One of the most popular rock bands in American History is Van Halen. While very popular for their music, they become notorious for their rider. A rider is what a musician will send to the venue before they arrive dictating what exactly they need from the venue in terms of set-up, backstage preferences, etc. Van Halen’s rider marked them as prima donnas because they insisted that their dressing room have a bowl of M&M’s with all the brown ones removed.
There was a foundational reason behind the request. Van Halen’s management group cautioned them on the size of their production. During Van Halen’s rise to fame, rock bands typically traveled with three semi-trucks. Van Halen needed nine semi-trucks because of the size of their production. The weight of their equipment and the electric load were much greater than what most venues had previously handled. Thus they needed to know that the venue was able to handle the size of the production. The concern was not merely about pulling off a concert; an unprepared venue could cause a dangerous scenario.
So to check and see if the venues possessed a culture of preparation, this statement was subtly placed in their rider: Absolutely no brown M&M’s. David Lee Roth of Van Halen wrote in his autobiography that if he walked into a venue and the brown M&M’s were still in the bowl, he would order a line check. Ad he would find the venue was not prepared. The existence of the brown M&M’s, though small, revealed a greater cultural problem. The brown M&M’s were a symptom of a much deeper problem.
When the apostle Paul discovered that the relationships at the church in Galatia were being built on external issues such as circumcision, he knew it pointed to a deeper problem – a deviation from the gospel (Galatians 2:14). When Paul was concerned about the level of giving among Corinthian Christians, he went to the deeper issue – their remembrance of the gospel (II Corinthians 8:9)
As Paul did with those churches he served, church leaders must continually look at the culture of our churches to ensure everything we do is rooted in who Jesus is and what He has done for us.
In conjunction with our book Creature of the Word and to help church leaders audit the culture of their churches, Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and I are inviting church leaders to begin a monthly audit, a monthly self-evaluation. Beginning in January, we will be posting a point of focus each month on the Creature of the Word webpage inviting church leaders to look at one aspect of their culture through the lens of the gospel. We will pose some questions and do our best to equip you to look at the culture of your church. We are calling it “The Creature of the Word Church Campaign.” It is a time for us to think through how our churches can be more centered on Jesus in all that we do. It will be private, just for you and your leadership team to think through, to wrestle with the implications for your church.