Is this Karaoke?

When the band put their song lyrics on a projection screen for everyone in the room to read, Lizzie was quite rightly, a little confused.

Last week I was visiting Birmingham, encouraging church leaders and student workers to keep engaging with the thousands of students that move into their city (only rivalled by London in size), every year. In the evening, I invited my old Uni mate Dan, and old school friend Lizzie, to join me at an event held at a pub in the heart of the student housing zone of Selly Oak.  This event was put on by some guys who are passionate about creating community and inviting any and every student to join in too, the whole thing inspired and fuelled by their Christian faith.

My friend Lizzie doesn’t “do” church and wouldn’t say she has a particular interest in faith. So when we sat down at the event, and a band got up to play, she thought it might be some kind of open mic night. The group played a Kings of Leon number, and Bryan Adam’s classic, ‘Summer of 69’, and yet rather confusingly for Lizzie, they had a big screen up with all the song lyrics on it during their performance.

Now, to the well-trained “Christian eye” (an uncomfortable concept), words on a screen whilst someone leads the singing is standard church practice. Nothing unusual about that right? But for Lizzie from the church of “majority of UK graduates”, she immediately assumed she was at a Karaoke night: “Shall we pick a song to sing too?” came her response when the band began, “…unless the words are up there because the singer forgot to learn them?” was her closely-followed second thought.

Admittedly, at the time I laughed. Later I explained why they’d projected the song lyrics, and about introducing stuff that happens in church to people who aren’t used to church at all. But it has got me thinking.

Students, would your mates know what to expect if they came with you to church? Could you explain why we do what we do in church to a mate like Lizzie, who has never come across that kind of stuff before?

If we think knowing Jesus is life to the full, and we want to invite our mates to be part of that, we need to also be prepared to answer the question, “Is this Karaoke?” Because if the church becomes alienating, and exclusive to those who have been bred to understand “special church culture”, we’ve missed the point when Jesus said,

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11: 9- 10).

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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