For so many people today, attraction seems to be based on style.
Restaurants have known this for decades, if not centuries: “presentation” makes the meal. Picture yourself being served tough, gristly chicken cordon bleu with the perfect-looking cheese drizzles and a paprika-ginger glaze. Add asparagus (for many of us have grown to like such things, or at least like to look as if we do) and some herbed carrots, and you have a nicely presented meal. You might even have enjoyed an appetizer and been served by an attractive, courteous individual, adding to the style of it all. Yet the core of main course was – see, you’ve already forgotten it, in the blur of all the presentation and style! – tough meat, full of gristle!
Amy Grant is one of the poster children for this presentation phenomenon within popular music: she has always had a strong, distinctive vocal style — and considerable songwriting talent to boot, but a very limited vocal range and quality. What she has offered in terms of visual “presentation” and personality has always been winsome, and the vocal style was convincing. But the core – the actual vocal quality and content – is less worthy.
Not unlike pop singers who offer more style than content, contemporary churches frequently present well, yet have little “main course” that satisfies the soul. Their styles eclipse their “meat,”as it were.
Some months ago, I visited a church in another town and was surprised to find someone we knew leading worship. His style put me off mildly; I thought those mannerisms and verbal clichés had passed from favor ten years ago. But apparently some people still go for it. What he was doing didn’t strike me as particularly “contemporary,” but I think those in his audience felt it was pretty hip.
“Contemporary” is, after all, not static but fluid. Style may well help notably with initial impressions, but it is ephemeral.
If it’s only style, it will pass. And it may even be snickered at. (I know you know people who laugh at Amy Grant.)
The moral goes without saying, but I’ll just state it simply, for the record: major in content, not style, for if you don’t, you’ll be passed over when the style changes.