“I’ll be honest, when I see churches using catchy marketing things from pop culture I can’t stand it. It’s just entertainment. They play secular music to be trendy, but it’s shallow and just a marketing ploy.”
So that was a quote from me twelve years ago. Now, I work at a church that plays secular music every Sunday, and doesn’t even have worship within its main service times. A secular song is not the “rarity” in our church, it’s the norm. We spend hours looking at Billboard charts, and scanning the web for topics, movie clips, songs, drama ideas, TV series concepts…to find the perfect vehicle for Sunday morning. We still have a praise and worship team that plays between our two main services. And, all this is intentional.
There are over forty recorded parables shared by Jesus. It seems to be his main style of communication. We look at these stories and call them “scripture”, but at the time, Jesus is a guy sharing stories. And what is he pulling from? Life. He is looking at every day life, drawing analogies, making parallels, sharing examples from the things that people are encountering every day. “Ya know…the kingdom of heaven is a lot like what you do every day…it’s a lot like farming.” “Ya know…God has a heart for us…it’s like a business owner…”
How do we tell stories today? The songs we write, the scripts we produce, the movies we project are all telling stories. It could be a story about pain, suffering, or relationships, but these things we see and listen to all the time came from someone’s heart, their soul, and even when that heart is shattered, there is something to speak to from those words and images.
Don’t you think praise and worship is essential to a vibrant relationship with Jesus? Well, yes. And, no. First, from what we can tell across four gospels we only have two mentions of singing, and it’s the same one in two gospels. (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26) Paul, and the other writers of the epistles within the New Testament do talk about worship, but we don’t see an emphasis from Jesus himself.
Can you imagine any church in the twentieth century not having worship and music as a central part of what they do? We love praise and worship at GodWhy. (shout out to Elevation Worship, and All Sons & Daughters) We provide the space and time for that as a healthy part of what we do. However, we are trying to reach people that are far from God, and when you aren’t even sure you think this guy exists, you are rarely ready to raise your hands in praise.
I had a friend that considered herself an atheist. She refused to own a bible due to the years of it being used as a “tool for hatred and oppression”. Fast-forward…she loves worship and has her radio dialed to the local Christian station. But she will tell you, “There is no way I would have understood or embraced worship when I first tried church.”
I also could share story after story of someone that never expected to find themselves in a seat in a church, but after hearing an opening song by Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Thomas Rhett, or Lady Gaga, they realized this might be a place that could talk about life as it really is…in what they see and hear in their every day.
Side note, once you hear a song about struggles in a relationship followed by a message about God’s desire in our lives…you can’t un-hear that song without that lens. It’s an annoying by-product.
Again, not every church needs to do what we are doing, but we think some could.
Our use of modern media is not a trend, it’s not something we do just on Easter to use for marketing. It’s an intentional process we use week after week, using modern day parables to examine the human condition and share God’s amazing heart for His most precious creation, you.