The pot roast

April 17, 2011

There was a sermon illustration that went around (Perhaps it is still wandering about even now.) when I was younger about, “Why do you cut the end of the pot roast?”  It was a long drawn out story (like this one) that involved learning from mom who learned it from mom who learned it from….you get the idea.  When finally the oldest matriarch in the family is asked, the answer, simply was, because she had a small pan; she had to cut the pot roast.  I’ve heard the same illustration using a ham, but not a kielbasa.  The point was, there was not good reason to continue cutting the end of the pot roast, it’s just the way we have always done it.

The same seems to be true for church music some times.  We sing the music (and continue to sing the music) that touched our hearts when we were new in our faith.  Similarly the music we heard as we were falling in love still evokes emotions.  I remember songs we would listen to over and over and over.  Hearing those songs today brings back memories of my past; mostly pleasant ones.

So it is easy to understand why, in some churches, the songs being sung are the same songs that have been sung for forty years.  I get it, I really do.  But…

We do what we like, we do what is familiar.  Then we like what we do.  There are myriad reasons for it, almost all of them good, positive reasons.  But we cannot expect the next generation to come along and fall in love with our church music.  We need to reach them with something that is relevant to them.  It is our duty, our call.  Our obligation.

It seems that people are either constantly searching for the next new whatever, or else they are mired in the past.  Even the way I phrased that last sentence seems to indicate the fact that I often embrace the new and reject the old.  I don’t do it purposely, I just am easily bored.  And really, in my own defense, I listen to classical music and classic rock more than any other genre.  But I am always trying to find the next expression of worship music, I confess.  But as soon as I demand worship music that caters to my needs, and not the needs of the seeking, I am stepping out-of-bounds.  Church is there to help us grow,share, connect, serve, and worship.  But it is also there to reach out to the lost.  And so some of the things we do in church, by their very nature, will not resonate with me.  It’s not designed to.  It is designed to resonate to the generation of people who have walked away from church as usual because it was irrelevant.

I say all this to express my concern over reaching those with  a different viewpoint than ours.  If we hope to engage someone in debate we need to land on common ground somewhere.  More importantly, if we want to reach a generation of people who have left the church due to its lack of relevance, we must be relevant to them.  When I was a teen I did not like (that is putting it politely) the worship at my parents church.  It seemed dated, obscure, irrelevant.  As I explored different churches I found some that, while not as dated as my parents church, they were still a few decades behind.  But finally I found a church with current, modern, relevant worship.  I liked it, and stayed there.

Today there are some churches that sing that very same music.  There is nothing wrong with the music, in and of itself.  But it will not reach a new generation looking for God.  They will give it a listen, and say, “That’s irrelevant.”  and walk away.

We can do better than that.  If the purpose of our lives is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever, which I believe it is, then the second purpose of our lives ought to be to help others do the same.  That means subverting my preferences for those whom I am hoping to reach.  It means, when I work with children, I don’t force them to listen to my favorite music if it doesn’t reach the kids.  It means being in touch with their culture.  I don’t have to love Nick at Nite, Hannah Alabama, and the rest of the pop culture that influences children.  But I have to be aware of what kids like, and speak into that part of their lives.

I don’t have to like Kid Rock, New Rock, or New Country.   I don’t even have to try to understand it.  Unless I am trying to reach the generation that does.  I can love Twila Paris and the Gathers in the privacy of my home if I want to. (I don’t want to.)  But if I am trying to reach those between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, I have a moral obligation to do so in a way that does not chase them away.  And if I am a believer in Jesus, and a believer in his Word, I have a moral obligation, I have a spiritual directive from the Throne of God, to try to reach them.  So  I  must  do  what  ever  it  takes.  Including putting my personal taste in music on the back burner.

Part of me desperately hopes the people of the church where I worshiped today don’t hear about this post.  They are a warm caring congregation that made us feel welcome and cared for. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

And part of me desperately hopes that they do see it and wonder, “Is he talking about us?”  Because they are a warm wonderful congregation that is sitting at a crossroads, and they can have a terrific impact for the kingdom right where they are.  Or they can drift into obscurity and irrelevance.  It is their choice.

It is our choice.  Obey God, or obey our tendencies towards self-satisfaction.

The pot roast is on the cutting block.


One Response to “The pot roast”

  1. Sue said

    Assuming that the only change to make in “worship” is musical.

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