Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At the National Pastors Convention

I'm in San Diego now for the National Pastors Convention, connecting with my authors and schmoozing with folks and whatnot. Things are off to a good start. Yesterday we had plenary sessions with main speakers Efrem Smith and Shane Claiborne. Efrem encouraged pastors that "Now is the time for the church to be the church." We need to minister more than ever in this time of foreclosures and lost jobs. The economy is putting stress on individuals, marriages, families, etc., and people need to know that the church is there for folks to help people through tough times, and that God is a God of hope who can bring new life from the valley of dry bones.

Andy Crouch gave a seminar on cultural creativity in the church, extending and furthering his thinking since the publication of his book Culture Making. He observed that most Christians think that culture is made by someone else; folks in New England talk about culture being made in Hollywood, and people on the West Coast talk about culture being shaped by Washington. And Christians tend to think that culture is mostly made outside the church. But Andy said that all of us are called to be culture makers, both within and outside of the church. When the church becomes culturally generative outside its walls, that creates energy and vibrancy within the church.

One objection that Andy gets is that the church needs to focus primarily on evangelism and doesn't have time for culture making. He cited D. L. Moody's notion that God gave him a lifeboat and said, "Moody, save all you can." While not at all dismissing the importance of evangelism, Andy recalled the recent airplane crash landing in the Hudson River and observed that yes, we certainly save all we can and get everybody into the lifeboats - but it doesn't stop there. People, once rescued, are not meant to stay in the lifeboats indefinitely. The goal is to get them back to land, back home, to deploy them to continue to do what humans are supposed to do.

Andy also lamented the "churchification" of cultural creativity. He meant that Christians tend to only think of church applications of cultural gifts - if we have gifted musicians, we invite them to play on the worship team. We don't imagine that gifted musicians can live out their Christian callings as artists in the community or marketplace. Andy mentioned Fringe in Atlanta, where a group of musicians who meet in church created a space for younger generations to discover classical chamber music. It's not "Christian" chamber music - it's just excellent chamber music. Fringe is creating a new cultural good and making something of the world.

We also "misunderestimate" our ability to create culture, especially on a local level. We have "creativity envy" of others who can do things "better" than we can. We just need to get over that, because all of us can create something that no one else can create. Also, we may well be doing too many things. Each of us has the capacity to do a few things well, and we may need to cut out some other things that we are not necessarily gifted or called to do. 

During Q&A, various people lamented the fact that it's hard work to do culture making. Andy responded that we shouldn't think of culture making as one more thing to do on top of everything else we have to do like worship and evangelism. Rather, culture making should be a posture and attitude that infuses everything we do in the church. And Andy said that when churches invest in culture making, the return is that the church becomes infused with energy and vitality and draws out more people with more resources. Culture making doesn't take up a bigger piece of the pie - it becomes a pie factory and generates more capacity for cultural goods.

There's more that could be said, but I gotta go. More later. 

1 comment:

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