This will be a quick post today. I ran across the following story on CNN this morning about Francis Chan leaving his congregation of 4000 and moving away to Asia: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/22/%E2%80%9Cchristian-famous%E2%80%9D-pastor-quits-his-church-moves-to-asia/ He said he just wanted to be anonymous for a while and was concerned about perpetuating the whole "Christian famous" thing.
I have mixed feelings here. On the one hand, I agree that too often the church focuses on celebrities rather than on Jesus. On the other hand, is leaving the 4000 people who looked to him for leadership the best course of action? Or would it be better to intentionally and subversively redirect them to Jesus?
In other words, is the proper response to the American obsession with celebrity to simply abandon our platforms of influence, or is it to use those platforms to redirect people's priorities?
Just curious what those who read this think...please share!
If Easter never happened, Christmas is just another day.
If Easter never happened, Mary's baby was no Savior, just another fatherless child.
If Easter never happened, all of those angel stories are just nice fairy tales.
If Easter never happened, the shepherds should have stayed with the sheep.
If Easter never happened, the wise men were just deluded astrologers.
If Easter never happened, this season is simply an excuse to indulge our materialism and celebrate a fictional man in a furry red suit.
If Easter never happened, we have no hope that Jesus is coming back. We have no hope of forgiveness. We have no expectation of eternal life.
If Easter never happened, Christmas is meaningless, just like every other day.
But Easter did happen.
We celebrate Christmas only because we know the whole story.
His death defeated death. His resurrection promises life.
If Easter never happened, all is lost.
But Easter did happen!
OK, I'm going to date myself a bit with this one. I realize that for many of my younger readers, Michael W. Smith's music is what their moms listen to in the minivan.
Believe it or not, the style and genre of his music has evolved over the years -- some would say it has matured, others would say it's gone beyond mature to just plain old. I guess perspective is everything. Keep in mind that he's 53 years old. For many of you college students, he is quite literally older than your own parents.
I know all of that, but still have to include him as a major influence on me in my earlier years. The first contemporary Christian album I ever received was Michael W. Smith Project, released in 1983 (actually, it was a cassette tape, not technically an album). It contained the perennial Christian favorite "Friends," which was literally the campfire anthem for millions of youth-group kids. What struck me about the album at the time was his mixture of classical and pop piano (I was taking piano lessons in those days from a man who believed that pop music was a stain on the face of the planet -- if it wasn't classical it was evil trash). In addition, Smith's songwriting and somewhat edgy voice appealed to me. That album was certified gold (500,000 copies sold), which was virtually unheard of for Christian albums in those days.
But it wasn't until he released The Big Picture, his third studio album, that I was hooked on his music. The Big Picture came out in 1986, and it was a masterfully written album that managed to sound contemporary and relevant without being imitative. It sounds a bit dated now, but still pretty good for something released nearly 25 years ago. It addressed head-on issues that were very important to kids my age, like dating, future dreams, and even depression and suicide. Frankly, Sandi Patty just wasn't doing that for us (if you don't know who she is, don't worry too much about it -- she was the "mom" music of my day).
The album i2 (EYE) followed The Big Picture, and was enormously popular with the song and video Secret Ambition. By this time I wanted to BE Michael W. Smith one day. I virtually wore out that cassette (no, I still didn't have a CD player yet), and even bought the piano songbook. I have to admit (somewhat sheepishly) that I even had a taller-than-life-size poster of MWS on my wall in my room.
From Michael W. Smith I learned that Christian music could speak powerfully to the challenges and dreams of Christian teens and young adults. I also learned that Christian music did not need to be second-string or cheesy -- again, I know that it probably sounds cheesy in retrospect, but at the time it was very cutting-edge for the market. He carefully crafted his songs and brought high production quality to everything he did. It was very empowering for Christian kids who wanted something other than our parents' stuff to listen to, but who still wanted something consistent with our belief in Christ.
I also first began to learn to sing and play piano at the same time with Smith's songs. The fact that I led worship at various churches for more than a decade is largely due to the influence of MWS on my musical development.
If you are not familiar with his older stuff, check out i2 (EYE) first.
Oh yeah -- he's one of the only artists I know of (Christian or otherwise) who has done THREE Christmas albums. The first one (just called Christmas) is the best.