Archive for January, 2012

Why People Are Still Willing to Invest in Christian Art?

From my earliest days of training in music education I was told that you have to be prepared to fight for the arts in the midst of budget cuts. Little did I know at that time that I would be a Christians Arts educator during such a severe economic crises. New Orleans Baptist Seminary contributes a good deal of time and resources to an event each January called Crescent City Praise. Why do we do that each year?

1) The most basic argument and general argument is that history clearly shows us that the world’s greatest societies produced great art. We also know that art declined at the sunset of some of the great societies (e.g., Roman). On the flip side, art tends to be lackluster in less impressive societies (e.g., architecture in Europe between early Middle Ages and the emergence of the Christian West [Gothic Cathedral]). Some exceptions do exist through gifted artists that are trapped in doomed societies (e.g., Arvo Part from Estonia, former Soviet Union). However, in the case of Part it was the West that truly discovered and celebrated his music. He was oppressed by Soviet Occupation, and this incredible artist emerged by seeking God through art in the midst of his circumstances

2) As noted by Ravi Zacharias, the arts are one of the primary entry points for shaping one’s worldview. Although I walk the streets and hallways of a campus where most folks would prefer to get their worldview from the pages of books, most importantly the Bible, the primary entry point for most folks are the arts. In fact, we may be returning to a preliterate society where most people get information through live performance/presentation rather than reflective reading. I’m not saying this is good. I am simply stating a reality. I am also not suggesting that we should allow people to stay where they enter. But the arts can be an important entry point.

3) As noted in my previous blog, there is a sense in which celebratory worship is the end result of our acquisition of book knowledge. For further explanation see “Apologetic Inquiry Leads One Into Worship.”

Finally, as we consider how we might invest our time and resources in 2012, I would suggest that investing in Christian Apologetic Art and Worship Art is not a waste. In fact I am finding that a desire to recommit myself to personal worship time is at the core of my goals for any given year. And when we come together as a worshipping community in a city that has all the marks of a declining society, we contribute a powerful statement to the community at large: We recognize that God is sovereign regardless of how many shootings occur in our historic city this year; we declare through song that our Lord is the ultimate agent of healing for all types of wounds; we celebrate the most important healing, that of our souls through the blood of Christ in our desperately sinful condition; We send a worshipping community out to ever let the song of our Lord be on their lips and to penetrate a dark world with courageous acts of love.

I hope you can join us at the seminary for this year’s Crescent City Praise on January 28, 7 PM or January 29, 7 PM at FBC Kenner.

Apologetic Inquiry Leads One Into Worship: Confessions of a Worship Leader

I am very blessed to live on a beautiful campus in an incredibly interesting city surrounded by folks doing very important work in theology, biblical studies, and apologetics. I readily admit to people that one of the major draws for me to accept a position at New Orleans Baptist Seminary was the reality that I would be able to constantly access the best of lectures in the aforementioned categories. This pas week I was reminded of this wonderful reality as a host of nationally-recognized apologists made their way to NOBTS for Defend the Faith Week.

This year’s event being my second opportunity to attend various classes, I looked forward to growing in my understanding of the various categories of apologetics. Early in the week one of my favorite speakers at Defend the Faith, Rob Bowman, planted a seed that lingered in my mind throughout the week (at that point a precursor to Mr. Bowman’s joint session presentation). The focus of Rob’s plenary session presentation Tuesday morning actually caught be by surprise, speaking to the character of the apologist rather than the knowledge he or she gains.

What is the greatest danger for one who is growing their knowledge of apologetics of various type: pride. Rob presented a delightful reminder of how limited our knowledge actually is even among the giants in apologetics when we consider ourselves before the Father.  The point of his presentation was not at all to discourage apologetic inquiry, for the Lord is doing great things through the exponential increase of interest we have seen in apologetics in recent years. Rather, he was encouraging the right kind of character to match our apologetic. Our arguments for the gospel should not only be clear, doctrinally sound, and logical, but the character we display in presenting a defense for the gospel should be attractive. I might add that the Mr. Bowman called for is not a forced humility, but rather a genuineness generated out of fearful reverence for the Father and love for people.

I would like to offer an epilogue to Mr Bowman’s presentation on the importance of humility. Of course, based on the title of this blog you might have already guessed where I am going with the following extension of this thoughts. But, I am going to take a bit of a diversion under the subtitle, “Confessions of a Worship Leader,” before finishing the thoughts above in earnest.

For some time I have been convinced that God has a sense of humor. Or at least many of the stories in the Old Testament appear comical to us as poetic justice plays out time and time again. But I have also noticed that in my own life and lives of those I know best how often the Lord allows circumstances that are perfectly trying for our particular weaknesses. Through these means, and you better be able to laugh in the midst of such trials, the Lord weaves a beautiful story in our lives.

For me I find it somewhat comical that I have ended up doing what I am doing. For some musicians, they practice their craft because what they are doing has always been what they were extraordinarily gifted to do-such is the case for my wife who is also a musician. But I was reminded time and time again in my training that there were a lot of people more talented in music than I. Thus, I sort-of think of myself as a Pete Rose in music (at least the Pete Rose before the Scandal). I have had to be persistent and play the “Mr Hustle” role precisely because I could see the superior natural gifts of others around me. I still consider it a great privilege to work with some great musicians everyday, including colleagues and students. But if there is something I have prided myself in too much it is a perceived assessment of my own knowledge of spiritual things. From childhood as a preacher’s kid I always wanted to demonstrate for everyone in the class that I knew more about the Bible than the teacher. I know, this really sounds like someone you would like to hang around. But the Lord did not allow me to pursue a path where I would be the one expositing my knowledge of spiritual matters before a group of believers each week or at least not in the pulpit. No, He allowed me to take a path where I can’t assume musical excellence will occur in an effortless manner like my friend Matt Papa or my son Isaac–these uber-talented folks make me sick. Actually, every wise conductor knows that having a few of these folks in your choir is the key to getting to musical excellence faster. In any case, those who know me best know that I am most comfortable not singing behind a podium or holding a baton but rather waxing eloquent on some subject that I am convinced I have digested enough to take public. So, you can imagine how this talk of humility stung a bit and caught me by surprise.

So, I return to my reflections on Mr. Bowman’s presentation. I continue to ruminate over my own issues related to lack of godly humility that are evident in my heart if not to others at times, and I recognized that the only thing to be said or sung after Mr. Bowman’s lecture would is: “To God be the glory great things He hath –great things He taught us, great things he hs done.” Yes, the endpoint of all knowledge gained related to theology or apologetics should be to say, “God, I stand I stand in awe of who I understand You to be and who you are in reality, the limits of which I will never approach.”

So I will keep singing and speaking of His glory, now with renewed commitment to and appreciation for humility.