David Bailey on Assimilation, Acculturation, and embracing the whole gospel

In my daily blog reading I ran into Issac Wardell’s followup post on the Bifrost Arts 2013 conference. Here you can find recordings of each of the conference talks relating to the themes of worship, community, and mercy in the life of the church.

David Bailey’s talk on “Contextual Creativity in Worship” caught my eye. His vision for music as a reconciliatory tool is uplifting. His humor on our denominational differences is refreshing. A couple key points:

  • He acknowledges that churches are incredibly diverse organizations, yet there can be unity through diversity. Indeed it is scriptural.
  • Aural culture vs. literacy culture. Not everybody learns the same way. We all have different educations, experiences, and learning styles. Yet the power of stories connect with everyone. Is my song selection is biased towards doctrine over response?
  • Hymns speed through a bunch of awesome doctrine at 1000 miles per hour. Wesley and Watts are master craftsmen at infusing congregational song with doctrine.  This is great if  you have studied the doctrine, read Romans, and know the tunes, but what about giving some time for the singer to digest and meditate on one point entirely? (skip to 37′ for his discourse on this.)  I am often skeptical of the ‘retune’ choruses that Tomlin et. al. splice into hymns (Amazing Grace + ‘My chains fell of…’ is a classic example). Why mess with perfection? But Bailey made me see the value in these additions.
  • We have our denominational emphases: Evangelicals, the cross and personal salvation; Mainline, the kingdom of God and social justice; Baptists, the resurrection and the power of the Gospel over sin; Charismatic, the holy spirit; to name a few. But we have the Good News, and it includes all of these things. What are we forgetting in our own church contexts? We need to preach the whole gospel, not our Christian tradition’s preference of the Gospel.

Check out the full talk here: David Bailey – Contextual Creativity in Worship: Practices for Diverse Congregations

David also runs an “equipping ministry,” Making A Melody:

Making a Melody is a ministry department of Artist In Christian Testimony International. We use music as a tool in the reconciliation process. Music is a great tool for connect people, cultures, and communties, creating shared experiences that can be a bridge for deeper relationships. We are an equipping ministry that provides resources and trainings for Christian communities that are commited to cultural diversity.

Check it out here: http://www.makingamelody.com/mam-questions/

[repost] Don’t do it for the youths: Why 20-somethings aren’t in fact seeking modern music

Thanks Ginny for sending this to me.

The Episcopal church’s “Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music” produced a report about the support or lack thereof for a revision in the Hymnal 1982. The most striking surprise (though I, for one am not surprised) is that the young adult demographic is in favor of keeping traditional hymns and have less desire for music that reflect their personal tastes.

A few highlights:

Respondents in their twenties and younger are statistically different than the rest of the respondents, reporting the least interest in desiring worship music to reflect their personal musical tastes. This proves counter to the “common knowledge” theory that younger congregants are looking for a more modern or popular-music experience at church.

And also:

Perhaps most significantly, there is no pattern in which youth correlates with a particular movement towards new forms of musical expression. To revise the Hymnal must in some way be a project that is a gift to the next generation. Gaining some clearer sense of what the worship music of that generation will look like will require a longer and more careful period of discernment

Full Article: http://thecuratesdesk.org/2012/05/15/dont-do-it-for-the-kids-of-hymnal-revision-and-young-adults/

The full report can be found here:


Yes thats a word.

This semester I’m taking a fascinating course on the sociology of American Evangelicalisms.  Yep you heard me right.  I’m taking a sociology class.  In discussions, I’m finding it really hard not to use theology or scriptural evidence to support and argue my point, but am beginning to understand how to interpret religion and (more importantly) religious vitality from the social science perspective.  At first, I thought that explaining religion as a reaction to social, cultural, or economic factors subversive to the the power of God or the workings of the Holy Spirit.  I still think that sometimes, but Jesus did interact with the Jewish and Roman culture of the first century.  We are called to be fishers of men.  The Church today exists in the 21st century of modernity, mass media, and pluralism.  So lets face the facts.

One of the main themes of the class is how various denomanations react to what one sociologist calls “the quandary of modernity.”  Some retreat into fundamentalist, puritainist, or monastic cultures that isolate themselves in attempt to keep ‘orthodox’ faith alive.  Others (like 21st century American Evangelicalism) dive into the marketplace of religion, and compete amidst a slew of other voices by offering meaning and substance for the man on the street.  While some theories apply better to contemporary evangelicalism, here’s something i’ve noticed regarding the cyclical and evolutionary nature of church growth and decline:

Orthodoxy –> Relevance –> Accommodation –> Decline –> Crisis –> Revival

That is to say, as churches move to become relevant, they must sacrifice some original orthodox beliefs and practices (for shocking and slightly nauseating instances, see the museum of idolatry).  This in turn allows greater flexibility among a churches membership, which, if left un attended to, can result in vague luke-warmness and spiritual “feelings.”  If this does happen, not all hope is lost.  Many church movements have been born out of a reaction to declining theology, and revivals can reinvigorate a church body to newfound sacramentality and orthodoxy.  I strongly agree with the concept that the reformation was not a one time event, but a process that must always be happening within churches to stay orthodox without loosing relevance (or stay relevant without loosing orthodoxy).  I want to read Roger Olsen’s book about that.  One sociologist calls for an engaged orthodoxy.  Perhaps this is what Jesus is talking about in John 17 when he speaks of being in the world but not of the world?