The Weekly Town Crier

YeOldeTownCrier

Well, sometimes you wish you had more to say than you actually do. Of course, there are those other times when you wish you had said far less than you actually did, this isn’t one of those times.

I’m sure there’s some clever introduction buried within these ramblings but frankly my dear, I don’t have the time or energy to uncover them. So, without further ado, here’s this week’s links/thought-provokers:

You can buy my original art pieces at my Etsy shop and you can order prints (framed or un) and shower curtains and duvet covers and such sundry items at my Society6 page.

Sufjan Stevens recently announced a new album, “Carrie & Lowell,” with an accompanying video trailer.

Apparently, someone has made a shirt printed with Kurt Cobain’s suicide note.

See Space Mountain with the lights on.

Read Paste‘s report: “Death Cab for Cutie Reveal Title and Track List for New Album”.

Watch a previously unreleased video of the Beastie Boys (possibly MCA’s last video) with NAS.

Browse Consequence of Sound‘s “Most Anticipated Albums of 2015”.

See a cool Macintosh desktop prototype.

Read Rolling Stone‘s report that “The Word” will release a second album.

Browse: “Woman Draws a Self-Portrait Before And After the Use of LSD”.

Read as Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore talks about the band and his solo releases.

Read as the AV Club considers “When great records breed bad followers” using Van Halen’s self-titled release as a case study.

Take “A tour through New Zealand’s amazing steampunk town” with BoingBoing.

Read Mental Floss’ piece: “Toilet Paper History: How America Convinced the World to Wipe.”

Read about the Russian cat who helped care for an abandoned baby.

Read Pitchfork‘s piece: “Pretzel Logic: Understanding Why Your Dad’s Favorite Band Is Playing Coachella”.

Browse FACT‘S report considering “The Eight Most Eccentric Turntables Ever Created”.

Watch/Read Paste‘s piece: “Two Minute Trailer Gives Viewers a Look at Why They Better Call Saul” and let us know if you will be watching.

Read Salon‘s piece: “Bill Cosby should never be off limits: How Tina Fey and Amy Poehler showed us how to tell a rape joke”.

Read AV Club‘s piece: “Start saying your goodbyes to your car’s CD player”.

Listen to “The Prodigy‘s First New Song Since 2009″.

R.I.P. The Black Crowes.

R.I.P. one of the original Marlboro men.

R.I.P. Google Glass(?)

Read about Lagunitas’ “On/Off Again” lawsuit against Sierra Nevada.

Read about Target pulling out of the Canadian market, closing 133 stores.

Browse these these images of paint as the color is being mixed.

See these super cool “Fibonacci Zoetropes”.

Read about the “Ohio teacher convicted of felony for showing The ABCs Of Death in class”. Where was this substitute when I was in school?

Read AV Club‘s piece: “Vimeo is making serious bids to be the next contender in original content”.

Read about “Sleater-Kinney’s Secret Basement Sessions”.

Speaking of Sleater-Kinney,  watch “Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, Gerard Way, Connie Britton, Fred Armisen, J Mascis, More Sing Sleater-Kinney’s “No Cities to Love””

The Weekly Town Crier

YeOldeTownCrierWell hello there. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to connect last week. But, you know how it is. Life with 8 kids and all. Or, maybe you don’t know how it is. Either way, you’ll take what you can get. I’m not beholden to your expectations. Though I do appreciate them. And you.

You can buy my original pieces at my Etsy shop and you can order prints (framed or un) and shower curtains and duvet covers and such sundry items at my Society6 page.

Watch Ryan Adams Visit CBS This Morning”.

Learn about the formula behind most of your your favorite sit-coms.

Read as Consequence of Sound‘s review of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.

Read Draft Magazine‘s picks for their 25 favorite beers of 2014.

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “How Facebook Designs the ‘Perfect Empty Vessel’ for Your Mind”.

Browse Paste‘s picks for the best comics covers of 2014.

Read about the beer brewed to help you solve problems.

