Friday, April 27, 2007

Thoughts on Worship

I don’t want this to end up a rant – but there are a couple of themes around worship that seem to come up on blogs and in conversation that have been on my mind, and today I ended up discussing them and promised to put something on here!

Both the things I’m going to look at are inter-related, but both are in danger of becoming caricature band wagons for people to jump on to be “cool”.

“We don’t do singing”
The first popular cry is about not singing. I’ve heard Stuart Murray and others make some great well thought out points about singing too much, taking a break from it etc., rooted in good hard thinking about post-Christendom and emerging culture.

But others seem to have jumped on board this no-singing thing.
Yes many churches seem to equate all worship with singing, which can be a problem.
And I have wondered myself whether several prominent worship leaders even have a speaking voice – as the meetings seem to be exclusively a set of songs.
But I do get nervous when Christians say they don’t “get” singing or they wish we didn’t do it. I know that we all express ourselves differently, but there is something about “singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord” which seems to be unique. It’s been a while since I read and thought about this to argue a water-tight case here, but even psychologists will tell you singing is good for you – it lifts you.
And I also don’t buy that whole “men don’t sing” thing either – and even if it were true in wider culture (which it isn’t) that would be no reason to stop singing in church.
I totally agree it should not be all we do, it’s not the only way to worship, but it has a place in the gathering of God’s people I’d be worried if we lost

But all the songs are naff, Jesus is my girlfriend songs
Again whoever first said this was probably making a well thought out valid point – but it’s another thing that is becoming a bandwagon.
I agree that we need reality in our songs. I agree we need to learn to express lament and grief, and pain and hardship. I agree we need to learn the song of exile (Michael Frost has some interesting stuff on songs in Exiles which I need to re-read).
But expressing intimacy and love for God in Jesus and by the Spirit is also important. Of course it should not be all we do. But I think it has a place.
For many of us the charismatic thing and latterly the Toronto blessing stuff, and worship that has come out of those movements, were refreshing, Instead of emotion being separate to faith it could now play a part. “Religious affections” as Edwards would call them were back on the agenda.
Sure the pendulum probably swung too far, and too many songs became about me and my love rather than about God and his mighty power, but this critique is in danger of becoming a cynical dismissal of something which has been helpful to people.

I wonder sometimes in all this if there isn’t a danger of a kind of cultural snobbishness. Or a theological snobbishness. A dismissal of popular forms of church and Christian expression, in the name of being “cutting edge”.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

During the writing of my essay I dipped back in to James Thwaites' Renegotiating the Church Contract.
I actually got more out of it than when I read it previously. Along with The Church Beyond the Congregation it outlines Thwaites' theory that church has been infected with a platonic leaven! A dualism based on the influence of Plato's ideas has led the church away from what it was intended to be. We have become used to the church as "construct" rather than seeing it as the body of believers filling creation. (There is a more substantial review here).
To be honest I think he overstates the case, and neglects Christendom and modernity, putting everything down to this platonic stuff.
But it makes for some interesting thoughts about church.
Couple of quotes:
"For years they have heard sermons that speak of being on the verge of radical change, and nothing has changed. We need to forgive them if they are not moved by the promises in our preaching anymore" (p187).
"most church leaders are too busy looking after meetings in the household to become one with the church as fullness"

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Cliff College assignment has been posted - now I'm at the mercy of the postal system! The next job will be to get my office back into some kind of order, and catch up on the filing (oh joy!).

The question was "Can an inherited church become an emerging church?". To summarise what took me the best part of 7000 words - I think yes, but it's a painful slow journey.
There are some great stories on the Roxburgh Journal about churches that have made the journey to becoming missional. I think we do need people to pioneer new things "on the edge" as it were, but I don't buy into the notion that we should always go for birth over resurrection. I think we need both/and.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Catch up
The weekend saw two 40th Birthday parties (one was a 30th too). Both the guys turning 40 were people I used to do youthwork with. We started some pioneering stuff when we were all in our 20's - and now these 2 are 40! (I've still got a few years to go). Nothing ageist intended! Just scary really, like hearing about young people you used to work with getting married or doing pioneering work themselves.

Last night I was invited to be the speaker at a 20's & 30's service which was cool. Except I'm in assignment writing mode and trying to clear my head to come up with an evangelistic flavoured message proved harder than I thought it would. I kept wanting to analyse everything through the stuff I'd been doing for the course. In the long term that's probably a good thing - but when the clock's ticking and you start de-constructing the basics of faith it can be disconcerting!
Essay deadline is Thursday, so I need to get it in the post tomorrow.


Monday, April 16, 2007

It was good to get some time off!
Easter weekend we were in Devon with Suzie's brother - the pic is Paignton beach on Easter Sunday. We tried to go to the zoo, but the queue was unbelievable!
Since then we were hanging out around home, getting some space, doing stuff around London.
Today is back to work day - although writing my assignment is at the forefront of my mind as the deadline looms...


Thursday, April 05, 2007

From tomorrow I'm officially "off" for a week. Nice.
The plan is to visit people, hang out and chill, although I feel way behind on my college assignment.
Despite being nearby not sure I can get along to Breathe, but if you in Ealing check it out. Went to the thing they did a couple of years ago on creation and it was great.

Anyway Happy Easter - As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.
And my 2nd favourite part of this time of year:

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

At the risk of this turning into a TV blog, Channel 5 ran an interesting show this evening.
"Big Ideas the Changed the World" was about the idea of equality. The show was written and presented by Jesse Jackson. Rev. Jackson started by stating that his ideas about equality were firmly rooted in the teaching of Jesus. He then went on to chart a history of Black Americans, and finished by briefly looking at other areas and issues around equality.
It was a timely programme, with all the stuff about the 200 anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade laws, and the day before the 39th Anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.
One quote:
"Those in power always find some one to justify a have/have not system"

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Louis and the preachers
Louis Theroux is a legend as a documentary maker, and last night he tackled some full on strange American "Christians". You can catch some clips here, interview here.
The Phelps run Westboro Baptist church, and their message seems to focus on "fags" and God's hatred. They protest at funerals, street corners and wherever they can to proclaim God's judgement.It made me wish the progamme was an April fools joke, but it was all too real.
Wikipedia here and here has masses of stuff.
Anyway Louis did a good job niggling away at them and I think you could see some doubts bubbling for some of the members when he questioned them.
Just a shame we can't stop them using the name Baptist (or Christian)!

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