Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Part of Leadership Is How We Present Ourselves

This came up on a forum I participate in sometimes and it is a culture clash I thought was very interesting and appropriate.

* Posted by J Pettigrew on July 29, 2009 at 6:00pm in Living a Life of Worship

This may have been brought up in another thread, if so then I apologize. My home church is not conservative, but not the most forgivig congregation either. We have had some complaints because some of the musicians on our team have ear rings, tattoos, mohawks, etc...

So it was suggested that only when they are on stage at our church that they tone it down a bit and dress or style themselves a little more conservatively.

These people are strong Christians who serve God with their gifts, inside and outside of the church. Should they really have to change their appearance just to please the congregation???

All comments would be appreciated. I'm really hoping to hear from both sides to better understand why people feel the way they do.

Reply by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

I agree that striving to not offend and sensitivity to others are signs of maturity. The Christian heart attitude is tested in such times. It is similar to the case Paul writes about in Romans where mature Christians had eaten meat thrown from the temples of false gods, because it was still good and they didn't want to waste it. Less mature Christians saw this and questioned their faith. To Paul, the meat was fine and not evil or cursed. But since the immature Christians were being tested by the sight of it, he recommended the mature Christians not do it where they could be seen. Some people in my congregation are against drinking. Others have no issue as long as it is not to excess. When I go to church picnics, I leave the beer at home. When I go to events with church members, I don't drink. The same is true in my work in other cultures. I try and be sensitive in what I say, how I say it, and how I appear in presenting it. So while it may offend your band members' sense of personal freedom of expression, it is not unreasonable to ask them to show sensitivity and be the bigger persons and dress in a way that is more acceptable to those who just can't see beyond their stereotypes.
The goal of worship leading, and your band members are part of the worship leadership in your church whether they say words to lead or not, is to point people to Christ, not to one's self. If your dress is flashy or your jewelry calls attention to you and not Christ, you are not being a good leader. I ask my team members to dress conservatively, but comfortably, and none of them have the issues mentioned. I don't feel uncomfortable asking them, and so far no one has complained that it was unfair. It's just a reasonable expectation of leadership.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's About The Heart

One of the challenges of the context in which I so often have been called to work is that there is so much sensitivity surrounding worship issues. From song choices, to choice of words, etc., opinions are diverse and strongly held. When you move into a new cultural context, or between them (as I so often do), you face all the more challenges sorting them out. While sometimes the same issues do appear time and again, the cultural nuances behind them are often different and harder to sort out and reconcile.

In any case, I just wanted to offer the following to meditate on:

Roberta King, a professor of ethnomusicology at Fuller Seminary, has said that when it comes to song: God wants to be understood, and God is receptor oriented. So sometimes the setting needs to determine not only which songs we choose but also which concerns are primary in evaluating songs. But generally, is the message clear for those singing? Is it singable (language wise, musically)? Is it something culturally relevant to their context (not only lyrically but musically), etc.
The advantage we have is that God understands our hearts even when our language or musical expressions are imperfect. So I guess in some ways, the joy of expression, the passion, far outweighs the linguistic and musical correctness. Certainly that is the case for God's reception of things. But then again, just as the sermons teach theological concepts, so do the songs. And many cultures (Ghana for example) use songs to teach Scripture memorization. So again, context does add to determining criteria and they way criteria are prioritized...

But above all, beyond criteria, we are human and frail and have limited understandings. Every denomination and theologian out there, if and when they get to heaven, will find many errors in their way of thinking and interpreting scriptures which surprise them. God alone is all knowing and all seeing. We must remember that our hearts are what matters. Do we really love God? Are we passionate in our faith? Do we follow His commands, including loving our neighbors as ourselves? Are these things obvious to the world around us? If we fail in this area, none of the rest is going to matter a great deal. Being genuine but wrong is likely more acceptable in heaven than being selfish and not authentic in our faith and love for God and one another. If we spent more time focused on that than arguing details of our differences, etc. (which by the way are really little things in the overall picture), we'd be happier and more successful in our Christian walks.

I say this as much for myself as anyone else. It's something I think all of us need to constantly work on.

For what it's worth...