label of "Christian" music and how it has the potential to change and hurt the way art is created. You can read it here. I personally enjoyed this paragraph: Secondly, I think that this categorization hurts the art. Because this category exists, it comes with baggage. Imagine if you were a Republican, and you really believed Republican values, but you found out that if you wanted to make a record that it would be placed in the small Republican Music section in the back of the store. That might effect how you make the music… If you are going to make a “Republican record” as opposed to simply making a record as a Republican, it would probably effect the art. In fact, it might have a tendency to overtake the art and turn it into Republican propaganda. The music becomes secondary to the message, which means the music is probably going to suck. You can only rhyme “Limbaugh” with so many things after all…

More and more, Christian blogs are becoming more bold about asking questions of the Church and where society is leading us. This tends to remind me of early Church history and I love the debate.

On the other hand, how does art interact with the Gospel being preached?


Keith Olbermann

Some of you may have heard about the suspension of Keith Olbermann from the MSNBC airwaves indefinitely without pay. I'd provide a link, but there is very little unbiased writing happening on the subject. It's a common Google search (will pop up when you type in "Keith O"), so check there and read several sources if you are interested in the background.

In short, Keith was found to have donated around $7,200 to three political candidates in the most recent election. MSNBC evidently has a policy against this.

So, they suspended him presumably until they can figure out a proper form of action.

Good for them. If they have a policy for their employees not to get involved politically, they should hold their employees accountable.

Here's my question: Why the policy?

There is another cable news network that labels itself as "Fair and Balanced" and are anything but. They have received lots of criticism, including some from Olbermann, regarding the financial contributions that they and their employees have made to the Republican party. Hasn't seemed to phase them.

MSNBC has benefited immensely from the ratings of Olbermann's show, "COUNTDOWN", and he is widely known to be the voice for liberals in America. He is very outspoken on his show about the problems with conservative America. No one doubts his political leanings.

So, why the policy? Perhaps because journalism isn't supposed to be biased.

But Olbermann is about as biased as the come. Something tells me that he can't be out under the same policy as Brian Williams who simply does strict reporting. If Brian donated money to a political campaign, there would be a question as to whether or not he was remaining balanced in his reporting. But for Olbermann, the balance isn't even in the picture. When you turn on Countdown, you know what you are going to get. And...it's not journalistic reporting. It is an opinion piece. That's ok, but you must understand what it is.

The reality: everyone in this country (or most) have political leanings, whether or not they act on them. Even those in journalism. A good school of journalism would teach that those who report on politics should simply report, and therefore have their hand out of the pot. But a good school of journalism wouldn't call Olbermann's show a "news broadcast". Because it isn't.

The best argument to be made here isn't whether or not Olbermann should have donated money, it is whether or not Olbermann should be considered a reporter. He is a TV personality, and he exists on the schedule to entertain and draw in viewers. Not to give the account of what happened. To quote Jon Stewart, "this is theater, not debate."

Seems to me that if MSNBC were to embrace this, their policies would at least be consistent with their practices. And THAT would differentiate them from Fox News.

If the TV thing doesn't work out though, Olbermann could just start a business, steal from the government, become extremely wealthy, get caught, plead the fifth, leave his company, start another one, defraud the government again, make more money, decide to run for public office, not be honest about his wrongdoings, say that he-the CEO- is not to blame, talk about how much the government has it wrong and that social needs must be privatized because they make money, spend a large amount of his own fortune on his own campaign, buy out tons of commercials, claim the conservative voice, become the name everyone knows because of commercials, and win the election for Governor.

Seems to have worked for some people.


Android is a Step Back

I don't want to believe this.  I really liked Google's Android on the TMobile G1 (although it needed some better hardware), I just think the iPhone-as an experience-is better. Phenomenal article on Google's intentions with Android.

If we allow the wireless subscribers to control us, we will be in serious trouble.  Google's original intentions were solid and pure.  But, it doesn't look like this is going to get any better with Android.


Free Speech

Strippers protest Church because they're "tired" of being protested against.

I guess it's about time that we got what was coming.

My opinion?  The church should never protest (in the way that we commonly think of it).

We've got to find a different way to make our point.

Particularly interesting though:

"These church people say horrible things about us," Hughes said. "They say we're homewreckers and whores. The fact of the matter is, we're working to keep our own homes together, to give our kids what they need."

[Pastor]Dunfee said it's not that simple. He said he consistently offers the women help, a chance at redemption.

"I tell them, 'I will put a roof over your heads, and your bills will be paid, and your children's bellies will be full,'" he said. Yet they don't come inside.


I'm sure I'll get in trouble for embedding this from YouTube, so you can see the video here.

Found at JesusNeedsNewPR


PS - I have combed over the video several times now and am convinced that I could have easily replicated the video with my iPhone 4 and iMovie for iPhone shot and edit by shot and edit.  Just so you know, journalists generally have better equipment than that.