Singing is an odd thing to do. At least, it is in this day and age.
Of course we sing lots in private, or vicariously through our pop stars, and some people enjoy choirs but they are a minority. But these activities just make it all the more apparent that only the skilled are really allowed to sing in public. Most of us would dream of singing in the presence of others and would be embarrassed if someone did it in ours.
When it comes to the church, we’re in another one of those funny positions. Many’s the time I’ve read the comment that Christianity was birthed in song and that this was a distinguishing mark of Christianity, its inherent freedom and joy. Rarely do you hear any question raised in Christian circles about the place or value of music and signing.
Given all of this, several things occurred to me yesterday. Firstly, the modern worship service has evolved from the same sense of modern embarrassment noted about singing above. This could be partly why the contemporary worship looks so much like a rock concert. A rock concert is one of the few places where we feel freed to sing – partly because the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself or anyone else singing. Oddly enough, this makes the modern worship service individualistic because your singing is essentially for your own pleasure and affects minimally those around you. Of course, a rock concert is a great community event, as is a contemporary worship service, and in many concerts the microphone is turned on the audience for the great sing-along moment. But this is an exception: you’re not going to the concert to sing to each other and listen to each other – you’re going to listen to the artist.
But, secondly, here’s the thing. Granted we still have this sense of the oddness of singing, would it still not be better for singing to be genuinely corporate, where your participation matters – following the 1 Corinthians 12 paradigm to which we keep coming back. If this is true, then we need to hear each other sing and we need to realise that this is more important than the professionalism or quality of our worship leaders. This is because we sing as a body – at every point we remember that we are a community and not merely a gathering of individuals.
Even now more thoughts are popping into my head: if we listening to each other when we sing, how does that relate to God. Are we ever properly singing to God or each other. Are our songs prayers (individual or corporate?) or more akin to teaching where we tell each other truths? Perhaps we need a study of the variety of the Psalms, but that needs a discussion of the connection between Old Testament worship language – easily used – and language that would be appropriate for us as the body of Christ.
But that’s enough for starters.
In the the last post I began to pull together some thoughts with regard to NYNO’s form of worship.
But worship is only aspect of NYNO’s identity.
Worship, community, discipleship, spirituality and mission – and maybe others too – are all areas in which we need to experiment and monitor and report.
It’s going to be helpful – for ourselves but also for speaking to funders – to be a little more structured in our planning for our research. And research is a good word to describe what we will be doing: introducing new ideas or ways of being church, practising them and evaluating them. We want to be able to say at the end of a period of experimentation, ‘We wanted to achieve this end, so we tried this and it worked/didn’t work for the following reason.’
So perhaps I need to return to my first year aims and objectives document and begin to split out some of the different tasks that lie ahead. We can’t do them all at once, but to choose the best one to start with we need to have thought what the others might be.
NYNO worship must be spiritually dynamic. By this I mean that something has to happen when we meet together – there must be an interaction or engagement with God, or better still we have to receive from God.
Here is a little theory. If we are arguing for kinds of music or style of worship, we may have missed the point.
If we were receiving from God when we met together, while we might prefer certain styles of worship and dislike others, our engagement with God would trump all other priorities. Surely?
And so while we may not like a certain form of worship, if we’re not receiving from God, changing the form, altering the music, is not going to make us happy. It might keep us content for a while, but it’s not what we need.
So, NYNO needs to work on identifying the constituent elements of a service, of a meeting of God’s people. For each part, we need to ask how God relates to us, and how we should seek to relate to him. Week in and out we need to be meeting with God together and realising this.
And hopefully, by doing this, those who come to us and stay with us will know they are an indispensable part of God’s people and that when we meet we are helped – however that may be – to continue to be the people God has called us to be.
As a little preliminary plan, things about which I hope to eventually collect a few thoughts:
- A basic reading and thoughts about classic forms and elements of liturgy.
- The Word.
- The Sacraments.
- Prayer: public and private.
- Corporate singing.
- Some thoughts on Scripture’s direct references to public meetings and worship.
- Westminster Directory.
- Maybe a little Robert Webber.
- The contemporary worship service.
- Stockethill’s ‘Giving God his proper place’.
- All in all, a Trinitarian theology within which worship finds its place.
Two posts (and lots of comments) that deal with a preacher accusing the majority of the elderly as being ‘luke-warm’ in their faith.
The best criticisms – I think – that get levelled against the preacher are that he is generalizing, that his video lacks grace, that often our youth ministry in its inherent innovation alienates the elderly and that he fails to see that it’s possible to serve God in the little things of life.
Not surprisingly, some are still not happy. One person complains that his church as become like a country-club – for members only – and that they connect very little with those outside their own group.
It’s the same issues again and again that NYNO will face. There are many people who have been frustrated by church’s that are largely elderly and that don’t know how, or don’t want (or both), to welcome in new people. When they hear of a church directed towards the elderly, they are mystified and repulsed. They want outward facing churches that meet the unchurched next generation with an open hand of welcome.
Our response? Well, we don’t know yet, but our hope is that our church will gather members from across the age range and on that basis we won’t be able to become a club for the like-aged and minded.
BBC article recognising the separation of the elderly from society, to the detriment of both parties.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Age brings with it trials: illness, loss, loneliness and anxiety, to name just a few. These are not good things. In and of themselves, they are nothing to be joyous about. And yet, these trials provide a new and unique time and place for faith to be found.
Very few of us will choose as a young person to release much of our hold on the riches of this life, in conscious response to the need of our fellow man and woman and knowing Christ gave up all for our sake. But all of us, eventually, will find ourselves being disrobed, piece by piece, of the glories of the garments of life. How will we react to this surrendering of the riches of this life? In resignation, in bitterness, or with faith? Will we react in disbelief, or as a follower of Jesus, the Christ.
God does not abandon us in old age, any more than Christ was abandoned in the Garden of Gethsemane. Persevere and find joy in God. Christ has won the victory and he holds a crown of triumph and life for us too, only waiting for us to cross the finishing line before awarding the prize.