Posts tagged Secular
The Cry of the Soul in Pop-Lyrics

I love music of all kinds including secular. I do have convictions and lines I don't cross, but generally speaking my musical selection is pretty diverse. In fact, my Pandora account has seen stations featuring Puerto Rican Jibaro music, Salsa, Celtic Woman, Classical Mozart, Fernando Ortega, Hillsong, CCM, Hymns, Gregorian Chant, The Lumineers, Capital Kings, Owl City, Classical Chinese, Frank Sinatra and nature sounds with music (to name a few). With such an eclectic musical taste I am bound to run into songs that help me, as a Christian, to peek behind the exterior facade of pop-culture and whenever that happens the experience is always both challenging and affirming.

Below are some of my favorite secular songs that help open that curtain to the hearts and minds of those whom, generally speaking, seem to have everything life has to offer and more. Some of these are a bit old and others are more contemporary but they are the tunes I have heard throughout my years that have helped ignite a love within me for my millennial/ secular culture. Give them a listen (don't be too fussed over the language at times) and pay close attention to the bigger picture. In these songs you will find confusion, hope, despair, joy and a search for a greater meaning all wrapped up in one. Some of them are about an inner search, others about social issues, relationships, and life but under the surface they are all rooted in the same soil - the soil of a temporal existence for which there appears to be no real meaning apart from the illusive and self-deceptive meaning we attempt to create for ourselves.

What do these songs reveal about the soul-thirst experienced by those around us. And rather than demonize the culture or run from it, what can we as Jesus-followers, do to influence the culture with his story of healing, redemption, and existential fulfillment?

Finally, what secular songs have you heard that reveal the longing and spiritual search of the culture? Share them below!

Songs recommended by comments:

The Things that Stop You Dreaming by Passenger (clean)
Show Me What I'm looking for by Carolina Liar
Some Nights by FUN (clean)
Beam Me Up by Pink
Timebomb by Pink
Iodine by Icon for Hire
Hurt by Johnny Cash
The Irritating Aroma of Uninvited Religion

I am a Jesus-follower. My culture is koinonia. I was born and raised in church. This whole religion/ Jesus thing is not weird for me. I have been exposed to it all of my life. And one of the biggest mistakes I make when it comes to sharing Jesus is assuming that everyone else is as comfortable with him as I am.  But just a half hour ago I got a taste of what it means to be on the other side of this spectrum.

The doorbell rang. I thought it was Woollies delivering our groceries a little early but when I looked I saw two women - one old and one young - dressed in early 90's grandma fashion. It didn't take long for me to discover they were Jehovah's Witnesses. And while I smiled on the outside, on the inside I found myself extremely irritated. These ladies did not know me. They were uninvited to my home. And yet there they were confronting me with an extremely personal, sensitive, and emotional element of the human experience - religion. I didn't want them there, but there they were, and all I could think was how soon can this whole thing be over? They said they would come back to talk some more. I politely said "sure" mostly because I just wanted them to leave. But my mind said the opposite to my lips: I don't want you to come back and the next time this doorbell rings I am going to hide. Of course, with two super loud kids running around this house that will be impossible. This makes their future visit even more dreadful.

And then it hit me. I am a Jesus-follower. My culture is koinonia. I was born and raised in church. This whole religion/ Jesus thing is not weird for me. I have been exposed to it all of my life. And if I find the aroma of uninvited religion irritating, how much more will those who do not share my back-ground? Those who hate religion. Those who are indifferent toward it. Or those who experience anxiety every time the topic is raised. What about those who have been hurt by it? Those who have been betrayed, bruised, and ostracized by other Christians? Will they not experience the same dreadful emotions I experienced? I think its safe to say, yes.

Now don't get me twisted. Jesus confronts us. He is not comfortable. He is not safe. He is a lion. But we must never forget that he is also a lamb and harmless as a dove. He doesn't seek to devour, he seeks to redeem. As such, we must share Jesus in a way that does not automatically awaken dreadful emotions and the proverbial fight-or-flight mechanism. If Jesus alone is challenging enough then we should not add to the struggle by sharing him in unpalatable ways. Instead, we should bend over backwards to make sure we are not making the journey to him more difficult for those who don't share our "church culture".
Enigma (part 3): The Secret to Reaching Our Culture
photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

Whenever the topic of reaching post-moderns comes up eager theologians and ministers (myself included) jump into the convo-pool with their radical ideas. One suggests that the language we use to communicate theology must be updated, another suggests that church architecture must be reinvented, then small groups, community, and relevance enter the discussion. After a few minutes of chatter the wise ones calmly remind everyone that the message can never be altered, only the method, to which everyone responds heartily. Then the conversation starts over, only now the focus has shifted toward the radical ministry of Jesus and how we as ministers need to emulate it. We need to connect with the addicted, the broken, and the ostracized. We need to have ministries at the clubs, bars, and strips. Then someone jumps in and talks about the church that meets at a club and ministers to prostitutes and how its reaching hundreds of people for Christ. The group is on fire now, everyone is excited and ready to go be unorthodox, revolutionary, and radical. Best of all, they have Jesus as their example. The stage is set. The goals are made. The vision is cast. And nothing happens.

I love the above scenario. I have participated in it many times. But none of this chatter is ever going to get us anywhere unless we discover the secret to making it all happen. Now before I continue allow me to make a disclaimer. I am not an outreach and evangelism guru. I have not had 50 years of post-modern outreach experience on which to base this from. Instead, what I offer today is what God revealed to me one evening as I prayed to him seeking an answer to the problem of reaching a lost and confused generation that does not respond to any traditional methods of evangelism. In that moment of prayer I experienced one of those rare instances when the voice of God is clear, and his message to me was this: "If you want to make a radical difference for me you must first have a radical relationship with me." 