Read about the road trip where two guys spent a year traveling to breweries in every (lower 48) state in the US. Cuz ‘Murica! And Craft Beer!

Read as Slate considers our obsession with being obsessed over things.

Read about the recent study finding: “Animated children’s movies depict more on-screen deaths than R-rated adult dramas”.

Browse the list of movies being added to Netflix in January.

Read Boston Magazine‘s piece: “Wasted How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch”.

See some “unfortunate publishing layouts”.

Browse NPR’s “Grammar Hall of Shame”.

Browse a “Beginner’s Guide to Dub”.

Read about Mark Zuckerberg’s book club.

Read about Phoenix selling the historic Barrister Place building downtown to PB Bell.

Browse this list of “12 Hidden Celebrity Cameos in Movies”.

Browse Time’s list of musical artists to watch in 2015.

Overpay For All Your Favorite Classic Rock Records” at Neil Young‘s Pono store.

Read Salon‘s report that Bono may never play guitar again.

Browse Flavorwire‘s “Year In Culture”.

Download a free Erased Tapes compilation featuring Nils Frahm, Kiasmos and Clark.

Read Paste‘s report that Sylvester Stallone has confirmed a fifth Rambo movie.

Read the Phoenix New Times‘ piece explaining why you can’t get certain beers in Arizona.

Read NPR’s piece looking at the name shortage and litigation surplus in the craft beer industry.

See an AZ photo of a family of sasquatches.

Browse Paste‘s “Beginner’s Guide to Craft Beer”.

Read FACT‘s report that there is a “McDonald’s-Themed Black Sabbath Tribute Band” called Mac Sabbath.

Read as Consequence of Sound wonders about the future of the album cycle.

Read Phaidon‘s piece: “How Kandinsky helped create abstract art”.

Download Noisetrade‘s “Best of What’s Next: 2015” playlist.

Browse this list of “7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S.”

Read Pitchfork‘s report that Coachella’s 2015 line-up has been announced.

Read about the 75 year study of what truly makes men happy.

Browse “Relevant”‘s list of movies they’re excited about this year.

Read Paste‘s report that Pixar has released concept art for The Good Dinosaur.

The Problem (We Should Have) With The Interview

imagesIn full disclosure, I should say that I have not seen The Interview, nor do I have any plans to do so. But then again, I haven’t seen Titanic. Do I really need to see a movie to know I wouldn’t like it? Why should I? We all know I would hate it so why make any of us sit through 2 hours of formulaic media merchandising?

Similarly, with The Interview, I’m not sure you have to see the movie to have a fairly accurate idea of what’s in it. I mean, come on. Seth Rogen. James Franco, and the justification for the “R” rating being:

“R (for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence)”.

I’m sure there are some fart jokes, some marijuana references and lots of genital jokes. Do I really need to sit through it to know that I wouldn’t like it? I mean, if you’ve seen it and say I’m way off base here and the artistic merits of the exploration of themes surrounding the struggle against dictatorial leadership outweigh the fart jokes, then maybe I’ll see the movie (After all, Bob Mondello saw it so I don’t have to!).

But until then, I’m un-nerved at the response to the brewhaha surrounding this (otherwise would-have-been forgotten) film and the ensuing events. As we all know by now, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un denounced the movie before it was released, (securing the PR bonanza // in fact, NPR reported that initial versions of the script did not name Kim Jong Un but that it was later added. Why name a specific person other than to spark controversy? I wonder how Obama would respond to a movie depicting his state-sponsored execution?), which depicts his US-sponsored assassination. He might have used some bloated language calling the movie an “act of war“, but hey, would you want a movie made in which you are the villain to be assassinated?

