“We are not relevant when we mirror secular culture. We are relevant when we are what they long to be.” – Bill Johnson
We have a church culture that wants to do what the world is doing. We hear a cool song on the radio and suddenly we all want to write songs like that. We see art, and suddenly we want to paint like that. Its hard wired in us to search for inspiration. We want to find something that will spark us to create ourselves.
The problem with this is that we end up turning to the world and its culture to define the next wave of church culture. I am not going to bash on pop culture. I watch Parks and Recreation, and a few other shows. I listen to Mumford & Sons and John Mayer, and a few other musicians. I have no issue with Pop culture itself. Instead my issue with it is that it has become our source and our muse.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (NASB)
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:3 (NASB)
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16 (NASB)
There is a theme Here. God is a creative force. If you read the Bible, you see He spoke and thins existed. That is super creativity. For me as a creative, I ponder, I dream, and then I plan, eventually something is created. If God is that creative and at the same time He lives and is alive in me, how am I such a poor creative. How come I struggle to make anything worth anything? (I am not meaning in terms of money.)
The reason is because My creativity is not creativity but rather reproduction. We have all been guilty of this and will be guilty again. But we as creatives need to go to a new place. As a musician, much of this discussion is going to focus on music. But ti is no less true if you are a sculptor, dancer, or actor. The principle here applies to any type of creative.
in the 1980’s a band came onto the scene that revolutionized the music of the church. U2, lead by the creative lyricism and activism of Bono and the unique heavily effected guitar tone of The Edge. The song “Where The Streets Have No Name” is instantly recognizable and introduced a new phrase into the worship vocabulary. Dotted Eights. People heard this sound and they were drawn to it. Worship bands like Delirious and Hillsong all reference U2 as a tonal influence. For over 2 decades, this kind of tone has dominated the worship scene. It sounds good and the worship is good. I am not disputing that.
The same thing is happening today. Recently the band Mumford and Sons released their new album Babel. It’s quickly getting attention, and many Christians are calling it a great record. The sound that Mumford and Sons is using is becoming a tone that is capturing worship. The folksy feel resonates well in peoples hearts.
But, this is another instance where a secular band is shaping the church world. Shouldn’t it be the other way around. Shouldn’t we be making the kind of music and art that causes the world to take notice? I recently heard a very interesting theory in a sermon. The preacher was discussing how Moses was able to write the story of creation while he wasn’t actually alive to witness it. Most people including myself just lean toward the Idea that God told him and he wrote it down while he was in one of His “Face to Face” encounters like the one described in Exodus 33.
But this preacher was discussing the verse Proverbs 30:4
Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know! (NASB)
This preacher was just postulating, and its a take it or leave it kind of deal, but, What if when God showed moses his back He saw the waters of creation that are sealed in God’s Cloak. This preacher imagined it as almost a CGI thing where Moses saw the story of creation told in the waters Of God’s cloak. After seeing this he understood to story of creation.
Imagine that. You have an encounter with the Living God of creation, and suddenly inspiration hits and you can pen something that will be told and retold, read and reread for generations. That is a level of creativity that goes somewhere. Moses wasn’t adjusting His culture to look more like the Egyptians. Instead he created a new culture that was birthed by encounter with the Lord.
There are those who are doing this to an extent. For instance many of the musicians at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City do not set out to write songs, but rather they go into the prayer room and while they are worshiping, and leading their sets, suddenly a new song comes forth.
In this context, the place of prayer and worship, we are positioning ourselves for encounter. For instance, The Revelation song was birthed centuries ago when John, the disciple who Jesus loved was encountering God. He heard the song of the angels aroudn the throne and wrote it down. Then a few years ago, Jennie Lee Riddle arranged it with music and the song has really impacted a large number of people world wide.
We as songwriters need to take advantage of our greatest resource. The God of Creation. When we encounter Him, suddenly we have a different perspective our minds move from earthly thinking to Heavenly Kingdom thinking. Let us encounter the God of Creation. Let us experience the songs of heaven and the Heart of our Lord. Then let us set these to music and release the secrets of His throne room to a hungry generation.