“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
We as Christians here in the U.S. are simply not reflecting the mind of Christ. We are affected more by our culture than our culture by us and we as Christians are not a transformed people to the point of having a “transforming impact” on our own lives let alone the world around us. With new issues confronting us individually and collectively and as the local church continues its decline in attendance, some cower while others take up legalistic positions that are often not reflective of God’s love. The book of Romans has some very poignant things to say about this:
Romans 2:1: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Romans 12:1-2: 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
These should be sobering words for all of us. Individually there is a responsibility above all else because as individuals we are the bedrock of change. But new leadership is critical just as much for reflecting a proper perception of Christians as it is for leading.
A season came and is now going; a new season is coming upon us. This is the word I am to share with you and it is done with confidence as well as concern. The season coming upon us, I believe, is new leadership for Christianity in the United States. I say this without judgment of any specific person or organization; I say this without anger or revenge, but rather with a very sober attitude through observation. It is time for the current and older leadership of a season that began in the 1960’s to not promote its style of ministry and leadership anymore, but rather to pass on its good works to others and to a new generation that can nurture it, grow its impact, and represent it in a way that can have greater impact on the world. This new generation of leadership must reflect the love of God by grasping it in a new way. This is how “gospel change” was always intended to take place, but we lost our way. We took ourselves too seriously and thought “we” were the ones who mattered when it was always God and His Love flowing through us that He desired. We’ve built our own version of temples and statues in honor of ourselves and are no different than previous world cultures in this regard who worshiped “Baal” rather than the living God.
These words and thoughts have come to me during a very introspective and soul-searching period of my life; a period when I feel like I have lived through some of what is portrayed in Ecclesiastes 3 and also mirrored in the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” popularized by The Byrds. I feel I have a responsibility to state what I believe; you can accept it or reject it. I have come to these places of opinion and understanding out of my own life being torn, ripped apart by others and by myself, and from a time of melting away. The refining process has not yet produced much gold, but I am committed to that being the end result as I know it requires a melting, burning away, skimming off the impurities, and this process is never easy and never was intended to be so.
- Because the love of God is not central anymore, our current leadership in Christianity does not reflect the beliefs and values of so many and, therefore, has become merely a bully pulpit for some and a “stuck place” for others. As such, they are presenting a wrong picture of “who a Christian is and should be” to the rest of the world while further alienating the Body of Christ within itself. The words “evangelical Christian” are being challenged and struck down as the identifier for many who used to live under this label but now feel it is misleading, inaccurate, and no longer descriptive of what many believe to be a true picture and reflection of who Jesus Christ is and wants to be in our lives and in this world. I am one of them and my journey to this point began over 15 years ago; it is not come to irresponsibly or in any knee-jerk manner.Furthermore, many self-proclaimed new leaders have also discredited themselves as being the new leadership because they have focused on the argument, the defense, and the attack rather than present a new, fresh, and redemptive message. This is all part of the season and not necessarily to be criticized. However, some of the newer voices are more of the means to an end rather than the end itself, the end.. in this case.. being a new season.
- Some of our leading Christian leaders have knowingly compromised their position. The election of 2016 has revealed a deep divide in our nation, but also a deep divide within the Christian community. Aligning oneself with any political candidate or party in a manner that overshadows the love of God has been an ugly process to observe during this campaign. Both “sides” hold responsibility in this matter. These leaders, whether national or regional, are compromised and do not any longer represent the broader community. Tribal thinking (and marketing) has become an enemy of good in this case. We have met the enemy and sadly, it is us….you and me! This is not what Jesus the Christ intended; it is not God’s love nor plan for such division to be encouraged, supported, and promoted even if it has been done in some cases with good motives. It’s wrong in the end. Unfortunately, some who have openly attacked these leaders for their statements and actions have, in the process, disqualified themselves for this new season because unknowingly they have become a part of the dividing process.
- The pulse of our nation and our world has changed. Since 2007, the year in which great new technological influences were introduced, our nation and world have been put on a supersonic path of change. It will not slow down but, rather, will speed up. Old thinking, protective thinking, narrow ministry models, Christian product company models, and even the religious models of denominationalism will have to either change or be set aside for a legacy role because they will be/have been either ineffective or will be/have been compromised in some manner.
