Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Technicolor Dreamcoat starts debate in OT class.

Last night in our Old Testament survey class we watched a clip from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the classic Andrew Lloyd Weber musical that chronicles, in Broadway fashion, the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. The reason that I showed this was to critique it as a form of "storying" the Bible. The unforeseen result was a great discussion on the pros and cons of using culture to present the Gospel message. Now, if you are unfamiliar with this show I would encourage you to search for it on Google or Youtube and take a look at it. As I've told many people, the result of having listened to its soundtrack as a child was that I knew the story of Joseph better than just about any other story in the Bible. This, of course, could not be a bad thing. However, as I just mentioned the discussion that followed in class was rather enlightening and I think brought up some very timely points.

The main question that seemed to keep resurfacing was this; how far is too far when it comes to what we are willing to do in order to present the message of God? The verse that is often trotted out regarding this subject is 1 Corinthians 9:22 where Paul says, "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." The idea here is that Paul did whatever it took to relate to people so that he could share the Gospel with them. Unfortunately I see this verse being abused rather frequently as people use it as an excuse to do things they know are contrary to the will of God. Somewhere a line must be drawn between what we will  do to reach people and what will ultimately compromise the message of Christ. Should we become prostitutes in order to reach them? Should we get involved in the drug culture in order to reach those bound by its chains? The ultimate plumb-line is, of course, Christ. He became a human in order to save us. In that capacity He did all the things normal humans do and He was not afraid to associate with the marginalized and outcasts. However, was there ever a point when Christ compromised the will of God in order to save us? The answer is a resounding NO! His entire mission and goal in His earthly life was to do the will of the Father.

Now let me move back to the subject at hand. One of the hottest topics in Christian circles is the use of contemporary music and alternative worship practices. It seems that everyone has an opinion regarding these things and the subject can bring out all kinds of un-Christlike attitudes among otherwise well adjusted believers. I can say with a degree of certainty that churches have been split and pastors have been removed over this very issue. So what, then, is the big deal? I think I could summarize it this way. On the one hand there are those who staunchly support traditional forms of worship and music. They believe that the trend towards contemporary music and worship is a capitulation to a culture that is ultimately bankrupt and favors entertainment value over and above the truth. On the other hand you have a group who believes that using contemporary music and worship is a way to attract a demographic that has no interest in church or the things of God. Thus, they use those "means" to "save some." Sadly, I think taste comes into play on both ends of the spectrum and this is where we must be most careful. If we are against something simply because we don't like it or because it goes against our taste grain we are treading on roads that resemble the scribes and Pharisees of old.

The test of anything or any means that we use to present the Gospel must be its faithfulness to the truth as revealed in God's Word. If a song, or drama, or whatever clearly presents the truth of God and His message then it should be embraced and that is said to all parties. If a contemporary song speaks the truth plainly and without shame it should be welcomed. Likewise, the traditional hymns and forms of worship should be cherished by those who prefer contemporary music because of the deep spiritual truths contained in them. The fact of the matter is this, there was a time when "How Great Thou Art" was a contemporary song. There were times when any music in the church was anathema unless it was a Psalm. Music, worship, evangelism and preaching have evolved over the centuries to give us what we have today. To be sure a church service looked far different for the disciples and early Christian that it does now and that is okay.

We are so blessed to be partakers in a Gospel that transcends time, space and culture. For 2 millennia  it has adapted to speak to people throughout this great world without changing its basic principles. I will be the first to stand by the fact that if a means compromises the truth of the Bible then it should be cast aside. The eternal destiny of people's souls hangs in the balance and we cannot afford to take a chance with that. Our goal must be to find that place where truth and culture can coexist and maximize the fruitfulness of our seed sowing. If we know the ground is hardened it is foolish for us to continue to waste seed on it without first breaking it loose.

I will close with this. In all that we do, whether it be worship, or evangelism, or discipleship we must to it with caution when we find ourselves near the line between speaking the truth and being culturally relevant. Furthermore, if we must err on one side or the other let us err on the side of truth and let God take care of the rest because if we are faithful to Him, He will be faithful to us.

Godspeed,
Christian

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