Well, first off, i truly meant to update this blog during the middle of the tour with ruth and nevertheless, but i deleted my myspace account and lost my login info. luckily, john sent it to me via facebook. (in fact, if you have a facebook, look up matt lott in the mississippi state network and add me as a friend). so, here i am again. let's see, what's been going on....well, summer festivals, mini tours with amazing bands, and more summer festivals. that was the majority of the make-up of my summer and now something else has come along and consumed it. The Dark Knight. yes, i've seen the movie 3 (yes, 3) times so far. and i might see it again, i'm not sure yet. it's so good. but me being a comic book nerd, it naturally became my movie of the year and maybe even my favorite movie ever. the last time i saw a movie multiple times in the theatre was probably the original spiderman. i'm definitely a spiderman freak, so that movie kinda made my life until that point. but the DK just kinda put all the others to shame. if you haven't seen it, you should. it's a great film to check out. anyways, that's the update for me, but i want to talk a little bit about some recent entries that i've read on the site, one in particular. not long ago, an awesome guy name matt johnson wrote a very insightful and intriguing blog entitled, "why can't they all just say it?" well, i just wanted to voice my opinion (which is exactly what it is, so for you that don't agree, it's fine. agree to disagree. :), and maybe provide a little bit of what i feel i've learned about this issue as of late.
to begin, lets go back to the days of when i was "on fire for God" in my local youth group. growing up southern baptist, i was raised in a conservative church that wasn't too keen on many styles of music. regardless, i somehow (my amazing dad) got ahold of an audio adrenaline cassette tape (don't censor me) and was officially hooked to "christian" rock. soon i was into dc talk, bleach, and other bands that made a huge impact on me. the biggest impact was probably made by a little band called relient k. i was working in a lifeway christian bookstore at the time, and i had indispensable christian music resources at my fingertips. some of my favorite bands in high school had been blink 182 and new found glory, so to have a band like relient k (and others...ace troubleshooter, mxpx, philmore, switchfoot, and a little hangnail) that was a great pop-punk band as well as an outspoken christian band was a big deal to me. they were a big influence on me. i'll never forget how i heard the name of jesus about 700 times on the anatomy of the tongue and cheek and thought it was the coolest thing ever. not long after that, dave and i started our band, freshmen 15, and we sounded exactly like relient k / blink182 / nfg. it was awesome. i remember getting super convicted if we didn't directly reference God in our songs, and feeling like that verse that said, "if you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you," would be written all over my forehead at the great white throne judgement one day would be the certain outcome. so, if for some crazy reason anyone actually has a copy of that cd (you'd probably be living in mississippi if you did) you'll hear direct references all through it. this was the way that i thought every band should be, all the time. if i went to a concert and the slow anthem that flat out said "God" or "Jesus" was not played, i'd leave disappointed and with a little thought in the back of my mind wondering if the members of the band were starting to forget that whole "christian" thing and just be plain ol rockstars. i remember talking badly about and looking down on bands with just a little judgement whenever i would read or listen to interviews and i didn't hear what i thought was obvious evidence that that band or that member of a band was a christian. but if i ever went to a concert and heard what i wanted to hear from that band, then i would leave elated and sure that they were going to heaven and making a huge difference in this world by proclaiming their faith from stage and not caring who was listening or what they thought about what was said. afterall, the real christian bands (more of the ac/chr stylistic crowds) based their whole concerts around offerings / altar calls / and intense church camp like experiences that would often times encourage me to rethink and sometimes even doubt my own faith and feel a deep need to get my life right with God in whatever way i could think of that wasn't perfect. (it seemed like there were always a hundred and fifty things that came to mind). this was the way that every christian band was supposed and needed to function like. and if they didn't function in this way, then you could be sure that my friends and i were certain to be talking about the ways that they could "fix their witnessing problems."
i've been in a touring band for about 4 years now, and i have to say that i was wrong. i was most assuredly and very obviously wrong.
i've come to realize that being that way toward any band (any person) is judgemental and WRONG. for in the same measure that i judged those bands, i was judged. i didn't go around talking about God constantly in class, to my friends, to my family, and much less to random people or crowds that i saw in the mall or walmart or on the street. sure, i wore a christian t-shirt when i did mission projects and when i was in church, but i also wore christian t-shirts when i would be out with my friends or by myself doing things that would definitely raise questions concerning my faith or where i stood. yeah, i prayed and led sessions at the campus bible studies and when i was an intern/kind of interim youth pastor at my church in our college town, but i also said / thought / did things that i should never have done when i was everywhere else. who was i to hold these bands in contempt when i saw them play? who was i to walk away from the relient k show thinking "man, i sure am glad they played "getting into you" tonight, if they wouldn't have...well, they'd probably just be in this for the money." who was i? i was a judgemental "christian" that was holding up a standard on others that i couldn't even hold up myself. i was wanting to hear them scream "jesus" to justify myself and my faith because they were a cool band and that meant that i was a cool person and that my faith was cool.
the fact of the matter is, Jesus never set out to be cool. Jesus never set out to be loved by the masses. And most importantly, Jesus never set out to be accepted and honored by the religious people in His day
Jesus set out TO LOVE, not to be loved.
