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Monday, May 08, 2006

Axis & Allies and the Church of the High Plains

I was just cruising the internets for information about how other people do this thing called "church" and I found Willow Creek's thing called Axis. It's their postmodern, emergent, whatever you want to call it church. It's hip, "relevant", and friendly. One of their pastors is a DJ.

I have to admit that this church freaks me out. The graphics and video on their web page alone freak me out. What church has the time to do all that? Is this what it takes to reach my generation? Does God have to be repackaged and made cool in order for us to be interested? Dude, my generation must suck.

I guess I just like a normal church without a lot of fuss. No matter how slick the graphics are, you are still a sinner and that information will always be a shock to your prideful system. Furthermore, the Gospel isn't any cooler when there is a "dope" beat backing it up.

Blah. I want that old time religion, I guess. Christian culture is weird. I don't know what to think about it. I have to at least recognize that the Body of Christ is a big place and these people are my brothers and sisters even if I don't get it. Maybe they would think I'm old school. There is just part of me that cringes at all this hype to make church cool. Church isn't cool. People will hate you if you follow Jesus, according to him.

All things to all people or a culture unto itself?

My friend Glenn Standifer passed away a couple years ago. He was this big goofy white guy who had a legion of young black urban admirers. He didn't earn their love by being cool, speaking street slang, and knowing popular hip hop songs. I suspect that he was just true and faithful and that won the affection of those kids. I never saw him rocking Tims. I feel like these churches are big goofy white guys trying to rock Tims.

In the movie Singles (great soundtrack) this girl is asking her boyfriend about "Amazon women" - huge breasted women with hourglass figures. She is rather petite. "You're from the high plains, Janice" her boyfriend says, so she goes off to get breast implants. Eventually she decides that she'd rather have a man who loves her as she is. So I guess that's what I'm trying to say. Big boobs always turn heads, but there something suspect about the fake ones and the people who wear them. And you have to wonder about the guy who dates the girl with the fake boobs. At the end of the day, we're all human and the Gospel is an offense. The big boobs will sag and what is left is just the truth. Either you like it or you don't. Might as well avoid all the hassle and stay in the high plains.

Play to your strength.

Glenn and Janice have substance. Marketing would say you have to be hip and relevant and sell your new image. I don't think I agree. Just be yourself. Be comfortable with your gifts, your substance. Don't worry if you look like a loser. Better to look like a loser than try to be something you're not and prove it. Milli Vanilli was cool until we saw their lips moving to silence. Then we hated them.

Jesus is the substance of the church. He saves us, makes us more loving and makes us free. We are people who follow Jesus in a world that mostly hates him. We're not cool and we're never going to be. I don't see the point in appropriating worldly "cool" and putting it into our loser gatherings. Jesus is our substance and we might be better off to let him handle the marketing.

If we lived out the gospel, I bet it would be more compelling than DJ pastors and big boobs. I guess that's the kind of church I'd like to go to. That's all I'm trying to say. These people at Axis are my allies (yuk yuk) and I wish them well. Maybe all I really wanted was to write about board games and boobs.


Matt said...

Great rambling insight! Bohemian but so very true...

Mark D said...

Ryan, right there with ya on every point you made. Great analogies, too. I think this is the best post you've written (of those I have read - haven't gone into your archives much yet).

Jess said...

You described exactly what I've been thinking but unable to articulate. Thanx.