This is not a post about homosexuality.

That’s coming; I’m actually planning an apologetic series on the subject soon, spurred on not only by the article this refers to, but also by some sincere questions from a friend who doesn’t understand my point of view on the subject.  That’ll be fun…

This post, however, is about the crying, desperate need for the church to be the church—on at least a couple of fronts.

Jennifer Knapp Comes Out

I have never listened to Jennifer Knapp’s music.  I couldn’t name a song of hers, but I do know that for a period of time, she was “all that” in the world…resist the urge to say, “cesspool”…urge resisted…of contemporary Christian music.  It had escaped my notice, but she took a 6+ year hiatus from singing and producing albums.  Now, she’s back—and according to the article, she’s homosexual; currently, she’s in a same-sex relationship that has lasted for a number of years.  She’s got a new album coming out next month, one that she claims is not a “Christian album” (by the way, is “album” the right word anymore?  Hmmm…).  Fine.  More power to her.  This is not a post about homosexuality.

It’s not even, per se, a post about the reasoning she uses—actually, fails to employ much of, if you read the article—to justify her lifestyle.  But this is a post about the church—and the crying need that exists for the church to be the church.

She answers, in response to the question, “are you currently in a church in Nashville”, a terse “no”—and yet she wants to go on to talk about her faith.  This is the problem—or at least one of the problems—or at least a symptom of a greater problem—or a symptom of one of the greater problems (the latter is my final answer, Regis).

A quick caveat, just so I’m clear: I have a wide—and growing ever more wide—tolerance for different kinds of expressions of the body of Christ.  Each form of church has, to my way of thinking, its strengths and its limitations, whether that form be the “mega-church” or the house church, the denominational church or the independent church, the ethnically-diverse church or the homogeneous church, the seeker-sensitive, traditional, contemporary, or emerging church, or what-have-you.  I’ve become a lowest-common-denominator kind of guy when it comes to thinking about church; hit the minimums (and there are a few, but only a very few), and I’m down with that.  Digression over.

Here’s the deal: we have a system, and it involves not only the Christian music industry, but the Christian publishing industry, the Christian radio industry, and likely other “Christian industries”, not limited even to media, that virtually ignores the church except when it comes to marketing its wares to the church.  These entities are unaccountable to the church; the bottom line for many of these industries has little to do with the mission of the church; in many cases, what these entities are peddling is actually counterproductive to what God has called the church to be and to do.

And what’s as bad, or even arguably worse, is that neither the church, its leaders, or its individual members seem to give a flying rip about correcting this terrible arrangement.  Will Jennifer Knapp receive airplay on Christian radio?  Will her album be bought—and enjoyed—by Christians?  Beyond this, I refer you to some of the questions I raised a few weeks back about Amy Grant.

But for that matter, what church(es) approves Casting Crowns as fit for ministry, and holds the band members accountable—and beyond this, why is this information not public knowledge, prominently displayed on all its CDs?  Jars of Clay—who holds those guys accountable?  Stephen Curtis Chapman?  Look, I don’t mean to suggest that accountability isn’t happening—I hope it is, of course—nor that Jars and SCC are heretics—I have no reason to believe that at all—but why don’t we know about this, so that we can with confidence say, “somebody is helping keep these guys in line; they’re involved in a real, solid, Christ-honoring, gospel-declaring church.”  Or, conversely, we can say, “I don’t care that Phillips, Craig, and Dean sing well; their theology is highly-suspect” (and it is; did you know that?).  Writing a Christian book?  Super!  What local body of believers puts its imprimatur upon you and your work? Who is telling Christian radio, “quit playing that silly Jesus-is-my-girlfriend music”, with the expectation, yea demand, that somebody there listen?

Sad truth is, this stuff doesn’t seem to matter to most folks, even professing Christians…but it matters, because the church matters.  Because the gospel matters.  Because Jesus matters.

