Saturday, January 13, 2007


Have gotten hooked on "Mute Math", a quasi-Christian band from New Orleans. Here's a sample:

Just goes to show that everything old becomes new again. There are a lot of new bands that sound like bands from the 80's, but none more than Mute Math. The lead singer even plays a "key-tar" which supposedly the uncoolest instrument in the world.

Not in this blogger's world it isn't!!! When you grow up listening to Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins, and Howard Jones, you dig the key-tar.

Anyhow this song, "Typical", is pretty cool. Here are the lyrics...

Come on can't I dream for one day
Theres nothing that can't be done
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

Cause I know there's got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I'm feeling like its now or never
Can I break the spell
of the typical

I've lived through my share of misfortune
And I've worked in the blazing sun
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone.

Cause I know there's got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I'm feeling like its now or never.
Can I break the spell
of the typical.

The typical
I'm just the typical
Can I break the spell of the typical

Because its dragging me down
I'd like to know about when
When does it all turn around

Might as well just re-name the song "Song for the American Mainline Christian Church". I say this because I've just read an email from my friend, Pauly, who's pastoring an urban mainline (Disciples of Christ) church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is emerging from the "typical", into the light of something new. His church, First Christian (DOC) of Chattanooga, was your typical downtown church (slowly dying, as the people who traveled to the suburbs to attend it grew older and declined in number), in the middle of a non-typical setting (it's located in the middle of the UT-Chat campus). The church, starting about four years ago, realized that it was slowly moving toward closing its doors, and faced with a pastoral change, called a consultant to figure out what it might do to avoid what appeared to be the inevitable. After forming a plan, which included hiring a staff person to work on campus, opening a coffee house in an old fellowship hall, raising hundreds of thousand of dollars to make all of this possible, and finding a younger pastor with a passion for working in an urban community who wasn't afraid of the cost of change.... the church went out to find that pastor.

For years my friend Pauly (who took me in from being homeless three days a week, 30 weeks a year, for two years while I was in seminary) had been slogging in small churches in mostly rural (he once lived in a place called "Ducktown", which was located next to "Turtletown", and was about three miles away from "The Edge Of The Worldtown") communities. He traded a very contented, somewhat slow paced position in West Virginia, for the hustle and bustle of a downtown church struggling to avoid closing, and find new life on the other side of change. For a couple of years now, as major changes took place, the church has been slowly dying unto itself, which has meant changes that have ticked off long-time members who had always knew their place and understood their role. He and his family have paid a price in the process.

Recently though, things have started coming together. As he's started finding more balance between the neverending work and a robust family (four kids... two boys, two girls, and no dull moments), the church is starting to hit its stride. The coffeehouse, which is a creative partnership between the church and a local business, is doing well, attracting groups (including the NAACP chapter on campus) who are now meeting in the church's building on a regular basis. The church has been experimenting with more contemporary forms of worship, and is about to start doing its own thing with its own flavor as another alternative service on Sunday morning. The regular service has been growing, as new people, looking for a church that cares about more than filling pews and building bigger buildings, have started migrating to FCC.

Now, the church has adopted the Brown Academy, which is a public school dedicated to educating at-risk school children (many of whom are currently homeless). 32 people from the congregation will now be tutoring these kids, filling up backpacks with food on Friday so the kids will eat during the weekend, and generally providing a cloak of prayer on children and teachers who need it the most. It's looking to transform the typical Wednesday night "eat a meal and go to a class church night" into a time to minister to the homeless in the Chattanooga community. The church, which has been running "Living the Questions" groups (which is kind of the liberal answer to the "Alpha" program written by the folks at Holy Trinity-Brompton in London) is starting new small groups and bible studies for people coming into the doors. A new campus pastor, Travis, is finding creative ways to network with young adults not only on UT-Chat campus, but also a sub-culture of young adults that I can assure you no other church is even coming close to reaching in that community.

In other words.... this ain't your "Typical" church.

People caring for one another
Praying incessantly
Worshipping God
Finding themselves in scriptures
so they can find Jesus living in their hearts
and among those who are in great need
so that Heaven might be revealed

That's the real deal, babe. That's not playing church. You can't believe the number of communities of faith struggling with all they are toward this kind of vision. Given the slow irrelevance of the Christian faith in western culture, they are pushing forward not a moment too soon. Considering we'll be closing churches at alarming rates as United Methodists over the next decade, maybe we need start singing the chorus that churches like FCC of Chattanooga are singing.

Cause I know there's got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I'm feeling like its now or never.
Can I break the spell of the typical?

No comments: