August 17, 2006

CD Review: Stephen Langston

I originally published this over at Blogcritics, but I think that the readers of this blog will be interested in this CD. I think it will be a worthwhile addition to your CD collection.

When I heard that Stephen Langston's EP was an "alternative Christian" release, I had something specific in mind. Relient K, perhaps, or something in the Tooth and Nail tradition. Alternative as a genre is pretty well defined.

But stylistically, Langston has more of a Michael Card meets Glass Harp sound. You can hear the classic rock influences throughout the CD, especially in "Behind The Scenes," which only makes sense as Langston lists Grand Funk Railroad, Cream, and the Beatles among his early influences. So where is the "alternative Christian" sound?

Langston is striving to provide an alternative to popular Christian music in general — a genre that has become as over-commercialized as its secular counterpart. At a time when popular Christian music seems to be revisiting the "If you like Motley Crue, you'll like Stryper" days, Stephen Langston is creating music, not copying someone else's style. While you can certainly hear his influences, the way he puts those influences to work is completely unique.

And then there are the lyrics. Back in the day, you could measure how "Christian" a song was by tracking it's JPM (Jesus Per Minute). The more often Jesus was mentioned, the more Christian the song was supposed to be. But Langston's lyrics are much more spiritually mature — there's no preaching, and you won't be knocked over the head by a Bible when you listen.

But you can tell that it's Christian music. Lyrics like "Yeah the force of water is a powerful thing/A symbol of the power and the force of the King ... So dip me in the water — Cleanse me in the water" from "It's A Powerful Thing" are pretty clearly Christian, but there's no bumper sticker sloganeering here. This is a faith that's meant to be lived, and shared, not plastered on the back end of your Ford.

At a time when so much of what passes for Christian music is incredibly shallow lyrically (and usually theologically as well) and derivative musically, Stephen Langston is a breath of fresh air. Singer/songwriters like him are reclaiming the heritage of Christian music, and providing a great alternative to cookie-cutter music in the process.

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The Mistake

If you listen to Stacy Harp's podcast, you know I'm a Mark Dever fan. I've been devouring his Message of the Old Testament (which I will review here soon, promise), and the 9Marks site has been a real benefit to me lately. So when I saw a post by him titled "Southern Baptist Mistake," I was more than a little curious. more...

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August 13, 2006

The Vote is In

... and I have been called. I am the pastor of Fairlawn Baptist Church in Dunbar, West Virginia.

I'm still a bit numb. Earlier this year, I spoke repeatedly at a church near here, and was sure they were going to vote me in as pastor at any time (in fact, I stepped down as Books editor at Blogcritics in anticipation). Never happened. I'm still not sure I was ever actually voted on.

So I'm not sure I ever really thought about the vote happening. And now it has, and I'm there. We're going to stay in Ohio until the end of September, when the baby is due (a boy!), and then move. I've got to give notice at my job, and then I'm going to commute a couple times each week.

And I've got to find some work there, since I'll be bivocational (at least to start). Shouldn't be a problem -- schools always need good substitute teachers, after all.

I appreciate all your prayers, and will need them now more than ever.

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August 12, 2006

And a Week Later

sigh.

Blogging seems to be something that I'm doing when real life isn't intervening. And real life has been all over me lately.

I've been working a new job (I sorta mentioned that before). I get up at 4 in the morning, leave by 5, and get home after 6 in the evening. NOT much blogging time left in that, when you factor in eating and sleeping.

PLUS -- last Sunday I preached a trial sermon at Fairlawn Baptist Church in West Virginia. Tomorrow they vote on whether to call me as their pastor. It's a small church, and I'll be bi-vocational at least to start with if I end up going (and if they call me, I'll go. That much is clear to me right now). So I'm stealing time here and there to blog, until I get a firmer schedule worked out.

I would appreciate everyone's prayers. I find out tomorrow at about 1:30 what the results of the vote are, so I'm a bit ... distracted today.

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August 05, 2006

Greg Boyd and Politics

So everyone is going nuts over Greg Boyd and his statements concerning Christians and politics.

Never mind that the sermon series in question was delivered in 2004 (Church Marketing Sucks picked it up almost a year ago, and it was old news then). It's news because a "mega-church" pastor lost 1,000 members over what he said, but anyone familiar with Greg Boyd would know that he's not worried about building a big church -- he's more concerned about ministry than numbers for their own sake.

It's news because mega-church pastors aren't supposed to work that way. Mega-churches are built based on modern marketing campaigns and catering tot he whims of everyone who might attend, supposedly. But Boyd's church bucks that trend.

I've written about Christians and politics before. I tend to agree with Boyd that modern Christians put a lot of faith in the political process, and forget that Jesus saves, not Washington. Legislation can change society temporarily (as we saw during Prohibition) but Christ can change people permanently, and impact society one life at a time. That's the way we need to work.

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