TALE OF TWO SINGERS REFLECTS WORSHIP
The image is offensive and at once so very sad, if nothing else just from a young girl’s total disrespect for her own body. As a dad and grandfather it makes me cry. But there is another video at which I recently wept as well. Be sure and see link at bottom if you have not seen the happenings with Sarah Horn, Kristen Chinoweth.
Two very different stories about two very different people with two unmistakably different emphases. One story has been plastered across the television screen over and again ever since MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMAs), and the other was a Huffington Post piece that has gone viral through social media outlets, the blogosphere, and word-of-mouth revelations at water coolers and coffee stands everywhere. One story would be very hard to escape as every news broadcast as well as the obvious emphasis of all the music and entertainment news outlets have repeatedly saturated the airwaves with the video of the gyrating, tongue-lashing Miley Cyrus clad in plastic nude colored undergarments. The other story is likely to be encountered much more intentionally, either through Facebook friends’ postings, blog reports like this one that, though not directly attempting to report the events, nevertheless reference the episodes to call attention to related emphases or implications. I have seen numbers of blogs about parenting, values, teaching, cultural mores, and more, all fostered by the Cyrus VMA appearance. Of course, there is also the usual tired firestorm of vitriol spewed with thinly veiled hatred toward Cyrus, her parents, MTV, media and culture in general. The other story seeped out three to five days after the first reports of the incident where California Baptist University Voice Teacher, Sarah Horn ended up onstage to sing a duet with star of stage and screen, Kristin Chenoweth. This has local interest for us in the Music City as Sarah is a former Belmont University student.
In case you are not familiar with the Sarah Horn story, in brief Sarah was attending a Kristen Chinoweth concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Chinoweth strolled through the audience asking if anyone knew For Good, a song from the Broadway smash musical hit, Wicked, in which Chinoweth was the original character, Glinda. Sarah Horn has loved musicals since childhood, and as a voice teacher and community theater director was excited to raise her hand, and end up on stage. You simply must see the spine-tingling results to get the full effect. Gather your kids and sign ‘em up for music lessons right away (and be sure they sing in the church children’s choir!). Sarah’s backdrop story is reflective of a Christian home, prayerful and careful lifestyle enriched as she discovered her God-given gifts and passions aligned beautifully. As she said in one interview, “this is who I was created to be.” She actually says that when she was 11-years-old her father prayed that someday she would sing onstage with Kristin.
There could not be a more striking contrast in the backdrop of these two storylines. The implications are so vastly different, though moral contrasts are blatant, it is hard to determine just which angle should be emphasized. It is important to me, as well, not to drift off into a moralistic rant. There is plenty of that available and way too much of it from religious people is unkind, certainly un-Christlike. Instead I desire to contemplate implications for Christian worship. Please consider with me that while both of these young women grew up learning to perform, one apparently became engulfed in the Disney Worldview, a la When You Wish Upon a Star, “your dreams will come true.” Trevin Wax does an excellent job of unveiling the root of this view and its deadend destiny in his blog, “Being True to Yourself Is Living a Lie.” Read it here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/08/26/being-true-to-yourself-is-living-a-lie/
While the “do what you feel” is by far the most prevalent life philosophy in our culture, it leads nowhere. I have heard numerous commentators on networks popular among Christian conservatives go on and on about the way Miley use to be. That is, when living her 11-year-old dream which looked more wholesome and cute, we were with you. Now, her 20-year-old sexpot antics are deplorable to our sensibilities, and we want to throw her away.
Evidence is strong that Sarah Horn’s pursuits, rooted in Christian faith, pointed toward and, indeed, recognized revelation from a very different worldview. A lifestyle of Christian worship points away from me, and toward someone else, someone greater, someone to whom I owe eternal gratitude. What’s more, that Someone calls me to serve others around me first, and to help them know this source of “living water” that quenches the thirst of the soul.
There are contrasts in these two trajectories that are almost too obvious to point out. One is chasing after what makes me feel good, and attempts to draw all attention to me, the other is invested in helping others. How often have we heard of Hollywood stars who have spent life chasing after self-gratification, self-grandizement, and self-fulfillment ending up in miserable whirlwinds of self-destruction. It becomes difficult to recall the scores who have followed this path including sports legends, and stars of Hollywood and Broadway. Somehow, we are still shocked by it, as we were when Glee star, Cory Monteith was found dead of an apparent lethal cocktail of heroin and alcohol. The words of Jesus come to mind, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)
For a number of years now evangelical churches in particular have been planning and building environments that reflect the Broadway and Hollywood stage. As James K.A. Smith has reminded us in both Desiring the Kingdom, and Imagining the Kingdom, we import more than just the atmosphere with these imitations. We also import the expectations and ethos surrounding them. No wonder our people talk so much about what they “like or do not like” in our worship, rather than engaging in life-submission as our spiritual act of worship. I am convinced the extreme ageism, performancism, and general unrest in our worship environments are sadly attributable to leadership that is sadly more adept at chasing the culture than redeeming it. As a sad byproduct of this environment, it is deeply disturbing to observe the pressure that so-called Worship Leaders feel to match the showbiz techniques of the concert stage. Those completely untrained in such skills often demonstrate the deficit when trying to mimic it nonetheless. Many if not most who have mastered the stage-savvy style have done so on their own, or with little or no matching theological undergirding to place any of what is happening in proper spiritual perspective. No wonder Francis Chan challenges us in Forgotten God as to whether the modern church even senses a need for the Holy Spirit, given that they can do what they do without Him. He goes on to ask more personally, “When we are quite comfortable, why do we need a comforter?”
I pray our worship will more fully disclose God’s story, and assist worshipers in finding their joy through finding their place in His story, His Kingdom, fueled by His Spirit. I pray that by God’s supernatural power we will escape Satan’s sure traps whereby we become all about feeling good on stage, obsessing with how we feel period, and seek to provide more entertainment than facilitation of holy worship. For in our midst sits children and teenagers whose worldview is being set regularly by the Disney channel and sports models, and later by rockstars and crotch-grabbing 20-year-olds. Like us, they need a Savior to deliver us from ourselves, to point us to our created purpose of worship and reconciliation. Our glorious opportunity is not to impress them with our cool, it is to help them see and know Jesus as we regularly lift Him up, retell His story, and humbly seek to know our place in it whereby we serve Him and neighbor.Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship