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8/16/2006

HOW RELEVANT IS RELEVANT?: GETTING WHAT I WANTED

Last time on HOW RELEVANT IS RELEVANT?: SEVEN YEARS AGO I wrote...I tucked my tail between my legs and started praying for wisdom. I admit I confused it with knowledge so I sought it by reading more books - mostly about being relevant, written by big named worship pastors at mega churches and books those pastors recommended at their conferences. But I also spent time with older men and reluctantly asked them to teach me. I was afraid though. I wanted to be wiser without becoming irrelevant like them and the middle-aged guys around that planning table. Relevance was essential to being the Church in the modern world.

I thought.

Until one day...




THE STORY CONTINUES:

I got a record deal. I stopped working at the church and started traveling. And learning.

I learned that relevance, if it was the thing to pursue, must look different than I thought when advocating it in those worship planning meetings. It must not be the best of technology and talent showcased in a cool "neutral" venue and marketed to the masses.

I remember playing the House of Blues and the Fillmore Auditorium and the Greek Theatre with Jars of Clay and Jennifer Knapp. I expected with a bill this relevant, in venues this mainstream, with as much technology and expertise as we traveled with, there'd be non-Christians galore in the crowd. But instead every parking lot was packed with youth group vans. First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist...

Confusing. These concerts, and really Christian concerts for a couple decades before, were exactly what the relevance-seeking church folk like me were wanting Sunday mornings to look and sound like - just with preaching, I mean speaking, added in. Our touring machine had the ultimate lighting rig, the best newest sound system (the first line array on a Christian tour), better musicians and music, mightier fog machines, better visuals, and the biggest screens.

Even more confusing, our tour stops were advertised on rock radio stations and often not on Christian ones. We did in-store events at Borders and not LIfeWay. We played clubs and theaters and coliseums and not churches. But where was the anticipated effect, the pied-piperesque draw on the pagan masses yearning for a more relevant Jesus experience?

What we drew were young Christians with money enough for concert tickets ($45 in some cities) in search of safe Christian-themed entertainment. Night after night. There was nothing cross-over or attractive or evangelistic about it.

After a couple years of big tours and big production I hit the road on my own. Just me and my guitar. And that's when things got even more confusing and enlightening. For instance, there was the day I met my first prostitute...

14 Comments:

Blogger Loren said...

It is scary when you mix business with ministry (sometimes its scary when you mix running a church with ministry), almost a conflict of interest.

I love the book title Jesus CEO ( i have not read it) but I can't help to think that Jesus' business would go broke real fast when he started to give everything away...

8/16/2006  
Anonymous Ryan G. said...

I was there. Good light show. Everyone sang along with every song and we all left with warm fuzzies...

Shoot, we even got to go back stage and meet this rockstar who opened for the concert and found out he was really down to earth.

Who knew...

8/16/2006  
Anonymous euphrony said...

We're still waiting for the rest of the story. Didn't know I was getting in to a serial blog topic.

Honestly, I can't say I overly suprised at the low non-christian turnout (though with the marketing you would expect some).

8/16/2006  
Blogger Kev said...

Yeah--keep it coming. Besides the philosophical angle, I'm enjoying the personal side; it's like catching up on all the years we probablly would've been in touch if they'd had email back in '93...

8/16/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good news: (Or not.) But...Barna says there's not much difference between the people IN the church, and the people OUT of it.

I've been talking with friends a lot about this, about how some Christian leaders/writers/publishers/whatever really have a hip, Seattle-ite, or Manhattan-ite, cosmopolitan "target" in mind. Someone who fits the whole hip archetype.

...and yet, many of the same writers/leaders do not hail from that culture. They're often rural, raised in frontier-traditionalist churches. And the culture they're FROM is the one they'll best understand, just as we now know that nationals make the best "missionaries", not westerners from afar.

So maybe, given Barna's observation, some might say of the unhip church-van riders, "You know, these are my people. They count as much as a postmod Seattle coffee-shop troller. They don't quite get the Kingdom yet, but I know their language, their ways. I know how to disarm them, I know how to push them to the edge -- I *know* them, man. These are my people."

It means surrendering some hipness, but it's kind of where I'm at, anyway. I suspect that not only do people consume things to make them feel better -- marketers pick target markets that make them, the marketers, feel better about themselves. And I see this with some Christian purveyors of relevance.

Anyway, maybe this is where you're going, or maybe not. It's not intended as a comment up or down on how you (Shaun) view the church-van people, because I know for a fact you love and respect them. Just thought your thinking dovetailed with something I've been kicking around with friends...

Sorry long...
Brant

8/16/2006  
Blogger Dave Haupert said...

I think that as soon as an event becomes a ticket-cost type of event, it loses the chance to really reach people who are 'seekers'. The reality is if you're a Christian artist, for the most part, the people who will come to your event that need to hear the evangelistic message or those who were brought by a friend or those who came because, hey- free concert! When you start charging 45.00/ticket for an event because you had to pay to have it at the House of Blues (or some other big name mainstream venue) and bring in all this awesome gear and players, you've now lost the chance to reach either of those cases. Most friends can't afford to spend 45 on their friends' ticket and most people are not going to pay 45/ticket to see a new artist they are not already a fan of.

So then what? There still seem to be some creative ways to make this happen:

- The biggest evangelical response I've seen at a concert was watching the Kry in the early 90s play a free concert on the beach. Of course the church-van crowd came out, but there were tons of people who were on the beach to just enjoy the beach and happened upon this concert. You could tell because they were in bathing suits, not concert tees! And those bikini-bottoms were the ones who came forward during an altar call with tears streaming down their faces. There were several dozen of them like that, and it was such a 'success' that the band was back the next year doing it again with a similar response. I believe they did this in conjunction with Calvary Chapel Ft Lauderdale, one of the biggest megachurches around, so they probably footed the bill for this.

- Of course there are the free events like Luis Palau's beach fests and Extreme tour. Those reach lots of people because they combine the worlds of music, xtreme sports, etc and the key word- free concert. People don't hesitate as much to show up for those whether they are Christ followers already.

- And then of course there is the crossover type artists- the Switchfoots and PODs. They have non-believers come to their shows and even pay 50 bucks a ticket. They may not have an altar call at the show, but surely they plant some seeds and are doing ministry.

I think the key to being relevant to the lost souls is to meet them where they are at (beach/public places, style of music, etc) and eliminate as many of the barriers as possible- factors including cost, travel distance, and even cheesiness would come into play as a barrier. If even one remains, that's all that is needed to constrict the event heavily. But if you can deliver on all those, the great thing is that the message doesn't need to change- the good news is the same good news for every person on this earth!

8/16/2006  
Anonymous tunz4jesus said...

Brant's pretty smart. Don't know him but a lot of what he said is resonnating with some discussions we have been having. No answers here, just questions, like what is my role as a media person in how the body of christ is presented. often Iam embarrassed. my only conclusion so far is that someone who is hip and cool, but does not love, can not serve the body well.

8/16/2006  
Blogger Loren said...

Kinda like donuts at sunday school...

we'll sign up to fatten ourselves...

$$$ to recieve the free gift of God...

We'll pay to save ourselves 10x over...

8/16/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

Awhile ago, we took my teenage boys to the Louisville Skate Park. There were tons of kids there skateboarding, roller blading, bmx'ing, etc and a DJ blaring music...After while, I realized I knew the music! I couldn't figure out what was going on until these guys came out and started doing some sort of trick show, then the DJ announced he was giving away free tickets to the Extreme show that was taking place later that night at another venue. We didn't end up going, as we were leaving town that afternoon, but you wouldn't believe the number of kids lining up to get these free tickets! I'm pretty sure many of them didn't even know they had been listening to CCM all day, and just wanted to go see the guys on bikes do more tricks. Great idea meeting the kids where they are!

8/16/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

So maybe, given Barna's observation, some might say of the unhip church-van riders, "You know, these are my people. They count as much as a postmod Seattle coffee-shop troller. They don't quite get the Kingdom yet, but I know their language, their ways. I know how to disarm them, I know how to push them to the edge -- I *know* them, man. These are my people."

That's where I am NOW and this is the story of how I got there. Thanks for your posting everybody.

8/16/2006  
Blogger Kat said...

Shaun, these to be continued posts must stop! I can't take it. Lately, every blog/site I go to has these dramatic "leave me hanging" posts. Even my sweet husband pointed me to a profoundly interesting article on Jill Carroll (the Christian Science Monitor reporter abducted in Iraq) and I read parts 1-3 of the article for 45...45 minutes only to find out that parts 4-10 haven't been posted yet! Agony.

So, for the sake of all that is right in this world, please stop this torture. :-P

By the way, great comment Brant.

8/16/2006  
Blogger Loren said...

The wise underwhere model...

8/16/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone has a niche.

Brant

8/17/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i have nothing to add to this, cuz I don't know how i feel, but I'm enjoying reading the posts and the comments.

8/17/2006  

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