I grew up with two kinds of music in my household: 1950’s rock and roll from my dad and the Gaither Vocal Band from my church.  I loved the Southern Gospel of the Gaithers as a kid.  Honestly, its kinda nostalgic to listen to these days.  But, I was reminded recently of this song by the Gaither’s called “Build and Ark.

I am not sure if you’ve ever heard of this song, but here are the lyrics (video is at the end of the post):

Build an ark
Head for the open water
Save your sons and your daughters
Build an ark
Build an ark
When the storm is ended
You’ll know the world has been mended
Build an ark

I’m tired of all the villians
Tired of all the killins
Tired of the men who make the laws
And break them any time they please
I’m tired of all the big lies
Where are all the good guys?
Sometimes I think I feel the way
That Noah did when the Lord commanded…

Repeat Chorus

My father and my mother
My sisters and my brothers
All of the friends I care about
And the woman that I’ve learned to love
I’ll gather them together
Promise them forever
We’ll be safe from the world around us
All we have to do is to love eachother

Repeat Chorus

Let’s gather them together
Promise them forever
We’ll be safe from the world around us
All we have to do is to love eachother

Now, the music is quite catchy (at least it was when I was a teenager) but a few years ago I was taken back by the lyrics.  They are actually fairly scary and give a good picture of some issues I have with how we approach mission in evangelical America.

The message in this song seems to be simple:  “The world is going to hell in a hand bag and we’ve got to huddle together so we’re not contaminated by it while we wait for God to come back and take care of business.” (It’s possible that I am reading this wrong, but I don’t think I am).

I believe it was the Essences (The Dead Sea Scrolls) who thought that they could bring in the Kingdom by separating themselves from the world and making themselves holy.  This song depicts the same approach and brings to light the important issue of the challenge of the relationship between the church and the world. 

I have argued elsewhere from John 17 that our relationship with the world should be one that is, “in the world as set apart and unified.”  The fact is, we can’t completely disengage from the world. We live here.  There is no getting beyond that.  This is our home.  So, when we talk about not being in the world we have to talk about how we engage the world that we have no choice but to live in.

We have two choices then, to either huddle together and leave the world to itself or engage it and seek to be a community that is set apart because of the person of Jesus Christ.  This is what Jesus did is it not?  He came into the mess and lived among the mess (you know, the prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, etc.) and spoke hope into hopelessness. I’m convinced that we are called to be a Community (yes, capital C) of hope that does its best to live out today what the world will be like in the future (when God makes all things new).

I tend to think that the “holy huddle” is one of the worst things we could ever do as we seek to be the church in and for the sake of the world.

Of course, being part of the world is messy.  It’s hard.  The lines are often fuzzy.  It’s dangerous even. But, I tend to think that this is the reason Jesus prayed, “Protect them from the evil one.”  He was assuming that we would actually need to be protected from something.  To use battle imagery (which I don’t always like to do):  If we never enter into battle, we don’t have to be protected from anything.   Protection assumes danger.  I think far too often we put our churches as far away from danger as possible.  Yes, danger it a scary place to be and there can be casualties… you know, like God himself, dying on the cross…

“If anyone chooses to come after me he must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me…”

Yes, that sounds dangerous doesn’t it?

I just don’t think the best approach is to build an ark…

God has called his people to be blessed and to be a blessing. It’s hard to be a blessing when you are huddled together among yourselves.

(Now, I hope you don’t take this as angry post. I’m actually not mad at all and I’m definitely not hating on the Gaithers. I just so badly want to see the Church engage the world in a radical way. I think this is just one practical example that helps us look in the mirror a bit. Hey, when I am home with my brothers we sometimes throw on the Gaither’s for old time sake. It’s fun stuff and I believe they are worshiping God with all their heart. Heck, I don’t even know if they wrote this song and I know they aren’t the only ones who sing it. I feel like this song is part of my story so that’s why I feel okay critiquing it here).

So, here’s a version of the song…