Also see this post, as this series leaps off from this foundation.
As I was recently preparing for a class, I was reading through portions of the Zondervan Handbook of the Bible (1999 – 3rd ed.). Commenting on Elijah’s simple dress noted in 2 Kings 1:8, it notes “The prophet’s clothing was rough and basic. He had no need of “power dressing” to impress his audience. The message was sufficient” (p. 293)
I had not heard that term before, but I like the picture this non-Lutheran handbook painted there.
And this gets me thinking: likewise with preaching or the music we play! With preaching, why should we not, like Paul, fast from eloquence, rhetoric and the felt need to plead, to convince, to impress (PowerPoint and video clips? Really?)? With music, why would we not let the words of our simple poetry (which of course makes reading and learning the words of the hymns easier) call the shots – and shun all attempts to produce “the feeling” through just the right musicians, choice of songs, lighting, and of course, the repetition of praise choruses, etc.?
In other words, it is like Gideon’s army being cut to 300 men, lest we forget “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6)!
We should never think of the proclamation of God’s Word – or prayer to God – in terms of a “performance” that will be dramatic enough to impact, to move, or to overwhelm the “audience” – whether by us, the Spirit, or both of us. Whether “new measures” (a la Charles Finney of the 19th century up to today) or old (did you know that the Lutheran orthodox theologians – the non-pietists! – used to argue for “moving” opera music in church?), we shall not be “moved” by these!
Does this mean we don’t “perform” at all? Well, it all comes down to what we mean by perform. We should only do this in the sense of simply executing that which we have been given to do – corum Deo (before, in the presence of, God).
It seems to me that really young children just enjoy wearing simple clothes (OK, this is true for boys, of which I have five… and granted, dinosaurs on the clothes are appreciated), listening to simple stories (Bible stories and such, especially about that Jesus guy), and singing simple songs (yes, they do like hymns). We don’t need to “add power” to these things – these things are already plenty interesting as they are, right?
But alas, yet again, this is something kids get but adults forget. What we see all around us in the Church is evidence of this fact.
Yes, let me nevertheless play devil’s advocate… for the sake of argument, try to present things from a different perspective. Not only this, let me try to present what I see to be the best alternative argument in the strongest and most compelling way possible.
This means that you will need to read this post to the very end, because I’m going to sound like a serious contemporary Christian music advocate for a while. Hang in there.
Part II coming tomorrow