Monday, 14 January 2008

Dumbing down



"With Jesus in the boat, we can smile at the storm..." So sang the children after constructing their craft. It tied in with the simplicity of a weekend's teaching that apologised for being theological.

Its often good when we are moved out of our comfort zones but we need substance to get into. When that substance is lacking and the gospel is dumbed down and worship is accompanied by loud repetitive noise though, rather than opening up to new experience, shutting down is more likely.

I knew I wasn't entirely comfortable with my weekend experience but it takes me a while to process these things and its only today that I've been able to articulate the problem for me. I don't buy into that idea of saying something often enough so that it becomes truth or with leaving intellect out of faith. There was a time when I did. But not any more. I need more than that. It was great to network and, in the spaces to get down to some nitty gritty with friends and colleagues. That in itself would be good enough. But I have to admit that much of the rest made me squirm and, for that, I am not going to apologise. I give thanks for the love and sharing I encountered and refuse to feel inadequate about not being able to get into a state of rapture that was beyond me. Worship can't always be quiet and reflective but, for me, it must always have substance and challenge. The God to whom we offer our worship is a God of unfathomable mystery. I'd rather flounder in plumbing that depth than wade in the shallows.

8 comments:

Frederick Buechner's Lovechild said...

With you on that, Liz.

I remember reading the Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass years ago and nearly splitting my sides at his son's new worship song. It was called "Peace Will Come", and it went something like this:

1. Peace will come
Peace will come
Peace will come
Peace will come
Peace will come
Peace will come
Peace will come
Peace will come

2. Love will come
Love will come
Love will come
Love will come
Love will come
Love will come
Love will come
Love will come

3. Joy will come
Joy will come
Joy will come
Joy will come
Joy will come
Joy will come
Joy will come
Joy will come

I'm tired of power ballads for Jesus and though I get a bit frustrated at lack of other instrumentation in our worship, I'm glad we're not on that track.

I was at a conference with a guy called Eddie Gibbs, and he dismissed a lot of contemporary worship as 'spiritual pillow talk'. I love that phrase! It's the 'Jesus, I want to stroke your hair and tell you I love you' school of songwriting.

It seems to me that when it comes to writing worship songs/hymns, people make a choice. They either pretend that the world doesn't exist and try to transport us straight to heaven, or they accept that the world does exist (with all its attendant pain) and seek God out in the midst of it. It strikes me that the latter is much closer to the world of the Psalms than the former, though it's good to be reminded of the hope of heaven now and again too.

Blessings

FBL

PS - Your worship leader for the weekend was at the General Assembly a couple of years ago when I was there, and he stood up on his hind legs, told us about what a success story his church is and said that the rest of us had to get off our backsides and do something about it. I have to say, it did make an impression on me, but probably not the one he was hoping for.

liz said...

fbl - you're a breath of fresh air. One of these days we'll meet up at one of these events and set the world - and the church- to rights!
blessings

Frederick Buechner's Lovechild said...

Methinks there are more of us out there than we know.....

Blessings

FBL

Cherie said...

Amen to this post, Liz. Particularly to the last three sentences. My eyes roll (I know, shame on me) when I'm in a congregation of folks swooning to 'Praise Songs' with their emotive words meant to induce a trance-like state that is subsequently referred to as a Great Worship Service.

My sister and her husband are "Worship/Praise Leaders" (official titles - they lead songs) who declare that unless they get the "crowd to cry" there has been no worship. A good Sunday morning for them? Swooning, crying "worship." And they are Baptists. Conservative Baptists.

Funny how people don't notice that a trance quickly gives way to sitting down, thumbing through the church bulletin, and popping Altoids. As you stated, God is an unfathomable mystery - you'd think a vision-like tranced out "Worship Session" would buckle knees and leave a person trembling and undone.

You and FBL give me great hope!

(Wow, didn't mean to go on like this. Guess there is something broiling inside on this topic. Oops.)

Frederick Buechner's Lovechild said...

Oh dear. You've got me on a hobby horse now.

Now that I'm older and wiser and have been round the block church-wise and conference-wise I realise that there's no such thing as spontaneity in worship. They might like to *tell* you that there is, but there isn't.

Go to a charismatic church and you can usually work out to within a few milliseconds at what point the band's going to go off on that trippy instrumental thing in the middle of a chorus, which is the cue for everyone to start groping the sky and speaking/singing in tongues.

And when you've been round long enough, you know *exactly* when Fred's going to stand up and give a word of knowledge, and Gloria's going to have a 'picture' that she needs to tell everyone about.

Seems spontaneous but it's every bit as structured as a C of S hymn-prayer sandwich!

I will always remember working at Spring Harvest as an impressionable young guy in my early 20's. The youth stream praise band were in full flow, they'd launched into the trippy tongues bit, and the lead singer was - as they say - giving it laldy with the old glossolalia.

Right in the middle of this stream of consciousness which was building us all up into a frenzy came a perfectly intelligible sentence from yer man. Roughly transcribed it would have been something like this:

"Kandara shandara kawasaki - bit more feedback in the monitor, Dave - kandara shandara yamaha."

Something in my little evangelical heart died that day....

;-)

liz said...

Oh, you old cynic. I suppose the bit that really freaked me was in the closing worship when it seemed like this 300 strong c of s congregation were going to spill into tongues. It was almost like a line had been crossed. I always thought CWW was much broader than that and I suppose I'm still hoping and praying that it is. Or there's no hope for the likes of you and I.
:)

Frederick Buechner's Lovechild said...

Shame - I went to the first one and found it a real blessing. It was very balanced with speakers from both ends of the theological spectrum.

Still - canny beat a cheap weekend in a posh hotel with the family. If we'd had more warning, I might have tried to get the rest of the Lovechilds along.

And less of the 'old' by the way. I have a big birthday this year, but until them I'm still in my 30's! Maybe I just sound like an old fart?

FBL

Cherie said...

"Kandara shandara kawasaki - bit more feedback in the monitor, Dave - kandara shandara yamaha."

I guess I'm an old fart, too, for laughing at that! ;)

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