Monday, 27 August 2007

Too much church?? #2

Since my last entry on this matter, I've been mulling it over.

As a complete aside - I was once at a seminar where the speaker described meditating as being like a cow chewing the cud. I like that! And having adopted it my brain is frequently full of half-masticated cud.

So what is it about church? Well, I think that we have a tendency to fall into habits that we struggle to break (usually an unspoken form of 'tradition'). This then presents itself in the following way:

  • What did we do last?
  • That went well.
  • Yes - let's do more of the same.
  • OK

Granted the thought process is never as strucutred as this, but if we are honest - when did your church last do something totally different? Just as an example, have a look at the nonprofitprophet's idea about guilt free Sundays. Could that ever happen in your church?

As ever, I have an opinion on this - and in a large part, we are unduly restricted by our history/traditions and the type of leadership that emerges as a result. I came across a quotation from a book called "After the Church: Divine Encounter in a Sexual Age by Claire Henderson Davis (I haven't read it yet, but the title makes it irresistible!). Anyway, she says:

"While the west has shifted to democracy, Christian churches still tolerate parent-childlike structures... in order to mature we must reconnect. Not to embrace the Christian cult, but to know where we are in the plot, to take the story forward."

So how do we go about this? Well, that's something that we need to wrestle with and debate - openly, robustly, honestly and lovingly. That Hideous Man has some thoughts on aspects of this - and my limited addition to his current posting is that maybe we need to have more arrows, but of different sizes - representing different emphasis. I suggest that a model worth exploring might be to include the "offering praise and worship" arrow in Marshall's view.

But how we get there is another matter - even if it's where we want to go.

I will be posting an entry on constructive dissent in the next few days - maybe that will have some impact on my thinking in this area - more cud to chew!


nonprofitprophet said...

and then you have the flip side of the chart, where some program was working fine so lets monkey with it (putting parameters, limits, acceptable doctrinal practices, motives, etc) until it becomes an entirely different thing.
It would seem the church needs to get over itself, get out of its walls, and meet the people where they are ate.
Something about having a candle and putting it under a bushel.
keep on keeping on ER.

That Hideous Man said...

I suspect that when I finally manage to get hold of Marshall's original article will be more nuanced than the summary quoted by Jones.

I think that Marshall makes central what we have tended to marginalise. However, the early church's use of the Psalter indicates that the offering of praise and worship was not as alien to their gatherings as he perhaps suggests.

However, in the self-consciously 'Reformed' worship of my upbringing, most of the hymns were not addressed directly and personally to God - but were rather hymns 'about' God (packed full of Biblical insights) which we sang to each other! Much of the Reformer's writings on hymn and psalm singing reflects this idea that it is an activity which we engage in for mutual edification as much as adoration. The Reformed critique of contemporary worship stems from this difference, much contemporary worship music is a vehicle for Divine adoration - the singing of which is not an excercise in teaching, affirming or building biblical faith.

In addition to recapturing something of that, I would love to see the church being more enagaged in supporting people in their difficult work, family and life situations than we usually manage, both in equipping people with specific skills (such as in parenting) and in praying with those struggling and practically helping where needed and wanted.

Parent-child relationships in churches? Hhmmm not entirely sure about that one. In fact I have seen no more or less of this in church than in some places of work... What made you chose that quote in particular?

One danger in this area though has been the neglect over the last generation of expository preaching - in which the preacher aims to inform the people of what the Bible actually says. This model (when pursued faithfully) aims to influence the world view of the congregation, who are grown into non-dependant mature believers; able to handle the word. In it's place we have so often put, 'visionaries', 'prophets' and 'inspirational communicators' whose very gifts infantalise through the dependence they foster.