- MUSIC AND VIDEO WILL LEAD THIS CHANGE, BUT PARTICULARLY SONG!
- On November 20th, 2015 I published a post titled “Time For Creativity To Flourish”. I had very little response. It was my first attempt to recognize where we were at and, based on my own perceptions and that of more recent history, point to what might be a new season that is coming and needed. If it was too “prophetic” or not prophetic enough, I will say it again that the flourishing of creativity that is redemptive at any level will usher in this new season. Let me be more specific in my opinion and possibly even offensive to some. The worship music of the past 20 years is NOT representative of what needs to come. In fact, it is a false representation of both of the words in its label: it is neither true “worship” nor is it “music”. Some of you will want to pick me apart on this statement and you have that right. But don’t think that a successful business model equates with true faith and practice! Don’t think that a melody and a few chords is musical. If I need to explain that to you, I don’t think you will ever accept what I am saying so there is no need to get into an argument. But those of you who do understand, please listen and consider your responsibility and position in this.
- It will primarily be the song because the song is faceless in and of itself and does not first and foremost promote the artist, the genre, or the person. I am not saying the others are not valid and critically important to the whole BUT the song in its purest form is as powerful as the wind in spreading its words to those who will listen. I am speaking this somewhat as a person who has lived his life in this arena and has observed much.
- More objectively, I point to these 2 historical facts: (a)The Priests and Levites role as outlined in I Chronicles and, on the other end of the spectrum, (b) the role of music in the Jesus Revolution of the 1960’s that was the catalyst for our most recent season of the Western and sometimes global expansion of evangelicalism as we have known it. I will not present a case for each of these here, but rather simply state them.
- The “song” will lead the way but it must be supported by singers, musicians, and artists of all types. I am not denigrating historically the role of each type of art since they each are entirely valid and powerful on their own. But I am speaking a bit more utilitarian at this time as it pertains to the “coming season”. The song, supported by great singers, musicians, videographers, filmmakers, electronic and traditional graphic artists, dance, and all forms of true artistic expression from “all families”, the concept represented in I Chronicles.* It is Western in its roots (its radix) but it must be the “tribes of the world” in its representation, in various forms and at various times. This is not my attempt to put it in any box, but rather to say that it is for the world so that it cannot be “genre-ized” or formatted simply for the marketing of and the benefit of only some. It is for all!
5. The “new” has already begun and it is not defined by age, economics, ethnicity, social position or any of the other “divisive references being loosely thrown around”, but rather by message. Just as the musical style will be universal, the messengers will be universal in lifestyle, lifestage, ethnicity, and freedom of “the rules”. When it explodes, this will naturally and without pointing to the conflict accomplish the current leadership being moved to their new season of support and letting go, rather than dominating the landscape. This will not be a period of conflict in this arena because like the cell phone replaced the dial-up phone, it will just happen….rapidly. Much of this is being driven by the speed of technology, so technology must be embraced hugely as the railroad tracks. It is now to some degree, but it is not at all keeping pace with its potential or what is possible going forward.
6. God is light, we are to let His light shine through us, and the speed of light is the timeframe! Old leadership often grabs hold, puts a bushel over it, and then tries to build its own brand of light bulbs…to sell or give away as a gift for a donation. I remind you: I am not being critical but only stating what is obviously the model for much of the season which is passing. This generation has once again fallen prey to the messaging that so often has “worked” while eventually enslaving: FEAR. Listen, the end is coming. Wake up! It is not our role to waste our energy fighting what God has told us IS coming. It is time to finally accept that as fact rather than trying to protect ourselves and our children from these “horrible days” ahead. You don’t prey on fear, but neither should we ever “pray” with fear because our prayers will be altered and will become selfish, more about our welfare than that of what God has already planned and put in place. Do Not Be Afraid! Think of it this way: you find an old chair that needs refurbishing, you strip it, sand it, pull the joints apart to re-glue them, and then you finally put a new finish on it! We are being refurbished as a people but we should not be focusing on our pain and suffering as the end, but rather the process by which we are made new. There is a new heaven and a new earth coming and the “earth” must be refurbished, refinished, and restored. This is what I am saying to you. Please hear it, my friends. Please. This is not about me. It’s about you, us, and everyone everywhere. That’s where God is…everywhere…so we need to be there, too. Song is the tool, music and art are the vehicles, technology at its very highest level is the connector highway, and the whole world is the market. Each of these pieces is currently in place and are being created (song, music, tech) but they are not representative of the whole but rather just individual components. When they are further refined and brought together properly as “the family”, then it will happen and we will see the new season announced and to begin to flourish.