Then, Sony movie people had their information technology security breached and someone dumped a bunch of internal documents, e-mails and such. Though it is debated whether or not North Korea was actually behind the hack-attacks, there were physical threats that began to appear for any theater that did screen the movie. Sony, thusly blaming a lack of distribution, pulled the 12/25/14 release of the movie, to the public scorn of President Obama, who is ever at the ready to defend our rights to project our fart jokes on the rest of the world. Or was Obama using this sophomoric movie to send a political message, thus once again propelling this inane movie it into the Pop Culture Universe to heights never before imagined? After all, the movie depicts the US sanctioned execution of Kim Jong Un. And Obama chastised Sony for not releasing it. Or maybe I’ve just stepped into conspiracy theorist territory.

But wait, our drama isn’t over yet. In a sudden change of heart, Sony Pictures decides to screen the movie in limited-release theaters and in some streaming formats, garnering far more publicity than this movie ever could have hoped for had things been any other way. In fact, The Interview has now set sales records for Sony.

So here we are, entering a new year. Looking back on one which saw the Leader of the Free World defending a crass, lowest-common-denominator fart-joke movie as some sort of political expression. We have seen a movie that otherwise would have come and gone relatively unnoticed, garner international spectacle.

In The Day of the Doctor, faced with the possibility of Americans having a time machine, one character warns: “Americans with the ability to rewrite history?! You’ve seen their movies.” No one is claiming that The Interview is thoughtful or a meaningful statement. In fact, it seems to be middle-of-the-road, if not lowest-common-denominator fare that struck a media zeitgeist.

By rushing to defend “liberty”, we have found ourselves rushing to defend a society in which people put plagiarized stickers of Calvin peeing on the “other brand” because, hey, FREE SPEECH, SUCKAH! I might not like what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it, right?! I mean, am I right?

So now we have the chosen leader of the free world going to go to bat for a movie full of fart jokes? Seth Rogen says that if you are going to see the movie, you’re a patriot. We have a chance to step on to the world stage and say something meaningful concerning dictatorial rule and human rights and this is what we put forward as some sort of statement? You tell me that I’m supporting freedom by going to this movie?

We have so confused what’s worth fighting for that we’re willing to fight for things that end up embarrassing us. In the end, I wonder if our rush to defend The Interview reveals more about what we value than we’d like it to?

Two Book Series That Should Be Films

3813e557e99d02aca03ae9f82f8206f85f5b35f1Despite our continued best hopes to the contrary, Hollywood continues to turn our favorite books into lowest-common denominator drivel. The Narnia movies weren’t that great. The Harry Potter movies ranged from fairly decent to pretty good. The Lord of the Rings movies may have been OK but they certainly didn’t hold my interest long enough to find out.

And yet, with all the common sense of a leaping lemming, I sometimes think Hollywood might one day get it right. There are two series in particular where I would love to see filmmakers get it right. Centering

First, N.D. Wilson’s 1oo Cupboards series. Centering around Henry P. York, a young man who finds his connection to otherworldly adventure through a series of cupboards, this tale of discovery, loss of comfort and search for identity has everything a good Fall blockbuster should.

Second, I would love to see The Wingfeather Saga. The Igiby family’s struggle will draw you in and keep you to the end.

What are some books you’d like to see made into movies?

 

My Favorite Stuff of 2014

2014 ReviewIt’s no secret that I love year-end lists. I mean, come on. For someone perpetually interested in popular culture, it’s the most wonderful time of year. You get to see what other people liked and didn’t like. You get to be introduced to new things you would have otherwise missed. And you get your own disproportionate sense of self-worth inflated when the “real” publications agree with your great taste. What could be better?!

So, every year I not only read many year-end lists, I like to compile my own. It’s more for me than anyone else but I have found that some people find them interesting, so I post them for all the honest world to feel.

