What I learned during my summer vacation. Part 1.

During this summer's sabbatical we've been able to attend a few different churches which has been a treat. I'm trying to formulate my feelings about the different experiences we've had with different churches and it's tough.

But, I'm starting to think that the places I felt uncomfortable and not at home were the places that seemed to try to be something they were not. And in that way, they lacked integrity. Their language or approach were inconsistent with who they were.

The places I felt at home were the places that didn't really try to be something else, they were who they were.

The church which created room for God to speak to people was cool, it's who they are.

The small rural church with the Minister who wouldn't let the fact that they didn't have a drama team stop him from including a drama in the service could have failed miserably, except that was who he was, and it worked a charm.

Of course that was the same church where the 95 year old organist would interrupt the Minister to introduce the great hymn of the church we were singing next and the history of that hymn in that area. It was really great, honestly, because they were being honest with who they were. And it worked.

Or the church on this side of the Atlantic where the poor worship leader worked really hard to woop up some deep emotional response from the elderly congregation. That didn't come so easily so they started mini preaching between the songs. I felt sorry for them. The worship approach didn't seem consistent with who they were.

Or the church that was mostly filled with older people and no music older than 30 years was attempted, at all. The worship leader there seemed to be trying a Mega-Church worship approach, with one instrument, thinking that singing songs equalled standing up. After 40 minutes of the congregation standing and singing songs they didn't really know, their legs began to fail them.

Again, they had trouble being who they were.

This being who you are theme also passed over into the preaching.

Teachers who would get up and for forty minutes break down a passage out of Isaiah 4, giving all the right information and, well, teaching, to a group who were not necessarily in need of a breakdown of Isaiah 4. Many perhaps in need of a word of encouragement and hope.

Or an individual who really isn't up front material, being asked to preach and so he climbs the stage and through discomfort and pain, regales us with many many many stories from his childhood.

How wonderful it is when a speaker is blessed with the ability to inspire a crowd to go back into their daily lives and live just a bit differently. Better even.
I may be too harsh here, and I'm sorry if I come across that way, I don't mean to.

But if I was looking for God and I came into some of our services and saw or felt the inconsistency of the church with its worship, I would still be looking for God.

And I know, getting volunteers to help and speakers for the summer is tough slogging, really.

I'm not on about having a perfect service or dynamic speakers. Those don't make or break it for me.

But let us be consistent with who we are as congregations. Let us have the integrity to know who the congregation is that we are leading on any given Sunday. Let us learn their language and speak it as we lead them.

And let us respect the grace of God enough that we don't ask things of people who simply cannot give what we ask them to give. If you're not made to do this or that, God forbid that we push you into places you weren't made to go.

And let our space fit our beliefs. If we believe in a God who gives what he has to the poor, and who calls us to live likewise, then let us live within our means rather than with extravagant surroundings and equipment that say more about what we believe than any sermon would. Let us live what we say we believe.

I am taking back to Gateway a keen sense of our need to be consistent with who we are. To be honest with ourselves and giving ourselves freedom to be ourselves is a very powerful idea.

It's more powerful than having a perfect service.

It's more powerful than singing the right songs or having the right sermon.

It is consistency, being who we say we are.

And for people who say they believe in God, inconsistency is a death blow.

6 comments:

  1. Preach it brother !
    It sounds like there's something creative stirring there

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  2. I've been wondering along those lines (and also trying to see if we were listed ;-)).

    A church often tends to reflect its leaders. It may well be that those churches with ill-fitting gatherings are led by those with turmoil and discomfort inside - or lead by a bunch of people all pulling opposite ways.

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  3. Yep you were the first one listed, and I felt really welcomed there. But even better was the word we left with.

    It was a blessing.

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  4. But how do you/I know who you/we are as a church? How do you/I know who another church is?

    What if another church is being who they are, but being out of your/my element it doesn't seem that way, so that lack of integrity isn't the issue but simply an different communities operating in their own incongruous ways?

    I can see your point, of course, but how does one really know? Is this a discernment thing?

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  5. I think it's more of a comfort thing.

    Maybe somehow when we are inconsistent with our style it refocuses the attention of the group onto us, rather than it being on God. Which perhaps becomes the distraction and the discomfort.

    There may be taste issues indeed, but those are my issues then. The "I dislike Opera music so I am uncomfortable with your operatic style of worship" kind of thing. That makes it about me then, which again shifts our attention off of God.

    I can be comfortable worshipping with different people of completely different styles, taste wise, I think. Especially when it comes through that that is who they are.

    I had a talk with a child of mine who remembered a childhood friend who's mom used to sing at the top of her voice, Christian worship songs, hymns, etc. She would then get her daughters singing along with her in the kitchen, and they would all start in.

    Normally this would have made my child uncomfortable except that this was who they were, in the house or car or wherever. Instead of rejection, after the initial surprise of how this family carried on, she joined in the singing because she knew the songs.

    I think that's kind of the thing I was feeling there.

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