This past weekend I spoke on the phone with my mother, she was telling me all about their trip to New Orleans for the national SBC convention. I would’ve liked to go myself to hear the arguing over a microphone or hear all the discussion over Calvinism that has recently erupted, or speak my opinion of the heretical nature of the “sinner’s prayer” but I stayed home instead to spend time with my family and attend to other matters. (Authors note: Still no response from the Warren camp. Am I surprised…no) Though I normally listen with only good humored natured interest to my mother on the phone, something she said really sparked my interest and I believe that there is a truth that the Church should examine.
My mother told me (seems like there’s a song in that phrase somewhere) that whilst in “N’Orleans” they (they being my father and their friends from Muncie) went to and heard something called the “Preservation Hall Jazz Band” she told me that to listen to this band people from all over line-up outside hours ahead of time, they would cram themselves into this tiny room that only had a few wooden benches for seats, the building has no AC (and the heat in New Orleans wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the 95% humidity most of the time) and not only that but they PAID and admission price ($15…apparently quite the bargain) and all listen to this Jazz band play traditional New Orleans Jazz (apparently Dixieland Jazz is not the same…fyi. You can find more information about it here.) I was astounded…with all the popularity and the importance of traditional New Orleans Jazz this place had people cram themselves into this little hall with uncomfortable conditions just to hear good jazz.
Do they change the style of music to make “more appealing to a broader audience”…No.
Do they change the venue to make it “as comfortable as possible”…No.
Do they expect that if you go you are going to hear traditional music, played the traditional way, by musicians, most of whom only formal training is that of being mentored by another musician…Yes.
Is there a lesson for the Church, especially the church in America, here…Yes.
Surely these peripherals are what the early church looked like. (Not only the early church but what so many churches around the world still look like.) The same early church that is so praised among so many as being the “true” church. People go to church to hear the one thing they can’t get anywhere else…the gospel. Too many churches take the focus off Christ when they start worrying about the amenities of how comfortable people are or how to reach a broader audience. Pastors, church leaders, Church Planters if you want to take your cues of how to “do church” from a secular source…take them from the New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band, it seems like they understand a fundamental that you are overlooking…Amenities don’t matter as much as the pure, unadulterated message does, be it traditional New Orleans Jazz or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.