A conversation in the parking lot
Easter Sunday, two days ago.
The energy as people gathered and greeted was crackling. The worship was spirited, enthusiastic. The message was Christ-centered, pointed, life-giving.
After the first service, I greeted a couple I’ve known for a few months. They’ve been attending our church for about a year. As they were leaving, they asked if they could talk to me. They pointed at the speakers outside our church which were, just then, blaring out some song by ZZ Top.
I need to tell you a couple things about me and this music.
First of all, for some reason that’s largely a mystery to me, I have come to love this kind of music. About an hour before this conversation took place, I told one of our pastors that, deep inside, I am a blues musician. That if we could ever figure out how to get that out to my hands and feet, we could have a lot of fun.
My second point is that rock’n’roll and blues is hardly my musical background. My education was in classical and church music. We didn’t do ZZ Top at either of my schools.
I just thought of a third point. I long ago decided that I was getting to an age (I am 58 and have followed Christ for some 37 years now) where I wasn’t coming to church in order to get my needs met. I was coming in order to help people meet Jesus and to help them grow. That means that I’m all in on whatever music meets the need of that audience. And, surprise, I’ve come to like it.
But here I was—on Easter Sunday—with a couple who were unhappy about the very music I was enjoying to that point.
“That is the way we used to live.”
“Do you hear that music?” the husband asked.
I have no clue what message was being conveyed by the expression on my face.
“This is the music we listened to before we became Christians—”
“We don’t listen to it any more,” his wife added. “We don’t even have secular music in our home.”
It’s funny, I had no trouble hearing and understanding the heavily-accented words of this European couple, even over ZZ Top and the enthusiastic crowd behind us in the parking lot. Still, I leaned forward so I could understand their concerns and maybe learn some of their history.
“ZZ Top…that is the way we used to live. We cannot go back there.”
Is it possible to agree to disagree?
I am privileged to be part of a church whose burning focus is on reaching people for Christ. We have a saying at our church that “we will do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ.”
I tried, as best I could, to explain to my friends why this kind of music was playing in the parking lot of our church. About all the people who’ve come, who I’ve come to know, who have been transformed before my very eyes.
None of it would wash.
Is it possible, I asked, that it might be necessary for us to have different kinds of churches for different kinds of people? They acknowledged that it was possible. But they’d invested a year going to this church. And in view of the playing of this ZZ Top song, things were trending badly there.
Interestingly, whoever picks the music to play over the loudspeakers had played ZZ Top before. Many times before. Stretching well before this particular Easter morning, even before these friends had started coming. And they had never noticed.
A conversation we need to have
I’ve been pondering this situation a lot during the last two days. That very morning I had read a passage of scripture that had immediate application to conversation I had with my friends in the parking lot.
I think maybe I’ll share what I’m learning about this and then some conclusions that are forming in my mind.
In the meantime…
I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Just yesterday I read a blog post by one of my newest Twitter friends that addressed this very thing. Why don’t you read that—and read the comments as well—and then talk about it here?
Thanks so much!