Lessons Punk Rock Can Teach The Church, Part 3
*They’re not in any particular order, and I don’t know how many of these there will be, and I can’t guarantee which days they’ll take place on, so just keep rolling with it, okay?
We live in an age of specialists.
My dentist specializes in cosmetic dentistry.
There’s a position on most major league baseball teams titled “situational lefty.”
Your health insurance company usually requires that you see your “primary care physician” to diagnose your problem and then refer you to someone who can fix the problem.
Mechanics only deal with specific parts of cars.
Computer experts are mostly familiar with specific softwares.
The legal field has very specific focus.
I could go on.
And one of the unintended consequences of this specialization is that you begin to have certain expectations in letting the specialists do the work. For example, my dentist handles the routine teeth-cleaning for my family. Actually, he has an assistant to do that. He spends his days helping people improve the way their teeth look, which can be very meticulous and complicated. So, if everything is good, I might not even see him the day I go in unless he sticks his head in to say “hello.” But if I need a filling, he might get called in because there are shots involved. And, if I needed a root canal, he’s likely to give me a referral to another dentist who does root canals all day every day. Generally, I’m pretty cool with all this. I get it and it mostly saves me from tooth pain–which is one of the worst kinds of pain.
This is fine in areas we can’t do ourselves, like dentistry or law or the medical field. These are fields that require special training and such. But while we depend on them to handle all the detail work in those areas of specialty we tend to ignore the do-it-yourself part of dentistry he recommends like flossing daily or using the special mouthwash that gets in-between the teeth and fights gingivitis and we eat Starbursts and Jolly Ranchers and crunch ice and such.
We do it with all sorts of things. We don’t bother to re-read “Moby Dick” when our kids do (or even scan the Monarch Notes) and chat about it when we have a moment to see what they’re learning. We get lazy with maintenance schedules on our cars (what would we do without that little sticker the oil change place puts in the upper left corner of our windshield?). We let coaches teach our kids the necessary skills and rarely ask that coach what they need to be working on at home. We don’t get the updates unless our computer software reminds us specifically to do it (which might be one of the reasons they have that feature, knowing we won’t bother).
I could go on. You get it.
And we see this in ministry. We have parents who put their kids in our children’s or student ministries and allow the “specialists” to handle that area. Teach ’em the Bible. Teach ’em to pray. Teach ’em to serve. Get them in small groups for discipleship. We’ll go to church and hear the sermon but never talk about any of this to our children and we don’t have time to discuss Scripture with ’em or pray with ’em or get involved in service projects ourselves or go to a minichurch.
And, yes, adult programs in churches mostly focus on communication of information.
But the beauty of the punk movement was that you pretty much had to do everything yourselves. There’s a story that when Bad Religion’s first 45 r.p.m. record was coming out the pressing company didn’t provide paper sleeves to protect them. In a panic, the members went home, carefully unfolded a paper sleeve, laid it out flat, traced the design on another piece of paper, xeroxed 500 copies, cut them out with scissors, Elmer’s glued them, and placed the records in them. While driving the van to the next show, they had magic markers and individually drew designs so they wouldn’t be so plain.
The band members drove their own vans.
They hauled their own equipment.
They had a buddy take up money outside the venue.
They maintained their own instruments.
They drew their own posters and stapled them to telephone poles to promote their shows.
They designed their own art work (which has since become studied in art schools) and logos.
They did their own promotion.
They sold their own records.
They provided their own security.
They even provided janitorial service to some of the clubs they played in trade for playing.
They did it all.
From the first note in the garage until the last note they played together, it was band members and friends and family doing it all together. They affectionately referred to that method is D-I-Y. Do It Yourself. No record companies were behind them at first. No corporate sponsorship. No roadies or sound techs or lighting support. No advisors or lawyers. No arenas or stage movers. No art designers.
You did it yourself. And if you needed some help when you got in over your head and maybe needed guidance in the recording studio or looking over the record deal or your band got big enough to tour then you hired roadies or whatever else you might need.
But almost all the work was done by the band members and their friends.
And what I’m seeing these days is a tremendous amount of dependence in the church on the specialists. Instead of allowing these people to be the assistance-as-needed folks they become the go-to person.
We drop ’em off & let the specialists handle it.
We head to the main service and let the specialists handle it.
We go to the mid-week class and corral our data.
It’s neat and clean and we can get it all done in about 4 hours a week.
When, as I understand it, the Christian life was meant not as a lifestyle but to be our life. It was meant to be lived in community with others who are gifted…
…who are supposed to use those gifts and talents to help the others in our midst grow in their life.
And, oddly, the people that lose out are the people who don’t do it themselves. See, when these old punkers are interviewed about the old days, they always talk about how much fun they had riding in the van with their friends, or staying up all night coloring on paper sleeves or how hard it was getting everyone in the same key or their first time in the studio and how much they didn’t know or how cool it was when their friend showed them the band logo he drew or the photos from their first gig together (even remembering the girl who took it) all the way to how they thought they’d arrived when they signed their first record deal and the lawyer who helped them (and usually, later, ripped them off).
But they did life together…being a part of something that was much bigger than themselves. And their lives were deeper and richer and more rewarded for it. It wasn’t neat and clean and four hours a week. It was their life.
And because of specialization it’s rapidly becoming, if not fully there, a “feed me, Seymour, feed me” kind of life.
Which leads to Christian celebrities…
…which is going to be the next installment.
Have at it, kids.