So I went to a Chris Tomlin worship concert last night, on Ash Wednesday. No mention of the ancient rite or the beginning of this repentant season that Christians have been practicing for centuries, though. Not that I expected there to be. It just would have been a nice surprise.
I think the fact that this and many other church year festivals are largely ignored in a non-denominational, Evangelical setting like this one is largely the fault of the mainline, highly liturgical denominations. For us, ecumenicity (working toward unity among different Christian traditions) usually means common mission with Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and the like. Often “Christian unity” is determined more by political lines than by the gospel, and the traditions between whom it would really be helpful to have dialogue remain mutually exclusive. We would have much to learn from one another. We could share the gifts of the ancient liturgical traditions and perhaps a more holistic understanding of the gospel, and they could teach us about a passion for worship and for the gospel that is often missing in our churches.
Sure, some of the songs last night were overly focused on the believer’s individual commitment to God, and every once in a while there was a song so full of worship clichés that I couldn’t help but laugh. But the most pivotal moments of the concert left no doubt that the Gospel of Jesus Christ ransoming sinners from the grave was front and center. To that, we can and should say “Amen.”