Rigmarole: 1. Confused or meaningless talk.
I think that is certainly a great description of the comments made regarding "holy hip hop" by a recent panel of "experts" at the recent Worship of God conference sponsored by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. (wow, that's a long sentence!) Let me say up front that while I'm not affiliated with the NCFIC in any official way, I have appreciated much of what they've done in bringing family back to the center of church life. And I have a lot of respect for many of the leaders associated with the group. But they really missed this one.
The question was asked to the panel about whether the recent popularity of "reformed rappers" was a good thing in the church; their opinions about "reformed rap" in general. No names were really given of which rappers they were discussing. One man did mention Toby Mac, who really isn't a reformed rapper at all. I'm assuming they meant folks like Lecrae, Flame, Shai Linne, Json, etc. Anyway, the comments that came as a result are laughable at best, and downright unChristian at worst.
Arguments ranged from "you can't separate the music style from the culture it came from" to "this might be ok for young guys, but it doesn't lead to maturity." None of the arguments given were backed with good biblical support. One comment went so far as to call these musicians "disobedient cowards." Wow! That's a kind, redemptive kind of thought, isn't it?
The reaction to this has exploded on the internet. One of the panel has even issued an apology...of sorts. It's more of "I'm sorry you were offended" rather than "I'm sorry for what I said." I am glad to see many come to the defense of the good, godly brothers who have been maligned here. (I especially like this one from Bob Schembre, and this one from none other than Al Mohler.)
I also had this wonderful defense come to mind. I've written about this subject several times, actually, dating back as far as 2009. But then I saw this comment on social media from Mike Leake. He said (with great sarcasm): "I'm overwhelmed by the # of earth-shattering, Christianity-changing debates being had on the internet, & yet few in local church even know." Ouch. I get the point. Most folks in the local church will never know about this "rigmarole." And in the end, it may not ever have much impact on the local church. (I know it's not much of a discussion in my own church (probably because I'm the only one who listens to the stuff or even know it exists!).
So I withhold my awe inspiring response and defense of my guys Flame and Lecrae. Except to say this. My Sunday School class has been studying the book of Galatians using Timothy Keller's Galatians for You. In the lesson we looked at just this past Sunday, he says this. "Gospel ministry is culturally flexible. A ministry that's energized by the gospel is flexible and adaptable with everything apart form the gospel. It is not tied to every specific of culture and custom...One of the marks of a legalistic, works-righteous mindset is that it is inflexible, and obsessed with details. Such a person wants the converts to dress and act 'just like us.'" (emphasis in the original)
I can't help but think the folks from the NCFIC panel could have used a little of that wisdom. I pray that this does not increase the divide that already exists in many areas of the church between "us" and "them." I hope there isn't a reaction from the urban missionary types against those promoting family integrated ministry because not all of us feel the way this panel does. And I hope in the end we are all more concerned with reaching folks with the gospel than we are with making them "just like us." And I hope that someone will have the guts to step up and genuinely apologize for the "confused and meaningless talk" that came from that panel.