Actually, I'm writing this mostly for the Hope College students that I work with. Albeit there is a definite fear and trepidation that I feel when sitting down to begin a new blog (my previous blog got me into a little trouble...but that is a whole other story). The fear comes from that normal nervous twitch we all feel when we risk and put ourselves out there to be known in any of the obivous ways--a hand shake, a phone call, an invitation. Putting yourself out there on the net is a strange way for a churchman to present himself, but I know that students today are accessing each other and so much other information on the web. I don't want to compete with everything that is out there. I guess I'd just like to be a part of the conversation in some way.
I'm also nervous about this as a minister. I've talked about this with other pastors. There is a general fear that if we let people get close to us then perhaps they might not like what they discover. So it's easier for pastors and public leaders to remain distant and aloof. There is much to be said for modesty and what has come to be known as "boundaries." We need to understand the limits of our relationships, protect our time and energy and families. However, I don't believe that ministry, the church, the fellowship of the saints should be constrained by our contemporary notions of privacy. Our collective American or Western psychology has been nurtured by a hyper sense of the self. One author in the late 70's, Christopher Lasch, named it the Culture of Narcissism. We have lost the sense of the Other, as in the other human, other world (ie. creation, nature), the other as in God. We define ourselves primarily by our first names and not our last names. Family, region, country, occupation, community, faith, all these things have less and less potential to shape and define us.
This is why I am a worship leader now. It really isn't the music that I enjoy. What keeps me coming back is the incredible communal nature of worship. It is uniquely counter cultural on many levels. I rarely listen to worship music at home or in the car because worship is a public event. I've struggled greatly with assuming this public role. It's really bizarre how people in town stop to say hello to me. People I don't recognize know me and have a familiarity with me that I don't have with them. I don't like being in front of people. I don't even want my wife to throw birthday parties for me because it is hard for me to be the center of attention. But for the sake of the people of God to commune with each other and with the godhead? Yep, that is pretty stinkin' amazing.
I know it is in vogue among some believers to bash contemporary worship music. An acquaintance of ours (Susanna's and mine) is a very popular author in the evangelical community. And she has referred to it as those, "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs. There is a lot to unpack there which I won't go into now. I have sympathy for those who are looking to different historical traditions for nurture. I can understand many of the critiques of contemporary worship music as being hyped, individualistic, shallow, and feel good. But many of these critiques are made in the abstract by people who are looking from the outside. When the rubber hits the road with a real community in a real place and a real time, and if this community is attempting to sort out its faith in fear and trembling in the context of our present society...well, in such a circumstance I find myself deeply moved by the way the students of Hope College participate in this contemporary form of singing to God. I don't have a community here in Holland yet since we've only been here for just over a year. We are looking for a church home still, but in the meantime singing with these students inspires and warms me.
So, in an attempt to make myself better known by them, I've decided to put up this blog. Anyone who cares to read this, please feel free to interact with me. Let's make this a conversation. peace peace