“Do churches even still have organs?” asked a woman yesterday when I told her about my job.
I was unsurprised by her incredulity, for I am often struck that the work I do for a living is a dying art. My life, it seems, as an organist and writer, centers around such “dying” arts.
Culture and, I fear, the contemporary Church, seem to strive after the “living” arts of the day. I wonder, though, will these prove lasting? Will bright technics, catchy mnemonics, and constant stimulation endure in the way that the supposedly “dying” arts have? Will “me-focused” lyrics, prosperity preaching, and comfort-curated churches create the lasting life that dying to self surely shall?
The practices of traditional worship, orthodox teaching, and Gospel-oriented ministry may be dying in the eyes of the masses, but they are alive and well among those who perceive and pursue the narrow road, those who know that Christianity itself is a dying art. Or, rather, Christianity (not unlike classical philosophy) teaches the art of dying well.
Of dying to self in order to live for others.
Of dying to culture to live for the Kingdom.
Of dying to gratification to live for gratitude.
Most of all, Christianity is about the dying Savior. Death could not hold Him and, through His death and resurrection, we find enduring life. In this, we learn to die to ourselves. In this, even our “dying” arts are renewed with hope.
The old hymns may not be the most popular worship choice, just as the organ and a choir may not pose the most practical instrumentation anymore. However, the time-tested hymns may contribute to lasting formation, the bellows of the organ remain a testament to the powerful breath of God, and the plurality-in-unity of a choir sounds forth the communion of the Church.
Humble and truthful preaching may be less affirming than culture demands, but it is infinitely more assuring, for it reveals the steadfast heart of the Lord. Such preaching may draw smaller crowds, but it remains living and active and, indeed, supremely life-giving!
Gospel-focused ministry, too, may not be as alluring as production value and extravagant events, and yet this is what truly has the power to soften hearts and change lives. A congregational heart for conviction, repentance, forgiveness, and charity will forever be more impactful than a church set on engaging the world on its own terms.
These dying arts may curb the Church against becoming merely a mirror to contemporary culture.
In a similar yet far greater way, the dying Lord saves us from being an image of anything less than our Creator.
Let us immerse ourselves, then, in Christ’s death and resurrection. In doing so, we might practice the art of dying well which, by grace, becomes a fountain of the Living Well.