In keeping with last year, my list originally appeared at Habañero Collective. But I do want to take some of your megabyte space and add some elaboration  on some of my picks. I want to share some thoughts about a few of them. So, we’ll start with listing lists of lists:

My Favorite Music of 2014 (In Approximate Order)

  1. Modern Kin by Modern Kin

  2. Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed by Armon Jay

  3. Live In Ravenna by Moon Duo

  4. Sunday ’91 by Annie Eve

  5. Lost Colony by William Tyler

  6. Singles by Future Islands

  7. Dark Was The Yearling by the Bones of J.R. Jones

  8. Dark Night Of The Soul by Jimbo Mathus the Tri-State Coalition

  9. Our Lobe by Caribou

  10. Single Mothers by Justin Townes Earle

  11. You’re Dead! by Flying Lotus

  12. Heal by Strand of Oaks

  13. Lese Majesty by Shabazz Palaces

  14. Invisible Hour by Joe Henry

  15. Small Town Heroes by Hurray For the Riff Raff

  16. They Want My Soul by Spoon

  17. Forget Where We Were by Ben Howard

  18. Intensity Ghost by Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band

  19. Blind Water Finds Blind Water by Adam Faucett

  20. Way Out Weather by Steve Gunn

  21. Skinned Alive At The Last Exit by Shawn Skinner

  22. Benji by Sun Kil Moon

  23. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson

  24. Lateness of Dancers by Hiss Golden Messenger

  25. Lost In The Dream by the War on Drugs

My Favorite Song Of 2014 Was Not Released In 2014, Sorry
OK, OK, OK, I will go ahead and point it out but my favorite song of this year wasn’t actually released in 2014. This song first appeared on a live release from October 2013. There are unreleased demos of the upcoming Shawn Skinner and the Men of Reason album but those cannot be shared yet (but trust me, they are excellent).

But this song has meant more to me this year than any song actually released in 2014. This year has been one of some major transitions  (read here and here) and the themes in this song have meant quite a bit to me. Lines like: “letting go and holding on, not so young and not so strong. With no need to get ahead, just thankful for our daily bread. And even when the sunset seems so far away, you’ve got to hold out hope for a better day.”

There is something about this seeming contradiction about letting go of what you can’t control while holding on in faith that has really been my theme for 2014. The fact that this song was written by one of my favorite people on the planet who is not my wife makes it all the more powerful. There is hope, even when the daybreak seems so far away.

Stream “Letting Go and Holding On” by Shawn Skinner.



  • Read some thoughts on my list here.
  • Stream a mix of my favorite songs of the year right here:



The Weekly Town Crier

YeOldeTownCrierIsn’t that always the way? Instead of being thankful that I’m back with another installment of the Weekly Town Crier, all you can think about is that I missed last week and instead posted a video of Don Edwards yip yipping on the Facebook page instead.

Well why don’t you think of someone else for once in your life, alright?! I am a very busy person and, as much as I exist to serve you, I don’t always have enough time to do everything well. And, gosh dangit, if I can’t do it well, I’m not going to do it. That’s something I learned from my Dear Old Dad.

Well, I guess that implies that today’s Town Crier is excellent. That may or may not be the case. That’s up for you to decide.

You can buy my original pieces at my new Etsy shop and you can orderprints (framed or un) and shower curtains and duvet covers and such sundry items at my Society6 page.

It’s time again once again for the year-end list round-up.Year-End Lists, Year-End Lists, Everybody Loves Year-End Lists!:

  • Browse All Songs Considered‘s “Year In Music” roundup.
  • Browse American Songwriter‘s picks for the  “Top 50 Songs Of 2014″.
  • Browse Aquarium Drunkard‘s picks for 2014.
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for the “Least Essential” albums of 2014.
  • Browse Christianity Today’s picks for books of the year.
  • Browse Consequence of Sound’s picks for the best live acts of the year.
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the best music videos of 2014.
  • Browse as the Drowned In Sound staff picks their top three of 2014.
  • Browse Drowned In Sound‘s picks for the best live sets of the year.
  • Browse Gorilla vs. Bear‘s list.
  • Browse Mojo‘s top 50 albums of 2014.
  • Browse Paste‘s top 50 albums of 2014.
  • Browse Paste’s top songs of 2014.
  • Browse Pitchfork‘s songs of the year.
  • Browse PopMatters’ picks for the best “Indie Rock” of 2014.
  • Browse PopMatters’ picks for the year’s best “Americana”.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Sterogum‘s picks.
  • Browse Time‘s favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Time’s picks for the worst songs of the year.

