-Rev Melissa Fain-
Last Sunday I discussed the death of Christian Music. Today, I want to put much of what I said into written form for easy digestion and sharing.
The death of Borders took Christian Music and the last vestiges of evangelism with it.
I'm sure this isn't something that those great minds wheezing over dusty tomes are thinking, but it's true. I also know it's strange to give a secular answer that doesn't involve Boomers or Millennials. It seems like I should be blaming some age demographic. It's, in some way, an outsider problem. In fact, we should look for more secular signs to our religious problems. Like, I worked for a church that saw a boom in youth membership in the late 90's then saw a drastic drop a decade later. They praised their leadership for the early years and was upset with the minister in the later years. That was until I pulled out the Census data that showed the area saw a correlating growth and drop in youth to that community during those two periods. Problems always have ancillary causes.
I'm going to tackle this in three pieces.
1. The Biblical idea of Secular Faith
2. The Secular Loss of Modern Faith using Borders
3. What can we do about it?
The Biblical Idea of Secular Faith
For the past few years I've taken my son to Cub Scout Day Camp. In our area, that happens at a Mormon Church. I remember my first year, I was genuinely curious what a Mormon Church looked like. When we showed up for the preview day, everywhere was open to the public except the Sanctuary. On the doors there were signs: You are welcome to move around the church, but please do not pass these doors.
It is sacred space. They earned so much respect in my book that day.
I think one of the biggest problems we have as a people of faith, is our inability to understand secular God moments and worship God moments. There is a difference, but since we almost exclusively hear the biblical stories in a worship setting, we struggle knowing what that difference is.
Miriam's joyous song during the Exodus does not happen in a worship setting. It happens, in what I would assume, would be the muddy banks, after escaping the Egyptians. It was about God, and it was to God, but it wasn't a song sung in the sacred setting of the temple. -Exodus 15
The Ethiopian Eunuch wasn't even invited into the sacred house of worship. In a secular moment, Phillip connects and leads someone towards Christ. -Acts 8
I can already hear the major argument playing out in my head: God is everywhere, so worship is everywhere.
Well, yes and no. On one side, Jesus had to leave the temple in order reach a new demographic. On the other side, the fall of the temple was never talked about in tone of celebration.
Fig Tree has worship. We understand that God can be anywhere and at any time. We choose to set aside a specific time and place to engage in a sacred experience. Worship is inherently different than everything else, but God is still in everything else and the connection happens differently. I know that thought can read a little confusing, but let me use Borders to explain.
The Secular Loss of Modern Faith
I still miss Borders. I used to purchase random books from their clearance section, and read them in their small cafe. It suffered the fate many stores suffered in the 2000's. The physical bookstore just hasn't been able to compete with digital media and online sales. Borders, and the still existing Barnes and Noble, were beasts. Warner Brothers even rebooted Sleepless in Seattle to do You've Got Mail. (I kid, but whose waiting for the Snapchat version?) But, as these behemoths have fallen, they have taken out smaller, less noticeable beasts with them. One of the casualties is the Christian Bookstore.
I said I missed Borders; I also miss Family Bookstore. Those who know me, know I used to sing to those Christian Karaoke tracks. There used to be a section in all Family Bookstores, of Christian tapes and CDs. (Yes, this was back when people still used cassette tapes.) It always included a section of karaoke tracks with a player to listen to your potential purchase. If you turned around in this section you would walk right into the Christian CD collection.
Now, Christian Bookstores were the best thing that happened to Christian music. When it all comes down to it, we need to do something that garners a monetary value. In other words, we need money to buy food and pay for a place to live. This is true for us, and it's true for Christian Artists. That money didn't come from radio spots, but from record sales.It wasn't like traditional record stores were selling these CDs. It was the Christian Book Store. It was during this time artists were able to explore their connection to God outside of a worship setting.
Yes, you read that right. This music was an exploration of God in a secular world, and some of it was actually kinda good! These artists were not considering if their music would be appropriate before or after the sermon. It wasn't written to play in the background while the ushers or deacons collected the offering. It was meant to be belted in the car, sung in the shower, and while you were cleaning your sink! They were secular expressions of God and they were awesome!
Then the Christian bookstore slowly died, and so did these artist's paycheck.Then, so did the music.
I think Christian Pop Music is a great example of secular experiences with the divine, and it's importance. Is the toilet you clean a sanctuary? (Don't seriously answer that.) Not really, but can one have a secular experience with God in the midst of work? Yeah! Is /r/Christianity a church? No! Does countless people find a connection to God within their daily interactions? With interactions in general online? Yeah! That doesn't make it the set aside time we give to worship of the our Holy God. It still makes it important.
What Can We Do About It?
Well crap! The Christian bookstore is dead. Now what do we do? While I liked the ease at which I could find the right musical track, there were tons of things wrong with it. I'd dare say it was almost too secular in some ways. As with all things, there is a tension we should maintain.. There was so much bad on one end, we couldn't see the good on the other. There was so much wrong with it, we never realized the nuggets of gold being lost in the process.
I do think we need to do a better job of understanding the difference between the worship of God in a church or tabernacle and the secular expression of God. Doing so, would help us understand Evangelism better (which usually happens in secular expressions.) It will also help us understand the unique and sacred language of Church.
What can you personally do about it? Write, sing, design secular expressions of God. Give yourself something to once again sing in the shower. Celebrate God moments in silly conversations, and heartbreaking loss. Instead of trying to find church in everything, define church better, and find God in everything.
Fig Tree is everywhere! Well not really everywhere, but there are other places to find us!
On Facebook: www.Facebook.com/FigTreeChristian
On Twitter: www.Twitter.com/FigTreeTweet
On Reddit: www.Reddit.com/r/FigTreeChristian
Check out these different sites, and how they are unique and connect to God in a secular world.
Then show up at 2pm on our Facebook page, as we learn about the bible and God, and connect with worship in a sacred way.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
I was nineteen or twenty years old. Communion had just been passed and I was praying as we waited for everyone else to get their elements. This was and is normal for me. My deepest prayers take place moments before we partake of the body and blood. If I were to be honest with myself, this is why I used to like to sitting up front as a congregant.. Communion comes to me at the beginning, and it gives me more time to pray.
Anyway, that morning I prayed to be given something that I could give to someone else. (This was also how I used to pray. It was vague, and searched for calling.) It was after we took communion that my hands felt like they were super charged. A strong feeling of purpose overcame me. The next person I hugged would get this power.
For the remainder of worship I sat with my hands palm up, It was an intense feeling, and one that hasn't been repeated to this day. As the closing prayer came to it's "Amen," I began to look around for the recipient of this special hug. Everyone around me looked content, and busy. No one particularly looked like they needed support, all except one. One of my friend's, his mother looked broken and lost. She was the one.
As I approached her, she saw me. Then she, without any words or thoughts, hugged me.
I felt the energy drain from my hands as I hugged back.
I realized in that moment, that God's call is often to do something, but it's not our place to choose who to do it for. I was disarmed that day, in more than one way. I felt power, and I held it, but it wasn't mine to keep or choose how it was going to be used.
We are called, as a people of God, to be continually disarmed. God's power is a form of servitude, Where the leader is called to wash the feet of the followers, and die for their sake. We can't possibly live up to that example, but we can emulate it the best we know how, by being instruments of God's peace.
May God disarm all of us this new year, and may that disarming bring God's power to those who need it most.
Dragon School Oxford: