I Believe (uh, now what?)

I’m gonna start this off by saying that I’ve been listening to politically charged music all day. I’m filled with heavy riffs and angry sentence fragments. Combine that with the rhetoric of social media, the monotony of an auditing project and the pinched nerve in my neck, I’m ready to explode onto this .txt file.

But I’ll do my best to stay contained.

I love politically-charged music. I have a strong and I believe informed political opinion. The problem with most of this music though is that it provides you with a message, presented in a compelling way that may make you question your status quo and change your beliefs, but it generally fails to tell you what to do at that point. It lacks action steps.

“You’re right, Zach de la Rocha, there still is a lot of intense racism in the US. My beliefs are changed! But, uh, what do I do about it?”

Often, new beliefs are fleeting and shaky. My opinion on certain political policies is liable to shift depending on my mood or the company I’m in, but if I commit to doing something about my beliefs, then it is likely to solidify. So, leaders, lyricists, etc., I would ask you what your plan is after the words leave your mouth.

A lot of churches have an awesome message of hope, peace, love and life. We don’t always (often?) do a great job of mobilizing people who are convicted by the message and have faith. The action step seems to be to just listen to more messages and sing more songs (a worthy, but in my opinion, incomplete step). Leaders don’t have the bandwidth to walk beside every single person, so often, people are just left to figure things out on their own…and a lot of people don’t. Friends, we should be working hard to tell people what they should do about their convictions rather than feeling satisfied that they simply had convictions.

Daily, I have convictions that I need to work out more and eat healthier because I believe it is a better way to live my life. My gym and local produce department are happy I have those convictions and beliefs, but they are not fully satisfied until I do something about them. My gym uses programs to make working out easier. They have groups I can work out and computer screens at each station that show my status and improvement. They have made it easier for me to turn my convictions into actions.

As leaders, we are often satisfied when people feel convicted about their beliefs. Shouldn’t we just be pleased while saving satisfaction for when they act on the convictions and tell others about what they did? Isn’t action a more complete expression of belief? I’m not suggesting you need to act to believe, but I think that if you truly believe, you should feel compelled to act. If I really, fully believed my life would be better if I ate better, I would feel compelled to eat better.

My job as a leader is to model action and provide avenues for action.

So, politically-minded bands, since I don’t buy CDs with liner notes anymore, maybe you can start putting epilogues on your songs that tell me what to do with the convictions I feel. Say, “Hey listener, do you believe in what the song just said? Here are some organizations you can volunteer with…” or “Here is how you can call your Congressman…”

On a personal note, I wholeheartedly believe Revolution is a place where people are having convictions regarding their beliefs about God and Jesus, and I feel we are always striving to be better at encouraging people in ways they can act on those convictions and beliefs.

This coming Sunday, we start a new sermon series called I Am Revolution which will discuss the vision of Revolution and how it was created by Revolution’s leaders and supporters acting on beliefs about what the Bible says. Later this summer, we have a series coming called “Dead Faith” based on the book of James. It will explore this topic more, but really, Revolution is a great place, so you shouldn’t wait for Dead Faith.

Now go listed to Boysetsfire.


2 thoughts on “I Believe (uh, now what?)

  1. It’s tricky. With music–and I’d imagine often with sermons, etc.–a nuanced, detailed message rarely makes for a good song. Anthems typically work best when there’s a fairly simple message at the core; in RATM’s case, something like “I dislike authority figures, and they are often deceptive and unethical people that abuse their power.” You can sum that up with “F*** you I won’t do what you tell me” or various other singable/chantable refrains. Those sorts of sentiments and messages also tend to hold up better than “let’s meet for a rally on September 18th at the corner of Main and 4th Street.” It’s hard to get details in without sounding dated. A notable recent exception to that might be Killer Mike’s tune “Reagan,” which drops all sorts of knowledge and history in a pretty radical leftist, almost militant way, without sounding dated: http://youtu.be/6lIqNjC1RKU

    All that to say, I don’t know if there is a straightforward solution to making either sermons or songs more action-oriented. You can sell copies of books by Democracy Now guests at a merch table, or you can sign people up for small groups after church, but neither of those necessarily affect the sermons or songs themselves. Sometimes, just pointing out that there is in fact a problem is enough to get the beginnings of a solution in motion. That’s where so many “awareness” campaigns come from.

    In the Church, action-oriented specificity usually comes through discipleship rather than speeches, which I think is probably how it should be. In punk rock, becoming part of a tight-knit community where people support each others’ DIY activities and look out for each others’ needs is usually the best way to fight the system in the day-to-day sense. Neither of those are glamorous or even feel-good messages, per se–both are messy and difficult some times–but real, sustainable, substantive changes in life typically demand long-term communities with imperfect people who have to make imperfect decisions on limited information.

    I guess what it comes down to is just keeping good company and keeping communication open and frequent. Songs are great pick-me-ups, but the rubber meets the road when you keep at it every day, over and over, with people who are looking out for you.

    1. I agree with you, and you’re comment hits exactly the type of thinking we need to hold onto. If we are creating something that doesn’t expressly provide action steps, we need to be ready to engage those people who want to take action (outside of our creation…song, sermon, etc.). We also need to model action; otherwise those communities just become hangouts and accomplish no growth.

      Hangouts are okay, but they could be so much more. We should strive to be better in all things.

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