Monday, September 07, 2009

Barefoot in the church

At the end of yesterday morning's service a mate sidled up to me and suggested that I was in my element. We'd just had a lively all-age baptismal service - with three people getting baptised - led by our worship band (with me on guitar). I was standing at the end of the service in bare feet chatting to people when my mate made the comment.

And I thought 'yeah; you're right; this is as good as it gets.'

I would, of course, enter a couple of caveats to that response. Baptismal services are always a high point - what can be better than people who've found faith in Jesus telling the church and their families that they have taken the most significant step a human being can take?

And while a number of people said to me how much they enjoyed the service, I know that some (probably quite a few) didn't and that their voices will reach my ears via the usual channels through this week.

But one thing I did feel at the end of yesterday morning is that we can do things differently even at our morning service without the ceiling falling in. And that has to be good.

The question of what it means in relation to the conversation over Hirsch's book is for another post later in the day.


Anonymous said...

Just to add a little comment.

You said that: "What can be better than people who've found faith in Jesus telling the church and their families that they have taken the most significant step a human being can take?"

Having been through a full baptism when I was 17, I did it for all the wrong reasons. To keep my family happy, to fit in, because that's how I'd been brought up etc etc.

I suppose my comment is that, as significant as a baptism is, how does it profoudly alter someone's life in church? And what happens after the "high" of a high octane baptism service?

I think the challenge is to get people to change their lives in a profound way - to think for themselves, to challenge perceived wisdom, and to ask "what am I doing this for." Not easy to do when all most people can manage on a Sunday evening is Midsomer Murders.

Please keep sharing your thoughts on this one. A radical approach to church, worship, and the status quo is just what's needed.

simon said...

That's a really interesting comment. I have lots of conversations about when it's right to baptise people, what age? and what if someone makes a decision and then goes 'off the rails'.

It seems to me that you raise another issue which is how can we tell when someone's getting baptised just to fit in? In some Christian families that is a real pressure. I'm sorry you feel it happened to you.

What happens after the 'high octane' baptismal service is hopefully that those who got wet begin to learn a life of radical faith, a life that is modelled on Jesus.

Baptism is only the start of something. it's not a staging post, not even a rite of passage (though it's often called that). It is merely a statement of intent that tells people that a significant and lifechanging decision has been made.

What comes next is vital. Those who've been baptised need to be helped, supported and set free to make the radical choices that following Jesus involves.

Ben said...

Very off-topic, I'm afraid, but are you aware that Dylan is releasing a Christmas album later this year? (Including some traditional devotional carols. 'Christmas In The Heart', if you want to Google it.)

Discussion fodder for an off-beat Christmas service, surely? Maybe even a title we could borrow...

Anonymous said...

I guess it relates to the original post. If someone who has been pushed into baptism (not literally), then learns to live and work on their own two feet and feel that church isn't for them - for whatever reason - it's going to be doubly hard to win them back.

I suppose I am acutely aware of peer pressure and the emotional herding coupled with the urge to join a group because you think you'll belong, means you switch your brain off.

It's very easy to get sidetracked into the church's way of doing things. Christians even begin to sound the same when you talk to them, and use shorthand and jargon which is a real turn off. It seems like they leave their intellectual capacity in the foyer when they come in for their Sunday evening singalong and teachathon. I don't know whether it's more interactivity that's needed or less hyperactivity.

Perhaps I'm naive, but it seems to me that God won't be able to use people who can't think for themselves. He gave us brains after all, and it's a real shame that a lot of Christians these days have given up using them.

Anonymous said...

I think there is an issue of consequence.

Often, in the run up to making a commitment to Jesus, things fall in to place - from the Sunday service/sermon, from a home group, alpha course whatever. All these things we are doing seem significantly relevant to the individual. It is all new.

For many, what happens next is that much of what we do - church meetings, yet another service, more sermons etc feel as though they have no consequence. Often because "we've heard it all before".

Leaders work hard at ensuring services do tie into people's real lives, but it is difficult for a pastor, who's life is rather different to that of his congrgation anyway. I think he has to work exceedingly hard to do it. Equally to avoid the impression of being fashionable for the sake of it.

I don't know the answer.

simon said...

I don't know the answer, either. But i think you raise the right question.

We do often overload people with information because we pastors have programmes to run - as that's what we're paid to do!

And our lives are very different from those of our congregations, so we need to listen carefully to what our members are saying about their lives.

I am hoping that we might be able to address both these issues through the way we'll be doing the Later service through the autumn; namely that it'll be more interactive, more sensitive to how what we're learning is playing out in all our daily lives.

So watch this space...