Watch Bob Dylan perform a private concert for a single fan.

Watch Michael Stipe Reminisce About R.E.M. On CBS This Morning“. I don’t know about you, but there’s something disheartening seeing one of my favorite artists from my youth on CBS This Morning. I guess we all have to grow up sometime.

Pope Francis says dogs can go to heaven“.

Read “The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like”.

Read “Relevant”‘s report that Invisible Children is shutting down.

Read this report that “Industrial band Skinny Puppy sent a $666,000 invoice to US Department of Defense for allegedly using its music to torture prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.”

Apparently, Doctor Who and Sherlock are both becoming theme park attractions.

Ever wonder “What Colour Is It” right now?

See 30 celebrity mugshots. Because celebrities are cool, right?!

Read Fact‘s report that one million plays on Spotify will get you $60.00. I’ve often wondered who is trying to make their living off of Spotify. I get the artist issues, but this is also one million plays you might not otherwise have gotten. Musician friends, help me out here.

Register to win a Big Star Box Set!

Read AV Club‘s report that Netflix is going to regularly announce which titles are coming and going.

Read as American Songwriter picks Crowded House‘s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” as its “Lyric Of The Week”.

Get your own A Tribe Called Quest sweater just in time for Christmas!

Read Stereogum‘s report that iTunes recently agreed to stop distributing some “white power” music while Amazon has declined to do so.

Watch a “mini documentary” on Future Islands.

Read about the Walking Dead spin-off that will take place in Los Angeles.

Some Year-End Music Thoughts

2014 ReviewWell hello there. Now that you’ve seen my list of favorite things of 2014, allow me to indulge myself and offer some expanded thoughts on some random pieces.

One of the things I appreciate is how subjective year-end lists really are. Who am I to say that these were “the best of the year”? These were my favorite things for sometimes very personal reasons. So why not pull back the curtain a bit and offer some insight behind the picks?

Eclecticricity
I know that it’s sort of cliché to point out how eclectic you are, but I really do love the fact that I live in a world where Sturgill Simpson and Flying Lotus play alongside William Tyler and Caribou. I love the fact that sites like Pitchfork (regardless of your thoughts about them) are helping to de-value the idea of genre boundaries. It used to be that people would listen to one genre of music and little else. I love that there is so much good music out there in so many genres.

Un-signed Artists
The appearance of Leon Bridges and Shawn Skinner underscores the face that we are seeing the music industry in the midst of an identity crisis. It used to be that I never would have even heard of artists like these without label support.

But the process of discovering new music has always been a social one for me. There are friends or publications that I learn to trust. The fact that record labels are becoming increasingly irrelevant means that this is all the moreso true. The “middle-man” and the taste-makers are becoming the gateway for many people. Be vigilant in finding new music! Find people you trust and people who challenge you. And let’s all discover new music.

A New Evangelical Ecumenicalism

10511268_10152952001991450_2281633900746319744_nOver the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the ideas surrounding “vocational ministry”. As I pointed out, I am not in a bad place at all, just one of public wondering. I would love to see some meaningful dialogue in the Christian community about some pretty fundamental issues like: has our pervasive model of “doing church” succeeded in making, maturing and multiplying disciples. If it has, great! Let’s find ways to improve. But, if it hasn’t . . . then we’ve certainly got problems with our cheeseburgers in paradise. I’m not a betting man, but if I were and if there were a market for betting on such things, I’d bet that, deep down, most Christian leaders would say we have a long ways to go in the area of actually encouraging and equipping people to resemble Jesus more and more.

When asking deep questions about the “how and why” of what many now consider to be “tradition” (it’s the way we’ve always done it!), we must continually walk the path of humility. It is easy to become bitter when recognizing our failures and it is certainly tempting to point out other people’s failures. It’s far too common for those who begin by asking good questions to end up with an “I’ve got it all figured out” attitude. Neither is helpful for biblical.