13 responses »

  1. I think this issue fits very well with a thought-provoking post from another friend’s blog about holding Christian TV personalities accountable when they say things that are out of line: http://www.blackcoffeereflections.com/i-am-a-christian-pastor-and-i-am-angry-with-pat-robertson/01/

    How do we hold them accountable? If they’re the public face of the church, should we be able to remove them from their positions?

    • Byron says:

      Well, since we don’t have an “evangelical pope”, or anything approaching such, this makes things complicated. We can’t very well “remove” Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn (much as many of us would like to!); there’s simply no mechanism for doing that. I actually have several ideas that somebody ought to run with to try to tackle some of this nonsense, though:

      – Encouraging individual Christians to “take on” some of the entities that support/sell some of this stuff. Beware: I have done that, and the nastiest email I’ve ever gotten in my life came from the station manager of a Christian radio station.

      – I think that pastors ought to band together to take on something like this. Right now, there is an exciting development in evangelical Christianity: there are a lot of younger pastors, most of them from a Reformed perspective, who attend things like “Together for the Gospel”, and such things, and I think it’d be an extremely cool thing to get guys like this, committed to the gospel and unwilling to put up with nonsense like this, together to issue joint statements and call some of these entities to accountability.

      – Same thing could be done on a denominational scale, if a denomination had the guts to deal with it. Think what would happen if the Southern Baptists, with their clout, would take a visible stand.

      Beyond this, it’s got to be pastors and leaders doing what I’m trying to do here: take a vocal stance against this type of nonsense, and encourage others to do the same.

  2. Mark Merritt says:

    It’s good that she hasn’t done any “Christian music” for 6 years.

    To me the greatest tragedy in Christian TV isn’t the fact that Pat Robertson says stupid things, rather it is heresy for the sake of sensationalism.

    There are a few like Mr Osteen who rarely even look into the Word, and that’s bad enough. But there are many who give lip service to The Word only to take scripture out of context in order to promote some new unsubstantiated theory. It’s unbelievable how many times I’ve noticed Eastern mysticism being shrouded in Christianese on some of these cable/satellite channels. Unfortunately, unless someone is commiting a crime, any heresy can be preached and taught in any independent church setting (and some denominational ones too).

    Peace in Christ,

    M

    BTW Byron I think either album or record are fine for describing modern day recordings. Note that in the full definition a record could be something written as well. An album of course is a collection of records (or pictures etc…), so to speak. 🙂

  3. Derlin says:

    I decided to ask a few people, and got a response from J. Jackson of Apologetix:

    In ApologetiX, we are on the road for many weekends, and often on Sundays we’re either flying home and have to be at the airport at some excruciatingly early hour or we’re making a very long bus trip home (usually starting at 5 or 6 a.m.).

    First of all, when we are home, we’re all involved with local churches. I enjoy attending my local church and just did this past Sunday. In fact, our band intends to record its next CD live at my church. This year, we’ve gotten about one Sunday per month at home. When we’re on the road on the bus, we’ve started the practice of taking time to pray for each other and read the Bible together on Sundays, and sometimes we will sing worship songs together, with different members taking turns leading worship. We also pray together before we leave on trips and before we play a concert.

    Personally, my wife and I pray and read the Bible together every day, either in person or on the phone (if I’m on the road). We have made it a practice not to miss that since the day we got married. I also read the Bible on my own every day, and I try to read through it from Genesis to Revelation at least once a year. That’s a practice I started 22 years ago, and I don’t think I’ve missed a day since. I’m not hyper-spiritual; I just need to read the Word of God every day, and I need that discipline. I also have four daughters, ages 13 to 2, and when I’m home during the week, I pray and read the Bible with them before bedtime, too.

    The guys in our band are very “real” people. If we’re going through things, we come to each other and ask for prayer. God blessed with me with some great friends my own age to whom I could be accountable when I first became a born-again Christian. I really wanted, needed and enjoyed that, and I still stay in touch with some of my closest friends and confidantes from those days. Also, I often talk to the other band members during the week, especially our lead guitarist Tom Milnes, who is a youth pastor, and we will share each other’s burdens and pray for one another.

