Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to ruin a good concert

My guitar hero, Phil Keaggy, came to town last weekend. And it was a good concert...until a preacher started talking. And wouldn't stop.

It made me mad too.

You see, Phil and his friend Randy Stonehill were on fire. They played songs both new and old, including some of the hits from their Jesus Movement days--"What a Day," "Love Broke Through," etc. And of course Phil Keaggy is just a masterful entertainer, especially when he starts layering loop after loop on top of amazing sounds no other human being can create.

And then it came time for a break. That's when this preacher got up on stage and started expounding. It was really kind of creepy. There was nowhere we could go; we were trapped. He read a few verses from John 10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Now that's Bible, and Bible is good. So why did I get upset?

Three reasons. 

Number One, it turned into a 30-minute sermon with a prayer for "salvation" at the end. And here we were, a room full of Christ followers.

Number Two, the reason I put "salvation" in quotes in the paragraph above is that the sermon was more about how, if you do the right things and try hard enough, you'll have a life of success and fulfillment. There was little Jesus in the guy's message and a lot of do's and don'ts. Why did the man even feel this message was needed, much less faithful to the text?

And Number Three, the fact that the preacher felt compelled to insert a long Bible lesson into the concert revealed a greater problem: the denigration of the arts. This preacher failed to grasp how music, especially music played for the glory of God as it was on this night, is a spiritual feast to the soul, a gift of God to the world, and an aspect of general revelation to thirsty hearts. As I listened to this preacher, I sent out this tweet: "Please Mr. Preacher, stop spoiling a good concert with your 30-minute sermon. Let the music be. Glad I didn't bring a non-Christian."

Yes, let the music be.

I was embarrassed. Embarrassed for Phil Keaggy and Randy Stonehill, who must have felt betrayed, waiting in the wings for the second half of the show. And embarrassed for this preacher, whose theology was just awful. It's because of this "abundant life" kind of preaching that millions of non-Christians dismiss the gospel message as so much anti-intellectual pablum. And if there were any unbelievers in the audience, I was embarrassed for them. I felt like standing up and saying, "I'm sorry. This is not Christianity."

But I suffered through it, and at last Phil and Randy came up and did their second set. But it wasn't as good. It seemed like Phil and Randy felt like apologizing too.

When will the Church celebrate the arts and not feel they have to be "baptized" with a few verses of Scripture to be valid? In the Old Testament, Bezalel was "filled...with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze" (Exodus 35:30-32). God gives the Spirit to artists, who empowers them to bless the Church with songs, paintings, photographs, dance, literature, sculpture, architecture, and other creative endeavors.

Let the music be! 


kristinwithani said...

Oh, Mike, no.

Russell said...

Hah, I completely misunderstood your tweet at the time. I thought you were speaking facetiously, against church worship services filled with musical performance and lacking spiritual teaching.