About Me

Sunday, 18 September 2011

How do we 'do' church?

Lesley wrote an interesting post this week about a lengthy charismatic service she had attended recently. The comments are equally as interesting too. The Anglican Church is so broad that inevitably people at opposite ends of it will probably dislike what the other end is doing. Some say this is a good point about the Anglican Church, others that it will be it's downfall.

I would say that this post is not a direct response to Lesleys post, as much of what she said I agreed with but I did find it particularly interesting as my church has been looking at the way they run their Sunday morning service recently. We are at the charismatic end of the CofE but even within that congregation there are differing opinions as to what should and should not happen within the service, how we should or should not treat newcomers. Ultimately one of the things that is valued most at our church is about seeing people come to know Christ, in a very real and honest way. I'm not sure that has been happening recently so it is great that things are being looked at right now.

But the thing is, everyone has their own way of meeting with God. For some that is a very reverential, quiet and liturgical experience. They value the tradition of the church, they value the respect, reverence and perhaps more inward approach. Others, perhaps from my tradition, would devalue that approach saying that it is filled with 'religious spirit', not honouring to God. I spent quite some time in a more traditional church and I did not enjoy it, it was not fulfilling what I needed. I would not choose to worship somewhere like that now, but I accept that people do and that they appreciate that style of worship. I also accept that people might come to a service at somehere more Charismatic and want to run a mile. The hands in the air, or being quiet waiting on God for 10 minutes might be far too cringeworthy for them. Indeed, my dad hates it! But therein lies the point - I would not expect my dad to enjoy the things I do, he is after all 35 years older than I am. He enjoys the traditional hymns, he is a bell ringer and enjoys that as part of the worship.  I like modern music and the more free aspect to our services.

I have a passion to see the church revived, not as in revival, but churches revived to be the centre of their communities. But the more I look at this, the harder I find it. because there are SO many different appraoches to church, SO many differing opinions on what is right and how we should 'do' church. And above all there are SO many different people out there. How can we form a service that gives the Gospel in the way that every single person needs to hear it? For some stepping over the threshold of a traditional church building is just something they will never do, a hall might be less threatening. For others the village church has a sense of familiarity about it, somewhere their daughter got married, or their friend was buried. It is a place to sit quietly when they need some space. For some coming into a service with very loud rock music, and people waving their hands in the air, would send them running in the opposite direction. For others it's like coming home, they have a sense of the real lives being touched there.

There is no right or wrong answer. Lesley talked about a service where the worship was manufactured and the prophesies weak, which I can quite believe, the downfall of some charismatic churches is the personalities thriving in prideful adulation, but just as this is so, the more traditional churches downfall can be the opposite, the lack of commitment to the service, the music, or to the preaching. The lack of commitment to their community. Every church has faults and every church has it's own style.

I have been outspoken about some more traditional churches near me, I admit, but it's more because of their lack of interest in the community around them, in those that have not yet ventured in thtrough the South Door rather than how they do the service.

In this day and age the majority of people have a choice to travel to a church rather than attending their parish church (which may or may not be right or wrong) so perhaps an answer is to encourage people to travel to the service that suits them? then they can find one that suits their own needs. In terms of worship experience, we cannot expect every single church to offer what every single human needs. Can we? Are we all just too different?


Alan Crawley said...

It is the difficult question that is knocking around at present!

What is the balance between "community" and worship style? I know of so many places where there are shared services on 5th Sundays and as Mr Catolick says, people treat it as a Sunday off. Yet I also know people who travel...

Steve Hollinghurst asked why we insist on people worshipping in the same way when that is the hardest thing to do. If the area is big enough then worshipping apart but doing other things together seems the best bet to me!

Matt F said...

A thought provoking blog post! The truth is that worship is our highest calling and worshipping together as a community of believers is hugely important. There is a massive hang-up across the church about musical style. The problem is that worship does not equal music or songs. Hymns and praise songs are merely the vehicle for worship.

God made us all different and so the broad brush of preferences and emphases in the church reflects this. So there's absolutely nothing wrong with churches 'doing' worship in different ways. The problem only comes when people make an unsubstantiated claim that any particular style is better or more scriptural than another.

All churches will have some kind of 'house style' in terms of worship and they way they do services. I think it's hugely important to attend a church that serves your local area. But equally, it's right to go to a church that 'fits' with your preferences, whilst at the same time endeavouring to open your heart to being challenged and being a blessing.

T.C. said...

"How can we form a service that gives the Gospel in the way that every single person needs to hear it?"

I was brought up in a 'church' that did the Gospel outreach every Sunday at 6.30pm....to the same people each week....I hesitate to say they were getting it wrong, suffice to say that I sat through it throughout my childhood and only came to know Christ personally this year!

Having said that the Church I'm in now I don't think preaches the Gospel enough, but I think it is the best place for me and it is the Church that I finally found Christ for myself in so it could just be 'horses for courses'!

nicolahulks said...

What about churches offering more of a range of styles and services? My worry is that sending people off to the 'lively church' or the 'preaching church' etc can lead to more segregartion and division in the wider church. The resulting age seperation is also a big factor. I'm one of the only young people in my church. I think this is because of it's service style. People my age find it hard to connect with. Rather than head off to a place where there are lots of people who like what I like and think as I do I really enjoy being part of a mixed community even though it can be harder and slower work! I hope that we will have more services with different styles to accomodate different ways of connecting with God in the future. We currently have a small group for young people and special events for them.

I strongly believe that if as young people we don't particpate in local church, and in a way show them how to engage with our generation, then they will close down and the church as a whole will be poorer for it. It goes both ways, we have much to learn from the generation before us and they have to learn to hand over the reigns (even if that means some different ways of doing things!) to allow the church to go forward into the future. If we all split off according to our tastes I would never have been in a community with such a diverse bunch and I have gained so much from it.

Red said...

thanks for the comments. It is a difficult one and it does divide opinion. I think the key thing that comes through is that need for community and the benefits of being in it - as nicola particularly points out. but getting the balance between being part of ones local community and being spiritually fed can be hard, particularly if you live rurally or not near a large town.
as you say Alan is it the question of the moment. which is the best way forward...?

Robert said...

I think we need diverse forms of church because of the diversity of modern society. My church is a mile from the centre of Birmingham; we're mostly Africans and people of Caribbean extraction. We don't like the traditional Methodist service.

Our denominational problem is that churches have a different preacher each week, while preachers like myself go round a 'circuit' made up of churches we only know superficially. Worship tends to drift to the lowest common denominator, objected to by none, but inspiring nobody. So we've agreed that I'm to do the preaching plan for the church, with about two thirds of the services being taken by our own preachers and Worship Leaders. We'll see where we get to!

I imagine that it'll look a bit like a charismatic service - we like to take our time, we like lots of singing - but without the personalities and the constant references to the Spirit. I hope, too, that the theology will be a bit more liberal, and a lot more inclusive!

Red said...

thanks for the comment Robert. be interested to hear how it goes...:)