I personally believe that we as Christians are too judgemental, not only on those that are outside of the church (which we were never called to be or do) but moreso (and freakin MORESO) to our own brothers and sisters. there are many verses in the bible that speak against this very thing (ex. James 4:11-12), and yet, we sit in judgement on the lives of our brothers and sisters everyday. If someone does not share their faith exactly the way that you expect or want them to share it, there is no reason to say that they're not doing it correctly or even wonder about their relationship with God. truly, the only two that can know a person's relationship with God are that person and God. i can tell you all day long that i'm a christian, i can show you through my works, i can pray with you and for you, but in the end my relationship with God is between Him and myself. i guess that's why it's a relationship with God, and not just a religion. it's a gloriously and mysteriously personal thing. thankfully, God has given us the holy spirit who will never leave us, guides us, and teaches us. this is one of the most personal things about our relationship with God. God with and in us.
its a sad thing to be in a "christian" band and feel the pressure to mention the name of Jesus or be shunned and questioned by your crowd. as if we in the crowd were the ones that any band had to stand in front of for judgement, iike it's our rightful place to have the need to feel "impressed" by a certain band and their cunning use of the gospel in front of a crowd of professing believers. "cunning use of the gospel." whatever happened to the good news for all people? it's a sad day in the church when we will do such a weighty and god-like thing as judging another person, a brother or a sister, for merely the words that they say, or worse...do not say. it's a sad thing to be in a band, and know that you will more than likely sell more merchandise in a church if you say jesus or give an altar call, because that's what the crowd wants you, expects you to do. it's a sad thing to know that you will be paid more if you play a worship set along with your own music in a church or camp, because it's an acceptable and safe style of music that has been deemed worthy by the church. it's a sad thing to know that we have made the worship of our God a "style" or "genre" of music. an industry. a multi-million, perhaps even billion dollar INDUSTRY.
it all boils down to the band's own convictions about where God has called them to be and the people that they feel called to reach. One band feels called to be a "light in the darkness." GOOD. One band feels called to be an "encouragement to the body of believers." GOOD. In the end, it is not a person that reaches someone else, it is God who reaches out through that person. He reveals Himself, and He calls the lost to Himself when He sees fit and in His own time. We are simply called to love others and be the messengers of that love that God gives us. The love that He gives us is more than words, more than a song, it's love that reaches into the lives of people and accepts them without question or requirement.
i do not think it is right in any way of us as a christian audience to hold our personal convictions over either type of band's head. you cannot know the personal convictions of a band or its members unless they share that with you themselves. some bands like to do this from onstage, and some do not. neither should have their very relationship with God judged because of that. many times, what it truly boils down to is a personal preference of music style. it's hard for some to understand how a band that only screams or does pig noises could possibly be reaching anyone for Jesus. because "if i can't understand it, then how can anyone...right?" certain styles of music speak volumes to certain people because that's the style of music they like. that's their personal preference. and many times, in the harder, more metal, rock, or what have you crowds, straight up throwing out a three point plan of salvation from stage will land you a listening audience of zero. how can you be a messenger when no one listens? some people can only be shown love in small incremints because they have a hard time trusting others because of past hurts and failures. some people have to hear more than words to listen. we as a church have done a great job of slmplifying the gospel so that we think we can explain it to anybody on the street, while at the same time doing a very poor job of showing the love of Christ by meeting the physical / emotional / practical / relational needs of those same anybodys on the street. and those people don't want to hear more words. they don't want to hear more evidence from archeological records that "prove" the existance of God. they don't want to hear about why they're wrong for being pro-choice, pro-homosexual marriage, pro-democrat, pro-republican, pro-environmental friendly, pro-war, pro-peace. they want to SEE someone in their lives who will LOVE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE. they NEED to see this, or they will never be able to listen. our words have become our walls.
and who is this that will love them for who they are and tear down the walls to get to them? Jesus.
and who are the ones entrusted to literally be the hands and feet (not just the words of judgement)? We are.
We are called to love and accept everyone for who they are. Because it is not us who changes people. It is not our words. It is not our actions. In the end, it is and can only be God.
He works through our poor examples to reveal Himself to this world. why? i'm not very sure, you'll have to ask Him. ;)
after reading over all of these things, i'm sure that many will deem my points moot. after all, being in Wavorly is my job. i have a part time job, working at Pac-Sun in our local mall when i am home, but for the most part, Wavorly is my source of income. we have a song that has had pretty decent success on the radio, "praise and adore." a song that started out meaning something different to us, but turned into something that meant many things to many different people. why is that? i don't know. i can only say that by the grace of God our band gets to tour all around the country and meet tons of amazing people. some that have a personal relationship with God, and some that don't. we as a band have learned that God loves each equally, and is no respector of persons. and we're happy to know that we don't have to be respertors of persons, either. all we have to do is love those people for who they are, and then watch God work through situations and songs and miles and everything else imaginable to get to those people. to literally use whatever He can to get into their lives and reveal Himself in someway. we've learned that people aren't cars or appliances with problems that can be identified and fixed, but that people are gardens that need tending, weeding, watering, pruning, and harvesting. and we serve an amazing gardener who knows our hearts because He made each and every one of us very special in His own sight.
also, i am not claiming that no band has used the word "christian" as a launching pad or to make money. i guess that is something that has happened, something that is still happening...maybe in places we don't realize. what i am saying is that maybe these bands that don't say Jesus from stage are just convicted against doing such a thing, and these bands don't want to use the name of God as a selling point in any possible way. maybe they don't want to misuse the name of God.
after all, you cannot serve God and Money, and sometimes when an industry sees a cross, they're also seeing a dollar sign.
thanks for you time,
p.s ... when a band that has toured mainly in christian venues but then starts playing in more general or "secular" market venues, they are more than likely NOT doing it for the money. clubs and bars do not pay nearly as well as churches. and it's much harder to make a name for yourself in the general market than it is in the "christian" market. think of the "christian" market as a pond, and the general market as all of the oceans combined. the only way to make decent money in the general market is to be huge, like gold or platinum huge. for real.