    Another cool thing for me is that we get to meet so many other pastors, youth pastors, elders at the churches we visit. I enjoy talking to them and finding out how they came to Christ and what God has been doing in their lives. To me, that’s another great way of keeping the flames of faith stirred up.

    J.

    J. Jackson
    Lead Singer/Lyricist
    ApologetiX (That Christian Parody Band)
    http://www.apologetix.com

    • Byron says:

      See, that’s cool–and since I’ve been to an ApologetiX concert, and have some friends who know the band better than I, this is one group that I really trust. Here’s what I’d encourage them to consider doing–they could start a trend!!!! On their next album, find a little space for each band member to list the fellowship with which he’s affiliated, OR AT LEAST make that information available on the band’s website (if they didn’t just want to throw it out there), under something like this: “With a desire to maintain accountability and integrity, each member of ApologetiX maintains a committed relationship to a local church fellowship. For more information on this, please ________.” Then, if a person wanted to do the work, he could find out what church each band member was involved with, in the event any questions of integrity were raised. Derlin, encourage J. to do something like this!!! What a wonderful start this would be!

  4. Mark Merritt says:

    That actually doesn’t surprise me. Apologetix is one of the Christian bands that I would expect that from. I also have seen them in concert and was a hair away from driving them all back to Pittsburgh after their van broke down, but they got a ride from someone else who lived there.

  5. Isaiah Cooke says:

    It would be really great if more artists started to do this. The music we listen to is highly important and knowing the theology of the artists would help a lot when filtering music. It is hard finding theologically sound music and artists. Sure sites like Plugged In check content but what about the artists themselves? Pastor Harvey I think you were the one that told Brent and I that who we would be in tens years would be shaped by the books we read, the movies we watch, and the music we listened to. Is it just me but I feel like so much supposedly Christian music is just fluff and theologically in error.

    • Byron says:

      No, Isaiah, it isn’t just you…I think it’s true. Does Plugged In check content for Christian albums? That would seem to be a good thing but, as you say, not enough. And yes, I did say that, though I think instead of ‘the movies you watch’, I said, ‘the people you run with’. Perhaps there should be a fourth category…

  6. Mike says:

    Byron,

    Great comments. I would love it if more pastors asked for accountability from groups and festivals before they supported them.

    As a matter of fact, if it is alright with you, I am going to link your comments onto my church’s Facebook group page.

    I am also an EFCA pastor, and I last year I preached a series on interacting with culture, but I am not sure how many of my folks actually got the point that they need to be more discerning.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    By the way, do you know Bruce Redmond who is now heading your district’s church planting efforts? I am a church planter, and he mentored/ coached me while I was trying to plant a church in South Dakota.

    • Byron says:

      Feel free to do so, Mike!

      I actually have just stepped out of active pastoring, taking a bit of a break after 25 years of consecutive paid pastoral ministry. I’m managing a Chick-fil-A for at least the next 2 years, and then we’ll see how God directs.

      I do know Bruce, good friend of mine in fact, and we’re thrilled to have him as part of EFCA Southeast.

  7. Joeyy says:

    I agree, and hope there is something to be done about it. Jennifer Knapp was one of my favorite Chrisitian artist because of her pragmatic take on scripture and human nature. She was gritty, not girly which was refreshing particularly in the Christian market. However, if you knew her personal background, it also sheds some light on this issue. She grew up in an abusive home and did not become a Christian until she reached adulthood; and had some major demons from her adolescence and early adulthood. My opinion is she should have had Christian counseling, but because of her talent, she was instead catapulted into this celebrity music career before she had enough maturity to handle it. And, as you say, the wrong ‘industry Christians’, with no accountability to anyone, got ahold of her and pumped her for all she was worth. Burn out, unhappiness, and disillusionment followed, and the next thing you know she’s hightailing it to Australia to become a lesbian. Well done, Christian Music Industry! Just my take.

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