Friday, April 03, 2009


For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Green Online Worship Values Course with Dan Wilt

The topics this week have been accessibility and cultural relevance in my online course. Not two of my favourite concepts, I have to admit. I think I have just had these ideas crammed down my throat by leaders once too often in order to get me (and other artists) to mellow out or put us more within their comfort zone. Or I could be misrepresenting the leadership's motives; I have been known to do that, but I do believe there is at least some partial truth in it.

I am a pretty messy truth teller sometimes, this past week being a good case in point. I will see a hazy picture of a situation, grasp a partial wisdom, get a vague idea of where something is going, and then let the words fly without really ordering them into cohesive and accessible sentences. Yes, I need to develop my skills as a communicator, but I believe that truth and love are too valuable to let them sit around until I get my act totally together. As long as I have love at the core of it, I am content to grapple with messy methods of delivery. Either people will have ears to hear and eyes to see or they won't.

I look at the life of Jesus: he was welcoming and shocking all at the same time, but he shocked where we often try to comfort, and he comforted where we often try to challenge. The people on the fringe felt very comfortable with him, yet he shocked even his family with some of his strong words - demanding and uncompromising words. He invited and repelled: he exhibited great power to intervene in life and death situations, and yet, chose powerlessness when confronted with an opportunity to really make a big splash. Such a shocking man - hard to be ambivalent about him.

How many people are ambivalent about us and what we do in our faith community? Do people hang out with us or walk into a group setting and say, hey, "What is going on here? This is really different." Or do they feel so at home that they continue to live an unconfronted life. In trying to minimize the shock factor from outside to inside the church, I think we might be focusing on the wrong things. Instead of trendy music, modern language, and snacks (all of which we do, by the way), I believe that people should be shocked at the authority, the compassion, the faithfulness, the humility, the healing, the uncompromising call forward, and the love for the poor that is present in our lives. They should be shocked that we don't want to promote ourselves or be successful. They should be shocked that we want to touch them and want them to touch us. They should be shocked at the things we say and do.

But if they want to see Jesus, then they will be comforted. They will be drawn to the truth. And they will never be the same.

This is a street on the plateau of Montreal.


Heather said...

Yes! Yes! I have struggled so much with accessibility and relevance...I feel like we look to culture and people around us and let those preferences, etc. dictate how we do "church." But I don't necessarily WANT to make people comfortable. Jesus really stirred the pot sometimes. I think the people that have the most hang ups are the ones already religious that get offended by things not being comfortable...

Anyway...I appreciate also how you are willing to risk being messy instead of waiting until you have the words perfectly in order and lost the moment.

You have inspired me through blue, red and now green with your down-to-earth, fully human approach to life. It's a blessing to have known you in essentials. Look forward to reading/watching more of your stuff.

Shelley said...

I agree...and we can't and shouldn't obsess about this.

that being said,
my thing with accessibility is the issue of respect, can I respect my audience enough to adjust my style so that you can get it? and by that I don't mean changing my message one iota. (we get 'into the weeds' when we think we need to change the message itself to be accessible and relevant.)
For example, in our church we want to welcome the marginalized and rejected of society, but I sometimes wonder if our service format is even workable for the restless, the broken, even the mentally challenged. am I humble enough to do it a bit differently so that more can hear and join?

I work with special needs kids, and it is very common to hear how they should be included, but very uncommon to find those who are willing to adjust their own style and expectations to make that possible.

Shelley said...

I love the picture, btw...imagine having the guts to paint your whole house bright red!! awesome. :)