The thought hit me like a ton of bricks, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how profound and true it was. As a pastor I always want to do something radical. I want to, in the words of Ellen White, "study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are... do something out of the common course of things... arrest the attention." I want to plant that amazing church that succeeds in reaching post-moderns. I want to preach those relevant sermons that shock the church and the culture with the glory of Jesus. Its not OK for me to do what the church has been doing for 50 years. I want to spark a revolution for Gods kingdom. I want to be radical. Yet, while its not OK for me to do the same old thing in ministry I am perfectly content with doing the same old thing in my relationship with God. I want to be radical in the church, but not in prayer. I want to shock the world with ministry, but I still read the Bible the same way I have for years. Well, Jesus burst my bubble and now I am here to burst yours. Unless you are willing to be as radical in your prayer life as you want to be in your ministry life forget about ever reaching this generation. Unless you are willing to be wild in your Bible time, then give up all dreams of being a world changer for God. As the phrase goes, "Ain't gona happen."

The secret to reaching this generation continues to be the secret that has ignited men of every generation and culture to impact their world for Christ - an out of the ordinary, unorthodox, wild, radical, and revolutionary relationship with Jesus. I once asked a professor how I as a writer could write profound things instead of shallow ones. Her answer to me was, "if you want to write profound things you must first be a profound person." And I conclude, that if we want to reach this post-modern culture with radical ministry we must first connect with God in a radical way. There is just no way we can do the great things necessary for reaching this culture of skepticism and indifference while continuing to pray and read our Bible the way many of us currently do. It's going to require a new and out of the ordinary connection with God in order for us to be ignited with the wisdom and fire necessary to carry this movement forward.

Perhaps some of you are reading this and thinking, I want to do that but you don't know how. Allow me to provide you then, with a practical resource that will get you going in the right direction. It is a small book called Secret Power by D.L. Moody, one of histories greatest evangelists. I have been reading this book this past week and so far it has revolutionized my view of outreach and evangelism.

Replacing Our Outmoded Terminology
For some readers this post may seem like nothing but nit picking, but hear me out. As a pastor who constantly preaches and listens to sermons I have learned that it is important for us, whether speaking in public or in one on one, to be mindful of the words and phrases we use. Over the years many of us become comfortable with our Christian lingo. We become so comfortable in fact that we think we are still speaking English when in reality we are speaking Christianese. The problem becomes worse when our Christianese is supplemented with the use of Lutheranese, Baptistese, or Adventese, etc. Thus, our language ends up twice removed from the real world and we don't even notice it. Then we get up to preach, teach, or share something with a friend and wonder why the youth are totally uninterested and why we can't seem to connect. I would like to propose that the problem is, in many cases, our hyper-religious vocabulary. In addition, these words often carry connotations that make younger listeners shut their brains off almost immediately. Here are a few words which I personally find irritating, why I find them irritating, and how we can convey the same message by simply using a different word.

Doctrine. What in the world does this word even mean? It's actually quite simple-it means teaching. But when was the last time you heard a teacher say "We will now study the doctrine of math"? Its a word which is highly alien outside of Christian circles and typically frowned at even within since "doctrinal" sermons have historically been characterized by the nouns boring, irrelevant, and dogmatic. Since doctrine is simply the teaching of the Bible - a teaching which tells a story about God - I prefer to use the phrase "God-story" instead.

Brothers and Sisters. Seriously, no one goes around in every day life calling people brother or sister. The closest I have come to this is in certain African American settings where it is cultural for them to call each other brother or sister. If that's your context then by all means have at it. But whenever I hear "brothers and sisters" from the pulpit I automatically think the speaker is out of touch. I often just use the word "guys" instead since that's how I talk in every day life.

Peculiar. So we are supposed to be a peculiar people. I get it. But how about we communicate that message by using a less peculiar word? Seriously, whenever I hear someone use this word my mind automatically conjures up images of people living in the 1800's. It's simply an old word, seldom used except maybe in poetry, and even has a boring sound to it. I prefer to use words like unique, counter-cultural, unusual, or even rebellious.

Beloved. OK everyone, Shakespeare lived and died a long time ago. No one says beloved anymore, its a relic of the past, so maybe calling the people in the audience "beloved" should be a relic of the past as well. Seriously, unless your entire audience is stuck in the 1800's this one should definitely go. As in "brothers and sisters" I have replaced this one with a simple "guys".

Revival & Reformation. Whenever I hear these terms I think of long faced rigid Christians who have no desire other than to make the entire Christian church as rigid as themselves. Of course, this is not what the terms mean but because so many have misused them in the past this is the connotation that they have come to have. In addition, the terms - especially the word "reformation" - are outdated. Reformation was a popular word in the 1800's and was being used all over the culture in the realm of social action but today the term is seldom used. I prefer to use the terms "reclaim, reboot, revolution, or restore".

Other examples include words and phrases such as: end times, last days, reverence, born again, slave to sin, fellowship, altar call, pulpit, benediction, call to worship, vespers, main service/ worship service, amen etc. All of these are words which are highly irrelevant to both younger and secular audiences and if we use them flippantly, without taking into consideration the linguistic gap we are creating and fostering by refusing to update our terms, we alienate people that we are meant to be serving. 

Now of course, we can't always replace the word and neither should we feel that we need to, but at the very least we should explain the words with modern illustrations so that the audience learns what it means. I do, however, recommend replacing the outmoded ones entirely as they present a barrier of understanding to those who speak a different generational language. In my own life I have discovered how easily truth is received when the right words to convey it are used. Instead of trying to be so fancy and religious all the time let's bend over backwards to make truth simple and accessible to those who don't share our church-culture.