Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bigger issues than Graham

Thanks to anonymous for raising a much bigger issue about what Graham Kendrick represents. There is truth - and not just the truth of an unpleasant experience - is this observation:

'It may not be his fault, but he is a symptom of a church that doesn't care about anyone but itself and its members - and making its members feel "great". He is a proponent of weak minded, arms in the air, let's feel the love nonsense.'

My objection to Letts' comment was that he seems to think stoicism and Christianity are synonymous. But your comment puts a finger on a real and much more important issue.

I had one of those encounters in church in Sunday that I never like having before or after a service in which I was told that we must always sing because worship is the heart of what we do as church. I have not believed this for 20 years or more. I'm not sure I ever believed it but I certainly didn't after I read an essay by Howard Marshall on the language of worship in the New Testament. I have summarised his argument in chapter 2 of Building a Better Body.

I agree with anonymous that so much of what passes for 'worship' in our churches is self-serving nonsense that is designed only to make us feel good. It results in us leaving church feeling self-satisfied and smug. It does nothing for those struggling to make sense of their lives or God who have strayed into our gatherings; indeed it might only confirm that the church has nothing to say to them because it's only interested in itself.

I still think Letts is wrong, however, about 'worship' needing to remain in the language of the Authorised Bible and modern church music being one reason for rot setting in in Britain. I'd put the Daily Mail at number one in that league table and suggest that Kendrick, for all his faults, has on occasions sought to lift the church's eyes beyond itself to the needs of the world.

The issue of what we sing - and say - in church is a huge one. Perhaps it's something that needs airing at greater length in a number of blogs.

Thanks again for stopping by


Richard said...

Hi Simon

It seems to me that our modern forms of worship are a reflection of a search to reconnect with God in a way that older, more traditional forms of worship were not helping us do. At least that's where it began for me.

I'm not saying that they achieve that goal, but that doesn't invalidate the goal.

At the recent GLS Summit one of the speakers said something along the lines of: If you want your leadership to matter, lead in the things that matter to God. Perhaps there's a similar sentence that should be applied to concerns of the church!

I'm not so sure that God is as concerned about the songs we sing as we appear to be.

More to think about on this subject I guess.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from my experience, it is the "worship time" in contemporary churches which replaces any meaningful engagement with a rigorous or intellectual teaching.

I went to a wedding recently and they sang a song called something like "I can only imagine..." I have never heard anything so dirge-like and depressing or spiritually sloppy. It was worse than an Enya song on long play. I could only imagine when it would all be over. Ghastly.

I wonder how many people would stick around church if they didn't sing worship songs where the music is deliberately written to heighten emotion? How many people would actually attend a Church where there was a robust, thinking and measured atmosphere. You can go along to a football match and feel the same as a sing-along-a-Kendrick worship time. (And while I'm cross, why do churches have to sing the same song 3 times in a row. If it was a rubbish song the first time, it won't get any better.)

Contemporary christianity seems to be full of people who "just wanna praise", "just wanna worship" and "just wanna say thanks". It's not full of people who want to go out and get their hands dirty with people who need help. I guess it's so much easier to sing "Make Way" than go out and make a difference.

Oddly enough Quentin Letts has hit on sound and solid point. If the standard of English used in church is made to be constantly "accessible" and to "meet people at their level" then I do agree there's not a lot left to be thankful for.

I imagine God can be found in any version of the Bible - Authorised, Illustrated or even the good old "Good News Bible" of my youth.

I very much doubt he can be found in the ghastly tunes and vapid singing of a Powerpoint-projector-led, Sunday evening, hands in the air, Kendrick-fest.

Dumbing down anyone?