The soil is ripe, just like it was when the Levites were leading the armies into war, just like when war and racism were countered by peace and its expression, just like now with political unrest and massive change underway in the U.S., just like now with unrest across the world as the realities of “globalization” are now beginning to rip at the economies and lives of billions of people, and just like now when Christianity is under attack around the world and increasingly at home here in the U.S. We do not fight fire with fire; there are those who will willingly pick up this mantle and this banter. But what I speak of here is not about personal agenda but rather, an observation and an encouragement to those who will listen and take heed. Community must come around this increasingly not as an “against” motivation, but “for” what is good, lovely,
I make these statements soberly and yet with great conviction. Yes, there will be turmoil and internal fighting as this process of a new season begins. But the new season will not be held back by this; to the contrary, it will be further validated by it! I say this from this perspective of understanding:
A. The Levites/singers-musicians were those who lead Israel to worship but also lead the armies into war! This was one of their primary roles. (Mark H., thank you for teaching this to me 15 years ago!)
B. The Jesus Movement was in the midst of and surrounded by great national and international turmoil with the war in Viet Nam and southeast Asia, the assassination of a very popular President, rioting on the streets, civil rights and civil unrest, unrest at a very high political level, and generally widespread conflict. However, the Peace Movement and the Jesus Movement were not encumbered by this environment but rather they were empowered by it!! Peace in the midst of the storm….music at the front of the battle…song/music/art in the midst of the battle and leading people into worship…that’s the picture to remember as this new season unfolds.
I welcome your thoughts and opinions, but particularly I hope and pray that those who are positioned to be part of this new season will stand up, keep going, and grab hold of that for which you each have been created!
I enter 2017 in a very depleted and weak state in some ways, but in a restored and renewed state spiritually. I enter 2017 more humbled than I have ever been; my own desire is to be the person God created me to be and that begins by more thoroughly grasping His love so it can transform who I am and what I am. I enter 2017 having let go of much in recent years; that is the place I am to be. Now it is time to replace those “letting go” places with all of God’s love, replacing my efforts, successes, and failures with His Love! So, this year and going forward should be a time of re-filling but not “for me or by me” but rather, just like our calling, it must be “by God, for God, and to God.”
The sentiment of 2016 from many is that it was a very rough year. Now we must embrace what is coming to those of us who will see, adapt, accept, and most of all–love!
*The Duties of the Singers and Musicians
The singers and musicians were selected and set apart to their assigned function. There were a total of 288 singers (1 Chronicles 25:7-31) and 4,000 musicians (1 Chronicles 23:5). They were also divided into 24 courses. Therefore each course had 12 singers and more than 160 musicians. Unlike the singers, the 160 musicians were coming from several families. The ministry was subdivided among the families, and only one family of 20 to 30 musicians accompanied the 12 voice choir.
The real service of praise in the Temple was only with the voice. The instrumental music served only to accompany and sustain the song. The musical instruments used were mainly the Nevel (harp) and the Kinnor (lyre). The silver trumpets used in the Temple, blown by priests only, were not part of the instrumental music, but were intended for assembling Israel to worship at the Temple. The other musical instrument mentioned was the cymbal. But this “sounding brass” and “tinkling cymbal” also formed no part of the Temple music itself, and served only as the signal to begin that part of the service.
Simply put, a LEVITE is a servant. In the Bible, the Levites were those from the tribe of Levi, that were charged with the responsibility of serving in God’s temple. At that time a Levite could be a priest, a musician, or an artisan. But a Levite could also be someone from the tribe of Levi that was in charge of cleaning, building, or organizing.