Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pop Goes the Church

~from The Chattanooga Times Free Press....should the church engage pop culture? Interview with Tim Stevens, pastor of Granger Community Church in Indiana.
Q: Was Jesus a proponent of first-century pop culture?

A: I think so. I mean when you look at the parables, he’s using analogies of culture throughout and really tying in

to the culture that he was a part of, that he lived in. I think we would see a good example in Jesus’ writings. ... He was using the teaching style of the day, the parables, and in the parables he was drawing the analogies to cultural icons and things that were part of his day and even referring to news items. I think in the book I talk about the example of where he’s referring to a tower that fell down and people died and whatever. He’s pulling in a popular, hot-off-the-press news item of the day and working that into a parable.

Q: What is irrelevant about church today?

A: I think that churches by and large use a language that does not connect to the normal non-church attender. Church tends to be really packaged well for people who like church, who go to church, who have always gone to church and that’s kind of their life. But when you’ve got someone who, that’s not their life, they can’t even understand the language. So pulling in pop culture kind of makes that connection. It’s the language that is able to bridge the gap, and so you’re pulling in something that’s already on their mind, and you’re finding spiritual issues in the culture that you can help people connect to life situations they’re going through, and then apply the Bible to that.

Q: How far can you go with pop culture without losing the message?

A: I think the important thing is to remember the end. The end is introducing people to Jesus, so if you can use pop culture to get there, great. I think sometimes you can use pop culture, and it’s cute and fun, and it doesn’t necessarily help you to get there. So I think sometimes churches go too far in that arena. I think, for the most part, if you’re introducing people to Christ, and you’re not disobeying the commandments or whatever, I think it’s all open game.

Q: Is it possible to still grow a church without using pop culture?

A: Sure it is. I think there are a lot of churches that are growing, and I would not want to diminish anything they’re doing for that growth. I think what I see is, (for) a lot of churches, their growth comes by just passing Christians around. It’s transfer growth. It’s people who are going to church somewhere, and they’re just switching to what’s bigger and better, or a new children’s program, or the cool new arts deal, or whatever. I think that’s where you see a lot of church growth these days. But I think there’s all kinds of churches that are out there doing great stuff, reaching all kinds of people, and I just think the more those churches, to whatever extent they can, can pull in pop culture as a language to reach people, I think is a great help.

Q: What are some topics that should be brought up in church services, but aren’t?

A: Anything that people are dealing with is a great topic to bring up. So whether it’s marriage or it’s parenting or it’s loneliness; forgiving others; dealing with money — all those kind of issues that are right in front of people’s eyes — that’s stuff that’s on their minds. So people may say, boy, I don’t have any interest in going to church. But, man, if you tell them you’re doing a series on how to make it through, as a parent, the teen years, they’re like all over that because that’s the phase they’re going through. And they need all the help they can get. Anything like that, anything kind of high-need, just really relevant, right-where-I’m-living kind of topics are really helpful.
Church of the Fizz...Soda Pop Church...Christianity Lite, without any calories....because having any profound thoughts are just, too, you know, boring, for high-need people of today. Wake me up when the sugar rush is over.


arscatholica said...

Oddly enough, I've been to this church, as sort of an exchange with a friend. I invited her to attend Palm Sunday mass at the Basilica at Notre Dame, and in turn was invited to go to a GCC (Granger Community Church) Sunday evening service. It and snacks at the door, auditorium seating, service centered on a rock band that plays a mixture of praise music and actual contemporary songs, in short, not my cup of tea. And I do think it really lends itself to Christianity Lite as you say. Not only does it not ask you for profound thoughts, it is a faith that doesn't seem to ask much of the attendee period. One of the other things this church does is occasionally put up billboards to announce a series they are talking about - which, I hate to say it, are great marketing pieces.

While I don't think we as Catholics can learn anything from their services, I think there is at least a kernel of truth in his bit about 'understanding the language' of today. But the truth is here: the beauty of gregorian chant and sacred polyphony is timeless - and so it is a language that can be used to communicate yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Folk and rock (and I'm happy to admit I'm a big Beatles fan), are passing pop fads and truly unsuitable for mass. Additionally, the language of ritual and symbol present in the mass is also universal - unfortunately, many parishes have tried to strip away as much of that from the mass as possible in the United States.

That being said, I think there is great room for improvement in the Catholic Church's use of media (television, film, press, etc.). How can we reach out to non-Christians; how do we call others to the faith today? I don't think we need a glitzy marketing campaign, but we do need more accessible ways to present the profound thoughts of the Church. EWTN doesn't cut it. One interesting thing SQPN does is to try to bring out the Christian elements of a pop culture movie, and use that as sort of a front door to the faith. I'm not sure if this works, or is a good thing, but I do feel we need more doors to the Church, doors that are an entry way to catechesis with calories, but doors nevertheless.

DimBulb said...

I think in the book I talk about the example of where he’s referring to a tower that fell down and people died and whatever. He’s pulling in a popular, hot-off-the-press news item of the day and working that into a parable.

How smart is this guy if he can't even remember what he wrote in a book?

Also, the tower in Siloam isn't a parable, but a matter of fact statement:

1 There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? 3 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Lk 13:1-5)

Anonymous said...

The Gregorian or Tridentine Missa Solemnis is one of the best ways to adore Almighty God.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has absolutely nothing to do with us reaching out to the horizontal multitude,this occurs after Holy Mass, rather it is a demanded propitiation for sins and an pure oblation offered up to the Triune Godhead as Divine Justice dictates.

The benefits that we recieve flow from that Sacrifice, and not the other way around.
Deo Gratias!
Dan Hunter