But it is also true that we will not grow without the humility to wrestle with our family issues, pushing ourselves and one another to mature, especially when we may not see eye to eye on everything. This certainly takes humility but it also requires open forums in which we may be forced to be a bit uncomfortable.

I am fortunate to live in Phoenix (I never thought I would say those words!) at this time because I am seeing a spirit of what I call “A New Evangelical Ecumenicalism”. Over the past several years I have seen pastors around the Valley coming together in cooperation for THE Kingdom rather than their individual kingdoms. I have lived in the Phoenix area most of my life and I can say that I have not seen anything like this here.

In fact, I have come to wonder whether we are seeing a new understanding of ecumenicalism. I have to clarify here that I am speaking from and about my own experience which has shaped my understanding. Somewhere along the line, I was led to a particular understanding of what “ecumenicalism” meant and why it was bad. It was thought that, since each tribe’s “hard borders” were its doctrines, and of course, our slice of the pie is the “right pie”, those whose borders are too far away from our own may not even be in the same country as us. In fact, they might just be our enemies.

In other words, different strands of Christianity were not pictured as separate but intertwining threads, they were seen as some sort of self-contained unit, a closed circle, which a gate (that group’s pet doctrines). To enter that group, you had to cross through that gate. All of this, of course, led to the idea that cooperating with another family of Christians who might have some different beliefs than us (forget whether or not both groups are well within “orthodoxy”, we just don’t like “other) meant shattering our borders and also compromising our beliefs.

This meant that, at least in my city, there has not always been a tremendous spirit of cooperation amongst local churches. In fact, you might even say that some pastors view other churches as competition and might even fit the description: “territorial”.

But I have been joyfully watching a new understanding of ecumenicalism (at least for my context) lead to a new practice of cooperation. Certainly all the churches of Phoenix do not agree on everything. We all have our own approaches and boundaries. But I think that the renewed emphasis of a missional understanding and practice of our faith has led us to give the border guards a break. That doesn’t mean we will sacrifice orthodoxy but it does mean that, in the words of Hirsch, Frost, and others, that we are seeing a willingness to move from a “bounded set” Christianity to a “centered set” faith.

Instead of viewing each of our individual camps as held together by the outer fences that divide us, what if we were all bound together by our mutual dependence on a well? Some may be closer or further from the well and many will come from many different directions, but we’re all heading to the well, which, of course is Jesus. If you and I are both trying to be closer to Jesus and made more like Him, why would I let our differences lead me into believing that we were not heading towards the same goal? What’s more, why wouldn’t I want to help you on your journey?

32358464-four-arrows-pointing-into-the-center Now, before I hear from the curmudgeons that are not me, I am not saying that everyone is a Christian. I do believe that, “Orthodoxy” eventually must have boundaries. That’s what makes one thing “Orthodox” and something else “Un-Orthodox”. For the sake of this conversation, I would point to the Great Creeds of our faith (the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creeds in particular). There are people who are outside of even the widest boundaries of accepted Christianity. But that’s not who I’m talking about.

I am seeing a lot of local Christian churches who once saw each other as closed-off encampments cooperate together without sacrificing orthodoxy. They may grow and mature (which, means, “GASP!” change) by interacting with one another, but as long as they’re all heading towards Jesus, they’ll be the better for it.

It’s encouraging people to see their differences as talking points rather than dividing lines. In other words, “unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things”.

Why Do We Make It So Difficult (03): Emotionalism/Performance, And, “I Don’t Feel Close To God”

Emotional-TradingOver the past week or so I’ve been wondering whether our current system of “American Church” actually makes our fundamental task (Make, Mature and Multiply Disciples) more difficult than it ought to be. We’ve looked at questions like: “What is the Call To Ministry” and we’ve examined why many seemingly qualified men often feel discouraged from ministry as well as the idea that our current system actually promotes passivity rather than active faith.

