Feb 1, 2010

revelling in the rain

I am a fan of the Parachute Music Festival. I am proud that what is (it is claimed) the largest Christian music festival outside the U.S. and at least in the southern hemisphere, is here in NZ - even if it is near the Tron. I have spent enough time, money and potentially social capital promoting the festival to be reasonably sure that I'm not a hater.

However, even though it is a 'music' festival, I think trends there illustrate some issues the Church in NZ should face up to. The festival is a highpoint on the Christian calendar and in presenting the gospel to young people in this country, with many making commitments each year. (It is difficult to determine how many of these commitments have been long-lasting, but anecdotal evidence from similar events suggests not a really high percentage. One of the issues which is clearly recognised is a need for discipleship; basically, 'follow-up'.) Putting other issues aside, I'd like to call into question the focus/theme of such events - feel free to comment.

The theme is, it appears, "be excited about Jesus!" And this is fair enough - Jesus is exciting, which is particularly obvious in the cases of those who haven't really met him before. But we don't, it seems, really say why we should be excited apart perhaps from finding a verse or two that can illustrate the message; nor do we see much in the way of thinking about how it should really play-out when we return to the 'real' world outside a Christian-youth subculture. What is needed is, simply, good teaching.

The teaching at Parachute (I'm thinking of mainstage) is passionate and aims to give glory to God through Jesus, with the Holy Spirit also playing a prominent part - all good so far. But the music festival context particularly emphasises experiential or emotional aspects - and unless you dig deeper you may leave thinking that there is little substance beneath. The teachers could come from broader theological perspectives i.e. perhaps fewer from the AoG and associates and they could (should) also pack more meat into their talks. More Bible exposition, less "positive thinking" would not be of harm, methinks.

Anyway, the real-life example I shall give to illustrate this sermon is the comparative attendance at the events (which I paraphrase to make the context clearer) "Hillsong United at morning meeting" and "Mark Strom (principal of Laidlaw College [an evangelical tertiary institution]) speaks about St Paul and the Philosophers at Athens". They were at different times and the morning meeting event was more prominent - yet I'll guess that crowded into the Palladium building this morning (judging by the figures given by easter camp of ~6000) were up to 10,000 people. Venturing out to hear Mark Strom on Saturday were up to 100. The interesting thing for me is that if the messages of the principal of Laidlaw, about intelligent contextualisation of the gospel, were put into action or thought about seriously, the impact could be something like a tsunami compared with the (while important) relatively quantatively minor ripples from the morning meeting.

People I would like to see (teaching) at Parachute: Jesus (I was incidentally wondering on Friday, given the delightful red sky, about how appropriate it would be for the rapture to occur while Rapture Ruckus was on stage - but that's another issue), Tim Keller, John Lennox, William Dembski, DA Carson (or one of the host of people like him at places like Trinity Ev. Div. School, Fuller, etc), Ben Witherington III (have I mentioned that I've had an email conversation with him?), William Lane Craig (or one of many other philosophers such as Victor Reppert, Charles Taliaferro), Kelly Monroe etc etc - basically, hoping this doesn't sound too arrogant, the people directing Parachute should make a visit to my bookshelf and start making a list.

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