It has been almost a month since my friend Ryan Byrd wrote a blog post about Dan Haseltine and Jars of Clay leaving the evangelical church behind. I saw that he had posted it and I wanted to read it, but I got caught up with my own life and all that was going on there. For those of you who don’t know there were two big events that happened in the two weeks before his post. The first was that I got married on the 25th of August and the second was that 5 days before Ryan wrote his post my office burned up in a fire. Needless to say I was a bit slow in getting everything back on track.
Between his writing the post and me reading it I was able to go to the David Bazan concert at Eikon (thank you once again Ryan). If you don’t know who that is, he was known to the Christian community as Pedro the Lion until he left the evangelical church and Christianity behind. This was not a normal ‘concert’ for me. It was a small setting with less than 50 people in the room. Bazan was playing a bass guitar like it was an electric guitar, complete with capo and pick. His bass player was playing electric guitar during the show. It was just the two of them with their guitars and mics.
About every third song David Bazan would ask if anyone had any questions. There was a group of guys sitting on the floor right in front of him. One of them had several questions, but the one that caught my attention was when he asked him what was up with him? What had really happened with him leaving Christianity and had he really broken up with God like people said after his breakup album. Had ‘Curse Your Branches’ really been about him breaking up with God? Bazan responded more candidly than I ever expected someone in his position to respond with. He was honest and open about the fact that he had come to a point in his life where he had to search out some answers. He had taken things for granted that he had been told his whole life, but he fully expected to find in the end that everyone had been right and it was all true. According to him, that is not what he found. He found that he couldn’t get the answers he was looking for and had to be honest with himself and walk away from what he had been taught.
I am not quoting him word for word and if you really want to know what Bazan thinks you just need to read the lyrics to his music. He is amazingly talented and has a lot of influence on a lot of people. That same thing can be said for Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay. The journey he is on seems to be a bit different from Bazan’s, but it is headed in a similar direction. He is leaving the evangelical church behind and is making music about real life experience.
Dan Haseltine wrote a blog post called An Unfinished Record; An Uncharted Path that you can read if you want to read. From what it sounds like, he had a similar upbringing to my own. He went to youth group, wore the Jesus t-shirt, and lived all that goes along with that. Somewhere along his path things changed and he had this to say:
“God gave us a story, and a space to fill. And it isn’t really in the same neighborhood as the evangelical church. And so our music will be disappointing to many. People will inevitably engage us with the question, “Are you going secular?” or, “Why don’t you sing about Jesus?” or, “How come you don’t share the gospel?” And some of those people will be angry. Some of them won’t have the tools necessary to understand that anger, or the fear that creates it. Some people will see our form of artistic expression as a threat. Some will categorize us as “back-sliders.“ I wish I had more patience and time for those people.”
His music is taking a turn that leave the evangelical church behind. Now I don’t know about you, but Jars of Clay has been one of those bands that has always been around in ‘Christian music’. They have songs that I know and hear even if it is not something I knew was their song. People remake their songs and worship leaders sing them in youth groups across the country. Now they won’t be singing about Jesus…or at least not in the way that most people expect them to be singing about Jesus. So what does that mean? How do men like this just drift away from the church? How do they begin to see the church as something that is no longer answering the questions that they have in life?
In another part of that same blog post Dan says this:
“These songs are honest expressions of what life around us looks like. The descriptions of love and pain, loneliness and hope are real to us. It is what frustrates me about the general church audience. If artistic expressions do not have an evangelical agenda, or they don’t explicitly cheer for Jesus, they tend to fail commercially. In my experience, the music with those kinds of agendas is shallow and somehow not ultimately believable to me.”
This is one of the things that I have heard from people who are not associated with the church and even from some in the church. They don’t think that what we call ‘Christian music’ and what we now call the church are honest expressions of what life around us looks like. They say Christians are out of touch. Is that what is happening? Are we losing the pulse of people? Are we missing the mark or is this just a blip on the radar? I have been reading some books that lead me to believe that we are losing more people both in the church and outside the church than a lot of us are willing to admit.
To say that there is nothing good coming out of the church today would not be accurate. There are a lot of hurting people being helped in a lot of areas. There are also a lot of people doing things that ultimately hurt other people. I think one of the problems that we run into is that people try so hard to act like they are perfect so they can be in the right ‘position’ to help others that they ultimately lose sight of what is really important. People are what is important. Jesus said we were to love God and love our neighbor as ourself. He didn’t say we had to love our church and those in our church while not worrying about what is going on outside the walls of our churches.
So I would say that we have some things we need to work on, that I think we can all agree on. My question is simply what is it that is driving away so many people who are looking for answers? Now I know that a lot of you who will read this are not Christians, but you all know that I am a Christian. I want answers, but I want it to be civil. I don’t need people bashing the church or Christians specifically or in general. I want to know what you think about Bazan and Haseltine walking away from God and the evangelical church (depending on which one you are talking about.) I want to know what you think is causing the exodus.