Perhaps other postmodern evangelicals can relate to the phenomenon of having a dual hermeneutics when reading books by popular Christian authors, especially when they’re megachurch pastors writing their obligatory “With faith like mine you can be successful too” manuals. Even the language I just used reveals the cynical deconstructionism that I can’t seem to shake out of my consciousness, but at the same time I want to believe that the Holy Spirit really can start a wildfire in which 50 people grow into 5000 people over the course of a decade.
So it was with this schizophrenic combination of cynicism and naive wishfulness that I read Mark Batterson’s Primal on the airplane yesterday. First, the hating. I’m not as excited as Mark that there are 150000 species of grasshoppers and it doesn’t fill me with awe and wonder at the genius of our Creator. Nor do I care what the students of obscure 19th century botany professors wrote in their diaries or how well-read it makes Mark appear to casually mention this as an anecdote that’s only marginally useful to his argument. It’s also obnoxious for him to talk about reading the Bible from cover to cover on an annual basis in different translations every year. Really? And “if Leviticus feels like Nebraska,” then Colorado is just around the bend, so he says. Come on! The casualness with which he talks about reading the Bible makes me cynical about how much of it he really does.
But what I’m interested in knowing is whether you really can just launch a new church after touching the sides of a building and praying that God will give you the money to buy it or if you need to have money and/or connections to potential underwriters before saying that prayer. I want to believe that it’s faith and not just privilege calling itself faith in self-congratulatory fashion. But Mark’s life story makes it sound like he’s always been awfully well-connected. Still I want to believe in “God ideas.”
I feel like I’m a perfect Methodist, half mainline and half evangelical. The mainline side of me is looking to
mold our contemporary service for a
niche market and thinking in completely worldly terms about how to create the most meaningful experience for the parents of preschoolers, youth and their parents, and wounded baby boomers, who are our three natural target constituencies. Our church is mostly mainline in its decision-making; we use worship surveys and church growth institutes’ statistical data rather than rubbing anointing oil on our pews and praying over the people who will be sitting in them.
My heart will always be evangelical though. I want to believe that God really does tell us what to do if we fast and pray and listen to Him
and it might be a different answer than what we get from the surveys and expert opinions. I want to believe that God really does give us God ideas that seem ridiculous and impractical.
Because I’ve got one… Or at least I want to claim it as a God idea. In 2002, I went to an all-night rave on a ship in the New York City harbor. It was one of the most amazing spiritual experiences I’ve ever had. The lights and the sound created an ambience unlike anything I have experienced since and I did it completely without drugs. I remember thinking what if church was like this. What would be wrong with having a church where worship is fully kinesthetic, a dance church?
The seed has been inside of me ever since then. I learned how to create trance electronic dance music on my computer. It’s so infinitely complicated that after 5 years of producing I’m barely a beginner. But still I want to start a dance-church where the liturgy is a trance mix, where the worship songs are both sung and danced to, where the sermon is a poem with a soundtrack. I want this to be my God idea that I write a book about one day which is why I want to believe that Mark Batterson isn’t full of shit. I can’t tell you how many pages I’ve scribbled to God about this.
This dream would make sense in an urban environment like Batterson’s DC
church with a bunch of tatted-up hipster Christian kids who write amazing poetry and listen to obscure Christian indie electropop artists whose work we could utilize. But I’m in the suburbs and the one constituency that would go for this idea isn’t anywhere around.
We do have a budget crunch that’s going to effect what we can do musically in worship next year. And we do have a kid in our community who knows how to DJ. If you saw the people who come to our contemporary service, you would understand why it’s ridiculous to even consider bringing this idea up with my advisory committee. But when I read Batterson’s book, I couldn’t help but start dreaming again. I really want to believe God is saying to me, Why not?