We’ve also taken a moment to point out that voicing questions/concerns does not mean that I’m bitter in any way. I’m really not. But I am in a place of wrestling with a lot of really big questions which I feel deserve open consideration and public dialogue.

Today I want to consider another issue that I’ve thought a lot about over the years. As you might guess, I wonder if there aren’t many ways in which our current system have actually made following Jesus more difficult than it was meant to be. I’ll be open and say that, though it’s been many years since I’ve read Neil Postman’s essential Amusing Ourselves To Death (seriously, if you haven’t read it, please do so), his notion that “the medium is the message” has stuck with me as I’ve considered American Evangelicalism both as a pastor and church planter.

I have come to wonder whether the very systems we have adopted are actually distracting from discipleship. I believe that one of the main places where we see this disconnect is given birth in our Sunday Gatherings but matures in personal quiet times. Let me explain.

Though there are certainly exceptions, I’ve come to wonder whether American Evangelical “worship gatherings” can be separated from emotional appeals. The very notion of our Sunday gatherings has borrowed so much from the entertainment industry that I’m not sure they can be separated. We borrow our seating structure from entertainment venues, with the “crowd/congregation” seated as spectators and the “leaders” on a stage with cool lighting and a professional speaker. I’ve been to worship gatherings that were indistinguishable from rock concerts and that should be at least a bit disconcerting.

Many people describe their favorite concerts as “religious experiences”. There is something special about losing yourself in the moment to the power of music/crowd/shared experience. But I wonder how much of that we have set out to re-create in our Sunday gatherings. The most famous “worship leaders” are often the ones who can most consistently get an emotional reaction. The most famous preachers are also those who are typically the best public speakers. We have come to believe that the most “effective” worship gatherings are those during which we were most emotionally moved.

This, of course, carries over into the personal Christian Life. We have come to believe that we are most close to God when we “feel” most close to God. Our “most powerful” quiet times are those that are the most emotional. In other words, though it begins with our production/performance based Sunday gatherings, it certainly extends to our personal spiritual disciplines. We have have come to equate spiritual growth with emotional experiences.

I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me as a leader and said that they just “don’t feel moved” in their quiet times, so they must not be “close to God”. I get it. I mean, there are times in marriage when you “feel” closer to your spouse, but (hopefully), your commitment does not waiver when the emotion is not there. Yet, somehow, we have come to believe that our faith is in danger when our emotions aren’t moved.

If the medium is the message, as Postman asserts, then many of the ways we have adopted in following God owe more to American entertainment culture than with genuine faith. If emotionalism can weave and wane in a marriage, surely we will not always have an emotional response in worship or Bible reading/prayer. And I’m not so sure this should be as much of a concern to us as it seems to be.

In fact, the more we equate emotional experience with spiritual experiences (which are, undoubtedly often emotional), we are setting ourselves up for a never-ending cycle of theatricalism in our churches. Once a specific church hits a “dry spell,” many might head to the church down the road who has the “fresh experience”. When we don’t always feel “moved” in our quiet times, we will be tempted to substitute time with God’s Word for time with things that tug on the heart strings.

Many of us have wholeheartedly devoted ourselves to the chase of emotional experience while we hope that spiritual growth will follow. But what if spiritual growth is not always accompanied by emotional experiences? I have grown the most in some churches many would consider “dry” simply because I was regularly encouraged to place myself in an encounter with God’s truth. The speakers weren’t always dynamic nor the music moving but the truth was impressed in my heart.

I worry that by adopting so much of our systems from the entertainment industry, we have communicated that “church” is just another form of entertainment. Hopefully you’ll grow during the performance, but at least you’ll leave wanting more.

It has become so confusing that I have to wonder what it might look like to remove the performance aspect from our Sunday gatherings. Is it even possible any longer? And, while there is certainly an emotional equation to our faith, God’s move will always produce emotional responses in His people, but I’m just not sure that emotional experiences will produce the movement of God. Have we muddied the waters and made it more difficult than it was ever meant to be?