Home > Uncategorized > Jeremy Camp, David Bailey, GCC, and PTS

Jeremy Camp, David Bailey, GCC, and PTS

So tonight we took a youth group trip to Grove City to see Jeremy Camp, with opening acts from Tree63 and Bethany Dillon.  Now, before I start any of my comments I need to put a few disclaimers on my comments.  First, I really like Jeremy Camp.  I like his music, and I like his message.  There are a number of Christian artists out there now who are producing songs with some decent depth and theological integrity, and Jeremy Camp is one of them.  As I was sitting there tonight though watching the show, something didn’t fit right.  

One of the things that Camp talked about was how after he had gotten into music and had his big record deal he lost the simplicity of faith and life.  One of the eighth graders in our group leaned over to me and said, “How does one talk about living simply while standing on that set?”  (The set was full of lights, screens, speakers, etc.  You can see pictures here) In the book, Stories of Emergence, Tony Jones tells the story about his experience as a youth pastor and organizing a big Christian concert at the church he served.  .  I thought her question was quite a good one, and reminded me of Tony’s story where he realized that his reasons for wanting to have a big concert weren’t authentic.  So the question for me throughout the night was this: Does Jeremy Camp’s elaborate set take away from his message?  I think for me, and at least two of the members of our group it did.  It seemed excessively showy and more performance-oriented than Gospel oriented.  Now, it needs to be noted that I am sure that I was in the minority there tonight and a lot of people didn’t think his set detracted, but rather added to his message, and I can see that point of view also.  

What’s authentic then?  Was what I saw tonight a case study in what some parts of the Emergent church are trying to get away from?  I remember my favorite concert in college was from David Bailey.  David is a Grove City alum and brain cancer survivor.  He officially is a folk singer and his music as a simple, plain, and has an “authentic” message, at least to me.  He performed in the chapel, sitting on a stool, with a guitar and a harmonica – that was it.  No lights, to screens, just he, he and his two instruments.  It was really beautiful.  

Again, I’m sure for a lot of people there was no doubt of Jeremy Camp’s authenticity, and for what its worth I would say he’s a genuine Christian.  But to me there was something lost in the “showiness” of it, that’s all.  

On another note, I had the chance to go back to Grove City tonight in a very different capacity than I ever had before.  In the past I had been there just as a visiting alum.  But tonight, over two years removed from graduation, I really had a chance to see the college in action again.  In many ways I felt like at Grove City I was home again, after all, everyone looked like me, and everyone there was for all intents and purposes a Christian.  Yet at the same time, it reminded me of something that I could never quite put my finger on that bugged me constantly during college: Grove City is a giant four year spiritual retreat.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love Grove City College.  It is far from the perfect college, but for me it was the best fit, and I would not be where I am today and would not have made it as far as I have without Grove City, both the academic and social aspects.  But Grove City always seemed to me to be a little too perfect, life as a Christian at Grove City was a little too easy.  As I was there tonight just listening to Jeremy Camp and watching students I was reminded of how spiritually empowering a place Grove City can be.  Yet I was also reminded of how, again, showy sometimes it can be.  

See, part of it is where I moved afterwards.  When I came to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, it was in many ways a huge let down for me after Grove City.  Unlike the passion and zeal that one found at Grove City, as I slipped back into the world of mainline reality here at seminary it was a hard fall.  As anyone who was at chapel this year when we did a little “contemporary” music can attest, most seminary students aren’t movers and shakers and clappers.  This was a huge contrast for me, who came from a college full of clappers, movers, shakers, dancers, etc.  At the same time, starting at PTS gave me a much more realistic view of my faith and the line of work that God has called me into.  All the sudden I wasn’t in safe secure Grove City, I was living close to East Liberty in Pittsburgh.  Now, not to be melodramatic, our campus is absolutely safe.  We have a large metal fence surrounding us and violence on campus isn’t a problem.  But, it is different than Grove City when you probably don’t want to walk off campus alone at night.  All the sudden I was surrounded by Christians who had lived through the ups and downs of life and who knew a lot more about suffering than I did.  And, all the sudden I was in a church, working away in youth ministry, dealing with the reality check that that brings.  

So which one seems more authentic?  Well, oddly both.  I love the passion and joy that I witnessed tonight at Grove City.  Yet, the reality that I’ve faced since Grove City (which is still a really cushy life) has helped me realize that the superficial happy Christian face that Grove City often puts on just isn’t realistic.  Again, it’s like a four year spiritual retreat.  

This summer at Camp, our “official song” was from Bebo Norman entitled Walk Down This Mountain.  Speaking of God, he writes “God is walking down to where the masses are” and he is dead on.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his little class “Life Together” points out that the place for the Christian is not amongst his friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, but amongst his enemies.  I think that may be Grove City’s chief weakness, is that it just fails to present any sense of the real world because it is so separated from the world.  At the same time, that separation can often provide an empowerment that allows people to leave Grove City transformed and renewed for God’s service in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible in most places.  

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for one night.  If I’ve offended you I apologize, its rather late for me to be writing and how I express things may not be quite what I really mean, etc.  

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