I’m not a country music fan. I don’t really know why, but if a country music song comes on the radio I am sure to change the station. However the other day when I was in the car the song “Merry Go ‘Round” started to play. I was about to change the station but the lyrics caught my ear and had a ring of both truth and pain in them. Kacey Musgraves, from the 2007 season of Nashville Star, uses words like many of the lyrically talented rappers of today. Playing with them in order to both catch your attention and make you listen. I find her song to be both a truthful portrayal of small town life as well as small town churches, though the song weights heavily on the latter.
Throughout the song she paints a picture of a town that is holding on to the glory days. They go through the day to day motions, but for the most part are just playing the part. For example, at the start of the song she mentions that “it don’t matter if you don’t believe, come Sunday morning you best be in the front row like your supposed too” indicating what is expected of someone in a small town setting. Though this situation is most likely not necessarily true of only small towns, after living in a small town for most of my life, I can testify that there are unspoken expectations to attend church. I have spoken to a number of people who said that they were “forced to go” to church during their childhood.
So what can Musgraves’ song teach the church? Just because people are showing up doesn’t mean they really believe.
The underlying idea of the song is that all the people are broken. They might attend church and live their lives, but they are not living them to the fullest. They are stuck on temporary things and seem to be just fine with that. There are sins that are not pointed out and repented of ( ex. “Momma hooked on Mary Kay, brother hooked on Mary Jane and Daddies hooked on Mary two doors down”). They are bored and unhappy and only work so they can, as Musgraves puts it, “buy a little more distraction”. The sad reality is that the song isn’t to far off. Many people in rural communities go to church because they feel like they have too. In some cases they have gone so long they have, in some fashion or another, started to believe they are good while at the same time doing the things that Musgraves talks about in her song.
The big idea that churches and pastors should take away from her song is that people need more than just a nice sermon one day a week. They need a community of people that are sold out for Jesus. A group of people that have had their hearts and minds changed by Jesus. A group of people that are willing to call sin out and deal with it. A group of people that understand both God’s wrath and His mercy. If we assume that the people that show up every Sunday believe the Bible and aren’t dealing with some real sin then we are fooling ourselves.
So as Christians we need to never forget that sin is real, people are hurting and simply telling them that we pray for them and inviting them to church isn’t enough. We need to pray that our hearts be continually change by the Holy Spirit so that we can live in such as way as to be Christ to those around us in hope they will come to know Him.