The title of this blog is “Perpetual Tension.” I gave it that name because life as a believer is one filled with tension–hopefully, a healthy tension! It is a tension that is seen throughout scripture and modeled by God Himself. Tensions like Jesus being 100% God AND 100% man; the tension between justice and mercy; the tension of being in the world but not of the world. There are many!
Another tension that I’ve been dealing with over the past 5-6 years is the place and role of arts in the church. I have spent 19+ years in full-time worship arts ministry. It is what I have been trained to do. It is how I make a living and provide for my family. It is something I have always loved to do. Until recent years.
Like many, I am moved by beautiful music. A well-played pipe organ can give me goosebumps. I love hearing an orchestra play and crescendo with a timpani roll. The tight harmonies in country music make me want to sing backup in a country band, and the sound of a black gospel choir belting it out makes me want to stand up and shout! Believe it or not, I’ve experienced all of these in church. I’ve had some absolutely fantastic musical experiences within the context of my full-time worship arts career.
There’s only one problem. About 6 years ago, someone came up to me after a worship service and said, “The reason I come to this church instead of my last church is because the band is so much better here.” Those words still echo in my head. Suddenly, all of the joy I had taken in crafting incredible musical and worship moments in church drained from my soul. And it’s never really come fully back. I’m not sure it ever will.
Commonplace in most churches is now the strategy of attracting people to our worship services with the best music, the best teaching, the best programs, the best facility, the best ________. Like I heard someone say, Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” What did we do? We made a really nice pool and now we just ask them to come swim in it
Here is my tension: What role do the arts play in a consumeristic culture? How can we utilize the arts in an excellent way without contributing to consumerism in the church? Where is the line? A well-executed electric guitar solo is acceptable but really awesome moving lights programmed by a talented lighting guy is over the line? Should we even care if worship arts contribute to consumerism in the church?
I am a very driven person. Inspired by the life of Dr. Jerry Falwell, I want to make the very most of the one lifetime I have been given. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Dr. Falwell made a significant impact with his one lifetime. I don’t want to spend my life just entertaining Christians on the weekend. I want to be a part of a disciple-making movement! I want to be a part of expanding God’s Kingdom and seeing people who are far from God come to know Him and begin to be used by Him to reach others. I don’t want to stand before God and hear Him say, “Kevin, you put together some pretty cool worship environments, but I wish you had invested your talents in what really mattered most to me–the making of disciples.”
So, there it is. This is probably the biggest tension I am currently wrestling with. I don’t know if the joy I used to get from leading great musical experiences in church will ever return. And I’m not even sure it should.